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Archive for January 14th, 2011

First off, I need to give a big shout out of thanks to the Doctors, Nurses and staff at Mount Diablo Medical Center!!  Without you I would not be here tonight blogging…
If you’ve been following this blog for the last few entries, you’ll know I was supposed to go on a 120 day assignment for work back to Baltimore, Maryland.  My flight and room had been arranged and my bags were packed…
On Friday (7 January ’11), I started feeling palpitations in my chest around the base of my throat.  Now I’ve been experiencing palpitations for at least the last five years when I had to go to the Emergency Room for IV’s to bring my heart rate down.  I’d get them every couple of months, generally they last a few minutes – maybe up to a half hour, and then just go away.  I’d discussed them with my cardiologist and he said I was probably just becoming hyper-aware because of my ER experience.  Anyway, I went to the nurse at work and she took my blood pressure and pulse.  My BP was fine, but my pulse was a little elevated (for me), around the high 90’s.  I asked her to check my pulse manually.  She asked why.  I said because the machines aren’t very good at judging irregular pulses and I only trust people for that.  She checked and found my pulse agreed with the machine, but I was correct and my pulse was irregular.  She asked me the standard questions about how I felt and since everything else was fine, she said I could go, but cautioned I needed to go see my doctor or to the ER if my symptoms changed.
The palpitations went away, but I still didn’t “feel” right the rest of the day.
Later in the day, a friend at work came up to me and said she had to give me a hug and say goodbye.  I asked what’s up and she said she had a dream something terrible happened to me while I was away and she felt she would not be able to live with herself if she didn’t say goodbye to me.  We laughed, but I could tell she was serious.
When I got home, I checked my BP several times and it remained normal with an elevated pulse (and the irregular indicator flashing).  I took my BP the following morning and it was the same.
I went out for a driving lesson with my son, James, and we stopped to do a bit of shopping while we were out.  I was fine walking around, but when I’d get in the car, I kept feeling a tightness in the center of my chest.  Not pain, just pressure.  While we were out we bumped into a colleague from work who was out shopping with her family.  Her husband was also going away on a business trip and we had a little chat.  He advised me to check my flights as a number of them were being cancelled due to the bad snowstorm on the east coast.
When I got home, I checked and, indeed, my flight had been cancelled.  I hastily rebooked for another flight – this one going to Baltimore via Detroit.  My original ticket was for Baltimore via Atlanta, but Atlanta was closed due to the weather.
The tightness in my chest was not going away so I discussed it with my wife and we decided it was best to go to the ER – just to get it checked out.  It was probably nothing, but just to be safe…
Well, to make a longer story shorter, they put me on a bed and started running IV’s into me.  They were very reassuring, but I felt like I had to tell my story to every nurse and doctor who popped their head in my room.  Having said all this, there is something definitely NOT reassuring about being told three times, “Don’t worry!  You’re in the safest place in the county to have a heart attack.”
Needless to say, around 6pm, I had a panic attack!
Now I’ve never been overly sympathetic for folks in the movies or on TV who suddenly can’t breathe and start screaming…  Let me tell you, I have a whole new attitude about it.  It may look ridiculous on screen, but when it’s YOU – it ain’t funny.  More precisely, it is terrifying!!
I suddenly felt like I was locked in a vise and it was crushing my shoulders together.  I felt myself gasping for air, but I could not take any in.  I was screaming (at least in my head I felt like I was screaming), but I’m not sure how much noise I was actually making with no air.  Hil went out into the hall to get the doctors and nurses and they came in and calmed me down.  Shortly after that, it was “happy-juice” time in the ol’ IV.  That calmed me down and the decision was made to keep me for overnight observation and a stress test in the morning.
Hil went home to the kids around 11pm.  I’m sure the whole experience had scared the bejesus out of her (it sure did out of me)!
The night was uneventful.  They wake you up every now and then to take blood, give you more drugs and to make sure you don’t sleep to well through the night (just kidding about that last part).
In the morning, it was off to the treadmill for my stress test…  Now, for my age, I’m only supposed to get up to about 140 for a few seconds to complete the test.  Well, standing there getting wired for the test, my pulse was already 135-138.  And I wasn’t even moving…  The nurses decided they didn’t want to do the test without the doctor present – so we waited a bit.  My cardiologist showed up and he restored their confidence and we got on with the test.  As it happened, I guess I passed because his whole demeanor changed and he pronounced me fit to go home!!
We had a chat about my drugs and not exercising for a week (to start) and about being careful.  He advised against my trip, but said he couldn’t stop me if I insisted on going.
Jumping ahead, I had to speak with another doctor before I could be released.  He also advised me not to travel.  In the end, Hil and I talked and we agreed for me to stay.  Trooper that she is, Hil said, “I’ll support you if you go, but I don’t want you to because I don’t think it’s safe and you’re not well.”
When we got home, I called my Center Director and she agreed it wasn’t a good idea to travel so soon.  She assured me the most important thing was my health and other opportunities would come along.  I thanked her and began the process of cancelling my flight and room and committing to staying.
Today marks one week since the start of the palpitations…  Hil has unpacked for me.  She has really been a rock for me this week.  I took two days off to adjust to my new meds and have now been back at work for three days.  Everyone has been supportive at work.  I’m still keenly aware of my chest/heart/pulse, and every now and then there is an almost exquisite sense of terror that my heart could stop any minute now.  Today, Hil and I went for a short walk – about five blocks.  My legs feel leaden and my chest feels hollow.  No pain or tightness, just not full.  I guess it’s the new drugs working at slowing my pulse.
In a way, I feel as if I’ve been given another chance at life…  Hil and I curl up together at night to reassure each other and it all seems so precious and yet so fragile…
I have loads of new topics to blog about: atrial fibrillation, blood thinning, fear, renewed hopes, love of family, warm sunlight and fresh air, and the simple joy of being alive…
My New Year’s resolution of walking at least a half hour every day this year doesn’t seem like such a trivial accomplishment anymore.  Technically, I’ve already blown it for the last seven days.  I think I’ll forgive myself for missing it this week.  Slowly, slowly, get better every day…
And that single heartbeat — the most important one — it’s the next one!
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[The following was found on the Internet… Enjoy!]
After I retired, my wife insisted that I accompany her on her trips to Target.  Unfortunately, like most men, I found shopping boring and preferred to get in and get out.  Equally unfortunate, my wife is like most women – she loves to browse.  Yesterday my dear wife received the following letter from the local Target.
Dear Mrs. Samuel,
Over the past six months, your husband has caused quite a commotion in our store.  We cannot tolerate this behavior and have been forced to ban both of you from the store.  Our complaints against your husband, Mr. Samuel, are listed below and are documented by our video surveillance cameras.
1.  June 15: Took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in other people’s carts when they weren’t looking.
2.  July 2: Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.
3.  July 7: He made a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the women’s restroom.
4.  July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an official voice, ‘Code 3 in Housewares.  Get on it right away’.  This caused the employee to leave her assigned station and receive a reprimand from her Supervisor that in turn resulted with a union grievance, causing management to lose time and costing the company money.
5.  August 4: Went to the Service Desk and tried to put a bag of M&Ms on lay-away.
6.  August 14: Moved a ‘CAUTION – WET FLOOR’ sign to a carpeted area.
7.  August 15: Set up a tent in the camping department and told the children shoppers he’d invite them in if they would bring pillows and blankets from the bedding department to which twenty children obliged.
8.  August 23: When a clerk asked if they could help him he began crying and screamed, ‘Why can’t you people just leave me alone?‘  EMTs were called.
9.  September 4: Looked right into the security camera and used it as a mirror while he picked his nose.
10.  September 10: While handling guns in the hunting department, he asked the clerk where the antidepressants were.
11.  October 3: Darted around the store suspiciously while loudly humming the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme.
12.  October 6: In the auto department, he practiced his ‘Madonna look’ by using different sizes of funnels.
13.  October 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browsed through, yelled ‘PICK ME!  PICK ME!
14.  October 21: When an announcement came over the loud speaker, he assumed a fetal position and screamed ‘OH NO! IT’S THOSE VOICES AGAIN!
And last, but not least:
15.  October 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door, waited awhile, then yelled very loudly, ‘Hey! There’s no toilet paper in here.‘  One of the clerks passed out.
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