Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Troubles of the Heart, Part 2

If you have not read the first post, please do so before you read this one.

I had just broken the Indy 500 speed record for the fastest time ever to be placed in an Emergency Room bed after walking in off the street.

I was just starting to realize that I may have bigger problems today than whether or not I'll make it to my nephews graduation on time.

Meanwhile, my heart continues to merrily beat along in a pounding, indiscernible rhythm.

Eventually, a doctor came by and said we were waiting on some of the blood test results, and that we'd hopefully know something after I'm admitted.

The only good thing about this is that my Emergency Room visit requires less of a co-pay if I'm admitted to the hospital.

At the time, though, I didn't even think about that. I was beginning to get the idea that this was turning into, if not a BIG deal, something more than unimportant.

Soon, I was hearing words like, 'this afternoon', 'tonight', and eventually 'overnight'. While these are great words when you're making plans for a weekend with your wife, they are less than encouraging when referencing your visit at the hospital. I called Rachael and told her that I would probably not be coming home right away, and that I may have to stay overnight. I also asked her if she could work out arrangements to get my sister picked up from the graduation, as it looked like I would be incapacitated.

Rachael took care of everything. One of the things I love and appreciate most about Life With Rachael is the incredible love and devotion she has and shows. Through this all, she was my favorite nurse.

After awhile, someone came by and asked for my insurance card and had me sign all the necessary paperwork.

Shortly after, I was admitted and transferred to my own room. Or, more precisely, my own 1/2 of a room, roughly a 6 foot by 10 foot rectangle of space that is just large enough for 1/2 of a single bed, a chair, and a curtain that is difficult to close without draping it around the chair, equipment, and visitors if you have them.

After receiving my own room, I was soon hooked up to the big vital-sign-monitoring machine, as well as to a portable machine that allowed me to see my heart rate and look at the chart showing the rhythmic patterns my heart was producing. Or, in my case, the arrhythmias my heart was producing. While this was somewhat fascinating, I was staring face to face with a little screen telling me that all was not OK.

My normal heart rate is quite slow. Has been all of my life. At rest, my heart rate varies from about 48-52 beats per minute. If I walk in off the street and sit down at Long's Drugs' heart machine, it will only be around 58-62 beats a minute.

It was now beating 80-90 beats per minute. When I was completely still. When I so much as cleared my throat, or repositioned my leg, the rate shot up to 120+ per minute.

I got up to use the restroom.

I walked the 10 feet or so to the restroom that was in my room.

My heart rate was between 180 and 190 beats per minute.

Not good.

In addition to the fast pace of the heart was the fact that it was beating in its very strange anti-rhythms.

In addition to this, it would go into an actual arrhythmia every few minutes. I knew when this happened because I could feel my heart beating madly in my chest. And my monitor would say 'Arrhythmia in progress'. When it went into arrhythmia, it would go up from its now 'normal' 80 to 90 beats per minute to anywhere from 100-150 beats per minute, hover there for a minute or so, then go back to 80 or 90 beats per minute. All while I am laying perfectly still, expending no energy or movement.

After watching this several times, I got pretty good at predicting the number of beats per minute (bpm) each arrhythmia achieved.

By this time, my dad, my sister, and Rachael were there and I'd have them look at the screen while I tried to guess the bpm. I actually got pretty good at it. While I can't say it was fun, it provided some release from an otherwise difficult situation.

My heart was beating so quickly and so wildly that the vital-sign machine I was hooked up to would scream at the nurses every few seconds/minutes. This went on for a bit, and apparently there was only one solution to provide the room with some peace and quiet.

They shut off the alarms.

I soon met my heart doctor, Doctor Ash Jain. Little did I know it at the time, but it turns out that Doctor Jain is one of the best heart doctors around. I know this because every nurse or orderly that asked me who my doctor was always responded with, "Well, you're in good hands. He's the best there is!"

This happened so many times, I began to get suspicious. I figured it may be part of a new PR campaign of Washington hospital:

"OK, so every time you go into a patients room, be sure to ask them their doctor's name. When they tell you, try to remember it long enough to say, 'Oh, Wow! Doctor _________ is the best! You're in great hands'. Be sure to look genuine when you say this."

This suspicion was proven false by two means:
1. I asked them. When they told me that Dr. Jain was the best, I said, "Yeah, but I bet you say that to all the patients." They assured me that this was not true and they said it sincerely enough that I was pretty sure they were being honest with me.
2.I actually listened when the same nurses asked other patients who their doctors were. These other patients were not told the same thing I had been.

So, as it turns out, I really was in great hands. Dr. Jain is apparently one of the best at what he does. I am supremely thankful for this. I am thankful to him for doing what it took to be the best, and I am thankful to God for putting me in the right place at the right time to fall under his care.

Doctor Jain told me that I would definitely be staying the night and that I'd be on some medication to hopefully help my heart convert back to a normal rhythm. I asked him what we were going to do if it did not. He told me we'd see what happens, but for now, he wanted to try this.

By this time, in addition to my dad and Rachael, my good friends Mike and Maria and their son Brandon, were there as well. Maria had taken the time to scout out a hotel and had offered to take our kids there so that Rachael could stay the night with me, if she wanted.

This sounded like a great plan. The nurse said it would be fine.

We settled in for the night.

Unfortunately, the security guard and the head nurse had other ideas. Apparently, the head nurse was one of those people that loves to use (and abuse) the power they have. Instead of trying to find a way to help people, people like her seem to actually take pleasure out of telling people no.

I actually teach customer service classes at my work. I understand that you sometimes have to say 'no' to a customer. But you should never take joy in it. You should truly empathize with the customer and share their disappointment with them, if need be. You should not feel like a bigger man (or woman) based on how many people you were able to enforce the rules with.

After a couple of run-ins with the said security guard and an argument with the head-nurse, whose decision was apparently the final word for the security guard, Rachael was eventually banished into the cold, dark night, leaving me to spend the time alone with my arrhythmic-displaying heart monitor. While caressing my heart monitor was quite comforting, it did not really compare with having Rachael there with me.

Little did I know that Rachael was going to have her own fear-filled adventure, quite apart from the one I was having. I found out all about it the next day.

Come back again for the next section in Troubles of the Heart.

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