Wondering Why I Feel Like Hell (still…)

Way back here, I lamented over why I was sick, and why doctors couldn’t really figure out why I had chronic chest pain.  After that encounter with my cardiologist, I eventually went under for an upper endoscopy to determine if my chest pain was related to simple acid reflux.  My doctors determined it was, and put me on a pretty heavy does of medicine that has more or less worked to control the pain for the last two years.

Now, when I say chest pain, I mean something completely different than heartburn.  We’ve all had heartburn.  That’s a burning that is pretty distinct and can be pretty uncomfortable, but usually can be calmed with some Pepto or milk or just a few hours of time.  This isn’t like a burning at all. This is a throbbing pain in the center of my chest, right about where you’d assume your heart would be.  And, it doesn’t go away with Pepto or a few hours of uncomfortable waiting.

No, not at all.  This is like someone stepping on the middle of my chest and gently rocking up and down, and occasional, reaching down to stick a dagger in the center of my breastbone.  Sure, it comes with some usual acid reflux symptoms:  I constantly have to clear my throat some days, and when I belch, it’s not like I just drank a bit too much soda too quickly.  It’s more like there is something evil deep down inside my torso who has decided to breath fire, and I can feel it escape all the way up.

But a lot of that stuff had been in check for the last two years and  although I didn’t particularly enjoy having to take constant medication to control it, it worked.  Until three months ago.  Occasional I would skimp on my medication over long weekends when I was running around and not at home during my usual work week times.  And that would cause an early week flare up.  But as soon as I got back on a regular schedule, things were fine, and I felt great.  But three months ago, even when I was on schedule, and never missed a dose, I still felt really, really shitty.

My chest basically throbbed, to varying degrees, pretty much all day.  At night, it seemed to subside, but during the day, when I was simply sitting at my desk at work, talking with my peers, secretly I was in distress, uncomfortable with what might be causing the pain in my chest.  I hadn’t missed doses.  I hadn’t eaten anything crazy for breakfast.  Even now, I haven’t had coffee in months.  Still, nothing could really explain what was up.

After a few weeks of that, I went to see my family doctor.  She was shocked at the dosage of acid reflux medication I was taking already, but nevertheless, prescribed even more medication for a month to see if it helped.  It didn’t .  After a six weeks, I still felt kind of crappy in general, even though I started working out again, hadn’t been sick, and had been taking the medication that made me feel normal for the last two years.

Finally it came  to a head this week.  I didn’t go to work on Monday, but that can partially be explained from this.  But Tuesday I was okay, even though I felt the normal crappy feeling I had been feeling for a few months.  That’s how I felt when the earthquake hit.  Then Wednesday started out relatively fine.  But after lunch, my chest was pounding with pain.  I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and a peach for lunch.  I was having heat flashes, my feet were tingling, and I was breaking out in sweats.  I had finally had enough.  There was just no reason for me to feel as horrible as I was feeling.  I left work and checked myself into the ER, hoping I wasn’t having the heart attack that my symptoms pointed towards.

I went to the brand new Virtua Hospital in Voorhees. After mentioning chest pain, I was in triage within 30 seconds, and had a bed in less than 10 minutes after a doctor reviewed my EKG in less than 5.

I labored over whether I needed to go to the ER for a few hours. I had already made a doctors appointment for the following day, but I didn't know if it could wait any longer. By the time I got there I was pretty stressed out. My blood pressure: 147 over 94!

I was a few doctors, and they gave me some immediate medication. Eventually, a cardiologist dosed me with aspirin and nitroglycerin. After 3 hours in the ER, they hooked me up to go on a mobile vital signs monitor system.

You know it's not a good sign when they serve you dinner in the ER. By that time, I knew they were keeping me overnight. You don't get a free meal unless they're raping an insurance company, so I settled in and ate what was the best vegetarian meal they could come up with: salad, mac n' cheese, white rice and too-steamed veggies. I was also officially on a low sodium/cardio diet, but I'm not sure that's any different from what I would choose to eat anyway.

Monika took off from the ER to go and score me some amenities. I needed my laptop, my contact lens case and a pair of glasses. I was going for a stress test. I needed some clothes that I could run in. Here is the view of my jail cell. They even tagged me with an RFID bracelet so they could track me down anywhere in the hospital, and could see if I tried to leave.

Honestly, not a bad place at all. Not too much different than a decent hotel room, except there were places to hang drip bags and there were bedpans under the bed.

It had a TV, sink, full bathroom, and no room mates. Cable TV, mind you, which I don't even have at home. I was resigned to staying overnight. I still felt pretty ill even at this point, and the fact that a cardiologist was making stay the night was not too reassuring.

Monika returned after I answered about a hundred texts wondering why I was in the ER and if I was okay from my friends and family.  At this point in the evening, drugs had dropped my blood pressure to an amazing 116 over 62.  The nitroglycerin gel they had pasted on my body every four hours had given me a wicked head ache, so they followed with some pain killers.

There was a pull out bed in my room for Monika.  I was still a robot, with and IV in my arm, and a computer hanging from my neck relaying my vitals to the nurses’ station, so we couldn’t sleep in the same bed.  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t allowed regardless.  We booted up my laptop and watched “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,”  again.  Then, we went to bed at midnight.

Monika left for work in the morning. Eventually, they came to get me for my cardio test.

Here I am outside the Stress Test rooms. Surprisingly, the nurses and doctors didn't seem too pissed off that I had brought my cell phone and was taking pictures. I guess they're getting used to it.

The test went well. My cardiologist was present for the entire thing, which is unusual. They often just order the test and review them later. This doc was practically performing the tests himself, reading the results in real time. He told me I'm okay. There's nothing wrong with me...in fact, I'm healthier than most people he sees. I should go back to the gym and continue training.

I packed up and waited for my 20 hour old IV to get taken out. My doctor says I'm anemic. Probably because I have a slightly bleeding infection in my GI tract. That's what had been causing me to feel nauseous, causing stabbing pain in my chest, making me feel generally sick all over. I'll be fine after I see my specialist.

Monika was still at work, and I was doing just fine. Kreg and Kat picked me up by noon and I spent less than 24 hours in the hospital. Probably a damn expensive 24 hours, but that's why I have insurance.

Just before I checked out, Cynthia came to visit and brought me home made biscotti. I told everyone they didn't have to visit, but I really appreciated she came by on her lunch break to bring me home made gifts...delicious gifts.

And yes, for lunch I had a Martini. I know, probably not the best follow up to a hospital stay in the world, but I deserved it. I only had one.

I’ll be back at work tomorrow, and at least I know when I’m stabbed in the chest, it’s not a heart attack.  The pain was never overwhelming, but the stress of not knowing only made the pain worse.  So that’s that.  I got to try out the new hospital.  Hopefully it doesn’t cost me more that my 75 dollar copay.  And if you ever get the chance to stay at the new Virtua, hopefully your results come out as positive as mine.

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