Your shout of pain subsided by the time I walked into the ER admitting area. It looked like a regular reception area with a clerk behind a waist high counter. I told her I was having chest pain expecting her to issue a call for action. Instead she asked for my name and other demographic information. I wanted to scream that I needed help and not an interview.
I gripped the counter and looked around to verify that I had entered the correct door. All the chairs in the waiting area were empty. None were located near the counter. Did I need to make a dramatic scene to get a response? My nurse midwifery ability to appear calm was defeating me.
I made eye contact, took a deep breath and asked for a ……. chair. That was the cue needed to summon the ER staff. They appeared in a flurry from a narrow hallway beside the counter. My body was eased into a wheelchair, and banded while a purple haired technician made introductions.
The smell of bleach assaulted my nostrils assuring me of the area’s sanitation and insured my consciousness. You remained silent as my nurse yelled out our designated room number around the corner in a less odorous space.
Within minutes I was gowned, given nasal oxygen, hooked up to numerous ECG leads, blood drawn and an IV started. The purple haired tech asked me questions about you throughout the preparations. Your vocalizations had not returned and only my shoulders and neck felt discomfort. It was now 2:30AM.
A calm acceptance permeated my being. I no longer felt the need to do anything. It felt wonderful to just let go of fear and float in the cocoon of attention.
I recalled stories from humans attacked by wild animals and their description of similar feelings – as if their body secreted an acceptance drug to ease their transition.
The doctor informed me that he wanted me to be admitted to the hospital for further observation and test. Although my initial results were within normal range, his experience predicted a delayed response from my body.
You continued to remain quiet as if you knew yelling was no longer necessary. This medical staff spoke your language.
During morning rounds the Cardiologist visited my bedside. He told me the test confirmed that I’d had a heart attack or myocardial infraction (MI) and described the recommended procedure to determine the severity – an angiogram or cardiac catheterization of the heart.
Depending on the results, a stent could be placed to open any blocked coronary arteries during the procedure. If the damage were more extensive, open-heart surgery would be scheduled.
The nurse played an educational DVD, which emphasized the low risk of the procedure. My body would be mildly sedated so I could participate as needed. You felt like a small child cuddled within me exchanging comfort in our silence.
And then the adventure began.
My bed was pushed into the Cardiac Catheter Lab. The room echoed a Sci-Fi scenery of white on white walls, ceilings and floor. Large thin screened monitors were placed around the central operating bed where I was transferred and covered with warm white blankets. The air smelled fresh and cool.
Machines monitored your rhythm and an X-ray unit hung above my chest displaying you on the screens. The Cardiologist chose my radial (arm) instead of my femoral (leg) artery to insert the thin tube.
I watched your arteries expand with pulses from the catheter and spread open to the flow of blood. Your arteries were explored for blockage and two stents were placed to hold the vein open where the closure was severe. It looked like a ballet was being performed to unheard music.
[This video is a visual representation of the procedure – though not mine.]
The following day we were discharged into the supportive embrace of my brother and sister-in-law for recovery in their charming country home.
Heart of mine I promise to listen to your sweet voice and honor the rhythm of life you beat out with joy. I will be attentive to your need to rest as we stroll our life path and savor all the beats that remain. Without you, I can’t feel life.