May 25, 2005

Well. Got Out of Balancing My Checkbook.

I had strange chest pains today, and drove myself to the local hospital. Imagine the absurdity: a pre-menopausal non-smoking female in the emergency room complaining of chest pain. One who is 42 years old, but looks 35 or so. I might just as well have shown up and announced I was coming down with hypchondria.

But all my life my mother has drummed it into my head, after all the heart attacks her parents had, that I need to watch out for anything that looks remotely like cardiac illness. And my sister-in-law in the Bay Area has severe heart problems that went undiagnosed for years because they didn't "present" properly.

I wouldn't let my husband drive me; he has a "pitch" tomorrow for a children's television show that I think will be wonderful if the studio in question is smart enough to buy it. I took a book and my cell phone, and set out to make an ass of myself. (It turns out those items are the two most important things to take with you: if you have to choose, take the book.)

I was sort of hoping that the triage lady would check my blood pressure and send me home with some sort of stern words about wasting her time. But no: they drew blood, asked for a urine sample, stuck an IV needle into me (just in case) and hooked me up to a machine to monitor my pulse. The machine also took my blood pressure every 20 minutes or so, like some sort of cyborg nurse: the cuff would suddenly swell, and I was supposed to lie still until it got its reading and deflated iself.

They X-rayed me right there in the bed, and then took an EKG reading.

Everything is normal, though I was there for over four hours. (And it would have been much worse if I didn't live in such a sleepy little town.)

Eventually the nurse gave me what they call a "GI cocktail," which was supposed to make me better if the root cause were/is indeed some sort of upset tummy. I thought their disgusting potion was helping, though in retrospect the reasons I started to feel better afterward were probably 1) a desperate boredom, after I finished my book (make sure that you take something that's several hundred pages long, rather than a slim volume on the Roman Catholic liturgy)—which led to wishful thinking that the sensation was going away, and 2) the fact that I was flat on my back, and not using much oxygen. After all, it only hurts when I breathe deeply.

The worst of it is that I didn't wolf down the peanut butter protein bar I took along. (Make sure to gobble up your protein bar on the way to the hospital.) And now I've been instructed to stick with clear liquids for the rest of the evening. I'm on my second can of chicken broth, the last can of broth in the house.

I wanted to scream at them, "but don't you see? If I do just have an upset stomach, it's from not eating enough today. And now you're making it worse."

But I didn't. I'll hang on as long as I can, and when I do break, it'll be with something bland like rice. What a girl scout.

To my list of complaints about the human body, I'd like to add this one: there should be no such thing as "nonspecific chest pain." All sensations should be localized to a particular organ, rather than free-floating like this. If I have a tummyache, it should damn well feel like a tummyache."

The whole thing is probably a testament to my iron constitution: I so rarely have any kind of digestive problem that when I do it feels like the end of the world. Or at least like a heart attack.

It's been six hours. Isn't this odd?

If I ever do have a heart attack for real, though, I'll try to live-blog it: that would be cool.

Posted by Attila at May 25, 2005 07:57 PM
Comments

My dad was in his early 40's when he drove to the hospital over ill defined chest pains. Turns out he had an aorta aneurysm (what killed John Ritter) and it was kind of questionable for a couple of days if he was going to make it.

So maybe you feel silly going to the ER for a tummy ache. But you have to go.

You have to.

Posted by: tommy at May 25, 2005 08:15 PM


I dealt with sharp pains in the right side of my chest for a couple of weeks last month. It was the wrong side for heart problems, but I had it checked out anyway. After x-rays and CT scans, it was apparently a swollen lymph node in my chest cavity putting some pretty serious pressure on some nerves.

I didn't even know I *had* lymph nodes in my chest cavity...

Posted by: Desert Cat at May 25, 2005 10:32 PM


Sounds like you're just tough enough to do it.

I have one of those "oops, heart attack" moments about twice a year and it sure is localized. About an inch above my sternum and unlike anything I've ever felt. Apparently just some kind of gas block from my disgusting diet.

Be well.

Posted by: Mr.Kurtz at May 26, 2005 01:39 AM


I had horrible chest pains as the result of a hiatal hernia and constricted esophagus. They finally figured out what it was and did some kind of balloon procedure and it went away totally. But I went through all the heart attack testing, etc., before they nailed it down.

Posted by: gail at May 26, 2005 05:40 AM


I had a fit, weight-lifting co-worker who died of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 24. Ever since then I've fully known life to be pretty much just a roll of the dice from one day to the next.

Posted by: Ciggy at May 26, 2005 06:49 AM


It actually feels like some sort of lung issue, but it didn't show up on the X-ray, so it isn't pneumonia or anything like that.

My husband suggested paint fumes--I'd been painting the front porch. Could be.

Anyway, it's nearly gone now, and it's a new day.

Posted by: Attila Girl at May 26, 2005 08:30 AM


I'm 21, and I had chest pains about a year ago -- all the classic heart attack places - chest, left arm, jaw, etc. As it turns out, I'd pinched the nerve that is bothered when you have a heart attack. It recurs sometimes, which is disconcerting, but at least I know I'm not dying.

Posted by: Katie at May 26, 2005 08:43 AM


You did good, you. For someone who's so disgustingly healthy all the time, you took this one on like a pro.

Book! Cell phone! Sustenance!

Plus, you WENT. You did the right thing.

And it sounds like there wasn't one fool there who tried to tell you it was female anxiety. Thank heaven. That BS is one reason more women die of heart disease than breast cancer: so many of our genuine physical diseases get blown off as "psychological," like those heart attack deaths a day after being sent home misdiagnosed as a panic attack or, God almighty, "histrionics."

Think it doesn't happen today? My niece recently got sent home from a doctor's office with advice to get "psychological counseling" for her -- get this -- ASTHMA. He didn't even test her for it first, ok? It was one of those admirable Diagnoses-by-ESP. He could have KILLED her. Because, as it turns out, her asthma is perfectly real and quite serious.

And it isn't that women's heart attack symptoms present abnormally. They're usually perfectly normal for WOMEN. Until very recently, no one bothered to wonder if women and men might be different. They really are.

'Scuse the rant. I'm in a mood to rip up certain doctors today.

I'm so glad they took good care of you.

I agree about the lung bit. If it hurts on deep breaths and isn't too localized, it sounds like a lung thing. If it were localized I'd wonder if you had a cracked rib.

Since you already have pretty serious allergies, you're prone to asthma, and maybe to other good old-fashioned lung ailments like pleurisy. That's when the lining surrounding your lungs gets inflamed, and when it tries to expand on deep breaths, it sort of sticks on the lining of your chest. Usually the two linings are all lubricated and slick, and slide around nice and smooth. But when the pleural lining gets inflamed, it's sort of swollen, right? and doesn't slide so good. Hurts like a sonofabitch. But often, only when you breathe deep.

The reason I dry pave and almost never use mortar any more is because it's caustic. When I pour or stir up the dry mix, like with its water, I can't get around breathing it a bit. Even mixed, I can feel it when I breathe. It gives me pleurisy. Which, being a soft tissue issue, won't always be seen on an ex-ray. See?

So I'm wondering about those paint fumes, too.

Glad to hear you're feeling better. I love good jobs and happy endings. Here, I got both. Thanks.

Posted by: k at May 26, 2005 10:17 AM


Glad to hear you're well.

If you continue to have similar symptoms, start a log of everything you eat, and have yourself tested for allergies, and especially for food allergies. I'm allergic to soy, and for months had chest pains and "indigestion" -- then stopped eating anything that contains soy (mayo has soy!) and the pain is gone.

Posted by: Fausta at May 26, 2005 11:50 AM


H=heart related
E=esophageal problems
A=anxiety attack
R= I've forgotten;but probably reflux
T=Tietsche's syndrome(a viral inflammation of the chest cartilage)
50-81 mg of aspirin/day recommended

Posted by: lincoln at May 26, 2005 11:52 AM


The or completely ended by video storage authentic Italians and Wood are. gazebo s_orlando-bloom_4 Boy GENIUS, and other comedic tattoos talents realized during the UK, name a star s_home-entertainment_1 under and viable foundations that comes from The business, never s_aviator_3 change, what kind of a R Department to differently than tripled!

Posted by: agnes at June 3, 2005 11:31 AM


1) I'm glad you're feeling better.

2) BOO!!!!!!

Posted by: B Jeffy at June 3, 2005 04:23 PM




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