Here’s what happened to Norm on the April 13/13 weekend.
On Friday evening the 12th: Didsbury’s ER Doctor C. stood patiently by giving decisive but gentle orders to Nurse L and others on what to give me to slow my rapid heartbeat.
On the 13th: ER Dr. J. alerted me he may have to “take over my breathing for me” and that he was coming with me to the Hospital in Calgary by ambulance because the stormy weather didn’t permit STARS Helicopter to fly.
But first: after a week of counseling and construction work I felt a familiar (it gallops in the family) intermittent heart beat. What was different this time was how long it lasted and how blah I felt. I had to stop a game of Crib Wars with Neva, Tammy, and Ro. (Ro, I’ll play later, I promise) “Why don’t you just go to the hospital and have them check it out” was their firm suggestion. “We can see it in your wrist”. (My thought? Ok, maybe this time it will stick around long enough for them to get an ECG read out.)
Whisked and Frisked: I was whisked quickly into the ER… stethoscopes, stickies, printouts, needles…poke…I.V’s…poke…more nurses…When did this start? What are you feeling? Any chest pains? How did this start? What did you do today? … more pokes, more questions. Controlled, systematic chaos. (Sorry to others in the waiting room. I’ll be less impatient next time the nurse says, “we’re quite busy now”.)
That Sinking Feeling: Pain in the chest and arm…syncope’ feelings rushing in (called ‘pick your spot’ in our family because, if we’re lucky, we have 10 seconds to pick the spot where we will collapse when we faint from pain.) Then some power boost under the tongue (nitro glycerin) with a heads up that it will give some head ache…Oh, oh. Better tell them to get an ice back on my neck. I’m fading fast. (At least the spot is already picked.) Hearing them talk but unable to move. ER Dr. C. still checking on me with clear and decisive orders to nurse L, M, and others…the Doc is calling the Heart Specialist, more nurses, gentle yet hectic. Neva, firmly clarifying, giving syncope’ history, speaking when I couldn’t…always assuring, watching.
Sorry: I’m thinking “sorry for all the hassle” (but glad it’s on the weekend so I can get back to work on Monday.) I’m now trying to speak through the faint fog to have Neva let Tam and Trac know. (Strange things are happening to me.)
Finally, some progress: my BP was stabilizing although the erratic beat was continuing and most worrisome was the rapid heartbeat range. He confirmed this is a fib (bad joke) actually called Afib – Atrial Fibrillation. He also confirmed I’d be staying for a bit…and eventually getting tests in Calgary (but if I just got a good sleep, I’ll wake up in the morning, maybe a bit worse for wear but rested and my heart will be settled down.)
All hell broke loose: The 13th started early with a 1:00 am tuck in to the cardiac room next to the nurse’s station…with some sleep and night time BP and temp checks from nurse N and other wonderful staff. I had got my land legs back in the morning, so tackled a shower and shave. After lunch visitors included: Sister Bev, Neva, Tam, and bother Paul. Funny puns seemed to never end. Laughter was good for healing. A snooze for an hour then all hell broke loose.
When I woke for a hospital supper (actually pretty tasty), I was feeling a bit worse than before…stranger things are happening to me… My chest/arm pain was back – you know what pain does to me? BP was up and heart was racing more. My breathing was getting labored.
I don’t remember a lot of what happened next: but what I do is this: The nurse summoned ER Dr. Jackson. He heard fluid building in my lungs then ran and called for help. Nurses everywhere, more pokes, sticky tabs, printouts, IV fluids…
STARS can’t fly: Then talk about going to Calgary… STARS can’t fly (crap) so by ambulance through the snow storm. I’m trying to tell Neva through the oxygen mask to let Tam and Trac know. (Oh Dah! Of course they were contacted – as were so many others).
Mom was right ‘Always Wear Clean Shorts’: the ambulance attendants started preparations for the trip. First things first, they cut off a new pair of shorts. (Thank you mom!) Then good news, Dr. J. was going to come along.
So hard to breath: I struggled to take a breath…”breath deep, slow” … I called for Neva, she came, whispered calmness in my ear… more pokey needles, and IVs. Then a mask with the alert “I may have to take over breathing for you” (Mouth to mouth:)? With whom? Oh well “Do what you have to” …that they would be inserting a catheter… ouch, and bolted up in bed. I overheard “…think there is a clot in his lungs” (that brought me back to my ambulance days and knew that was not good news…people can die from that)… and “may have a blocked artery in my heart”. As we left for the ride, confirmation came from blood tests that it wasn’t a blood clot in my lungs. (Relief, but knew Neva didn’t know that yet as she made her way to Calgary.)
The stormy ride: a long and tedious drive…accidents along the way (…offered to get out if someone needed it worse)… letting fire trucks pass. (I used to drive ambulance and know that quick is not always safe.) Lots of water drained (so glad I was “hooked up”) which was apparently noteworthy. Feeling a bit better as I came out of the syncope’ zone. (It would seem an ambulance ride is my place to come fully alert – some of you remember about a ride after a dentist appointment).
Family and friends gathered: arrival at Peter Lougheed ER: Doctor D and J recognized each other from earlier practice years. (This gave me calm assurance-trust was growing that I was in good hands.) More poking around, tubes of blood, CAT scan, X-ray, sticky tabs. The monitor was behind me so family was telling me the readings. The heart rate had finally slowed. The medicine was working…finally. What a relief. So encouraged to hear of a dozen family and friends having gathered in the waiting room (so sorry for their inconvenience and that there wasn’t enough time for all to come into the ER but grateful for their reassuring presence).
Shift change at 11:00 pm on the 13th: a new doctor, new nurses. Then a heart specialist gathered details and went away to ponder and consult. She returned with good news that I didn’t meet criteria for needing to be admitted to the cardiac unit. I could go home. (Whew, I’m good to go?) Close to 2:00 am Dr. D said he had gathered all the information.
A little paddling is good sometimes: Dr. A. said his review of all the information is that I have a healthy heart, only an electrical problem. (Well, we all know Quantz’s are wired differently…that wasn’t new news:). If I was sure I never had Afib prior to 5 pm Saturday, that was within the 48 hour window to allow the paddles to be used without fear that clotting had occurred in the atria (top chambers of the heart). I agreed, as did Neva, and I was given sedation so I didn’t have to remember the experience.
The Once Over: Zap! When I woke up after about 3 minutes, the “once over” was done (only needed one zap) and Walla! It worked! A regular heart beat for the first time in a long time and only 68 beats per minute. It couldn’t be better. After a few more test results and I could “go home” with my weary crew.
It’s bad out there: As we left many expressed caution to be very safe on the highway…it’s really bad out there. We sort of got home. Close to 5 am, we made it into our driveway, the bumper was pushing snow and we got royally stuck. After being shuttled by the 4X4 to the house – Home At Last.
A Good Ending to a long April 13/13 weekend. No, I don’t believe 13 is unlucky. If anything, I’m lucky!
Postlude: So many people to be thankful for…Neva, Tam, Ro, Trac, family, friends, the nurses, doctors, lab techs, support staff, everyone’s support and prayers. Thank you from the bottom of my healthy heart:)) Remember, always listen to your mom!
Norm L Again
I invite you to debrief with me by blogging what you went through because of this. No pressure/obligation of course but I invite those affected by my incident to write and share your story… I love the humor/puns. What happened to me may have affected you and I want to give you an opportunity (good therapy for all of us) to tell your side of the story. This has been a time to cry and a time to laugh. We’d love to hear from you.