Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Troubles of the Heart

It was the Saturday before Father's Day. My sister was here from Montana. Her son (my nephew) was graduating High School today and my sister was staying with us so she could attend. I had promised my sister that we'd go together to watch him as he graduates to the next big step of his life.

The night before, I awoke with my heart pounding. Now, I know that phrase is somewhat overused by writers to convey the message of nervous excitement, fear, dread of death, etc. But, in this case, my heart was actually pounding. It was beating in a strangely erratic manner that left me feeling quite concerned.

I, like many males, absolutely love to go to the doctor.

I felt my heart beating crazily for a few minutes and decided that if it was still going crazy in the morning, I'd have it looked at. Meanwhile, I went back to sleep.

My heart continued to pound away erratically in my chest. It woke me up numerous times during the night. Each time, I got a little more concerned than the time before, but now it was the middle of the night. I did not want to wake up Rachael and all the kids just to go to the doctor and have him tell me that it was no big deal. So, while my heart is definitely dancing to the beat of a different drum, I continue to ignore it and attempt to sleep through it.

After an incredibly fitful night of nervous sleep, my alarm clock tells me it's time to get up, get ready, and go. My heart is trying to tell me otherwise as it is still beating it's dyslexic cadence. My sister came all the way from Montana for this special day, and I do not want to let her down. Before I leave, I have Rachael put her head to my chest. There's no disguising the look of alarm that covers her face.

I tell her I'm sure everything will be fine and promise to go in to the doctor if it gets worse.

It got worse.

On the drive up to Fremont, I am forced to pull into the slow lane and start for the shoulder as I start to feel light-headed and am faced with the very real possibility of passing out.

Something you don't want to do at 65 mph.

After this happens several more times, I finally decide that this is something serious enough to go to the doctor about. I called Rachael and asked her to find the closest Urgent Care to where I was. At this point, I was still thinking that I'd go in, they'd listen and tell me it was no big deal.

It's now about 7:20AM. We had to get to the graduation early in order to ensure a seat. The graduation was scheduled to start at 9AM. I told my sister that I was going to drop her off, go get checked out, and then come right back. I asked her to save me a seat.

I drove to the address Rachael gave me and was dismayed to see that they did not open until 9AM, the same time as the graduation. I had wanted to use an Urgent Care, as they are typically much cheaper, and you usually don't have to wait as long as what you have to in a Hospital Emergency Room. As it turns out, waiting in the emergency room was not going to be a problem.

I ask Rachael to get online and look for the closest hospital that is in our network. Oh, the joys of health plans! I can't wait until we have the Obama health plan in place. That way it'll just be one huge network and we'll be able to go anywhere. And the DMV workers can trade places with the doctors so that they all have a little variety and continue to stay so cheery. And customer service is sure to increase. And the government has always been so good about running programs efficiently. Just like they do with............, well I can't think of anything. Not even CalTrans. Oh the joy!

Fortunately, I am actually quite close to a hospital, and by sheer luck or divine oversight, they are in our network. I drive over there as quickly as the traffic lights and Saturday morning drivers will allow.

I am now concerned that I am going to miss my nephew's graduation, simply because I'll still be waiting to have my DMV number called at 9AM in the Emergency Room.

Boy was I was wrong.

I walk in and the lady at the window asks me what is wrong. I let her know that my heart has been racing and beating irratically for about 8 or 9 hours now, and that I have started to feel a little light-headed. Apparently, heart issues are a big concern. She asks me to step to a small waiting section, where she has a nurse listen to my heart.

He raises his stethoscope.

And listens.

I'm watching his face to see his reaction, and am a little disconcerted at the result. He looks up and asks me if I'm able to walk. I said yes. I mean, I just drove an hour and a half from Salinas and walked all over half the hospital trying to find the Emergency Room. Of course I can walk.

"Come with me", he says somewhat urgently.

He leads me over to an open bed in the Emergency Room. He asks me to slip into a hospital gown and lie down. I do so.

By the time I am just starting to settle into position in the bed, I'm already getting an EKG.

I haven't been at the hospital 5 minutes yet.

I haven't filled out any paperwork.

They haven't even seen my insurance card yet. This, more than anything, gives me pause for concern. I know that hospitals are there to save lives and all, but usually the first thing out of their mouth is a question about insurance. In this case, they didn't even know if I had insurance or not, and I was already getting an EKG and some blood tests.

One of the nurses began to make small talk with me, asking me why I'd been dressed up so early on a Saturday morning. I explained that I'd been on my way to my nephew's graduation, but that my heart had other plans. I told her that the graduation started at 9AM and that I was still hoping to be there. It was almost 8 AM by now.

She didn't answer with her voice, but her body language told me what I was afraid of by now.

I would not be going to the graduation. In fact, I think she may have checked a new box on her check-in sheet that was situated right next to "May need psychiatric exam."

I was starting to get concerned.

Come back tomorrow for what happens next.

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