Sunday, August 13, 2017

Personal Update

Two items of news:

  1. Have not heard back from Atlas Games on getting permission to write in their IP since the initial inquiry.  I'm hoping sending my draft as a writing sample was not a mistake.  I was up front that it was a draft and not a polished piece of work, but I still have a niggling worry about it.
  2. I was in the hospital for arrhythmia three days last week.
That second item is what I'm writing about here.

Tuesday night at 2:30 AM (so really early Wednesday morning) I awoke from a dream with my heart racing and occasionally pounding in my chest.  My wife was just coming to bed and I was wide awake, so I got up and sat on the living room couch, hoping my body would calm down and I could go back to sleep.  I dozed a bit, but at 5:00, my wife came out and asked if I was OK.

I really didn't know.

We talked a bit and tried a few things that are supposed to help fix an irregular heart beat and they didn't work.  At 6:30, we decided to get me to an urgent care facility.

[Note: not all urgent care facilities are open 24 hours a day.  Some only open at 9:00 AM, like the closest one to our house.  They are all over the place where I live, so I checked online with my phone for the next closest one that was affiliated with a hospital and went there.]

I checked in to the urgent care facility and they hooked me up to get readings from my heart.  I couldn't see the readouts, but the doctor and the nurses put on faces that outwardly said "You should keep calm as we can fix this," but inwardly said, "Holy Shit this looks serious."  Based on what they saw, my atria were "spazzing out" and firing randomly while my ventricles worked overtime to keep my blood circulating.

They started me on an IV drip and a bit later added another medicine, trying to get my heart back to a sinus rhythm [the "lub-dub" everyone is familiar with] and slow it down.  They also wheeled in a defibrillator and put two large patches on me, one over my heart and one under it on my back, "just in case".  As the saying goes, "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best."

Because of where the defibrillator sat at the foot of my bed/chair/seat thing, I could see my pulse rate readings.  They varied anywhere between 98 and 174, rapidly switching and hitting random numbers in between.  Occasionally, I'd get a solid thump or two in my chest.  I sent some texts to my family to let them know something was up.  My mom called back and we talked, but the nurses asked me to stop talking on the phone as it was negatively impacting my blood pressure and heart rate.

The ER doctor told me that. as I had not responded immediately to the IV drip, they were going to transfer me to the hospital.  Some short time later [I really have no idea how long], they arrived and hooked up a different set of electrodes to me [their equipment was not compatible to the urgent care facility's], asked me the standard set of questions [Any pain? Any shortness of breath? Any allergies? Any alcohol use? Any smoking? - all "no" by the way], and helped me switch over to their trolley.  [That's not the right word, but is how it felt.  I'm 6-foot tall and had to concentrate to keep my flip-flops from falling off.]

The ambulance ride wasn't special but beat walking - the guys did a good job keeping it low key.  I'm glad it was early morning as the A/C was not the strongest and the guy riding in back with me said the interior got way to hot in the afternoons.  When we got to the hospital, they wheeled me up to one room, but not my room.  My room number had been changed while they were coming to pick me up, so their paperwork was dated.  While one of the guys sorted it out with the nurses, the other guy printed out the current reading of my EKG as they rarely got to see someone in that stage - usually it was later when things went critical.  I'm was fine with being an educational experience and did not really think about the unstated part of what he said.

As an aside, I had no chest pain and was breathing fine.  Mostly, the situation was distracting.  My concentration was pretty short-term as every 10-20 seconds my heart would make a big thump or what felt like a gurgle, which is VERY distracting.

They sorted out my correct room number and took me up to the 7th floor, where I had a corner room.  They attached ANOTHER set of contact to me for their machine, which was a small pack that wirelessly transmitted the data to the monitoring station.  So with five contacts per monitoring device, I had 15 of the contact points stuck to me at this point.  They did take the defibrillator patches off, which was a good sign.

Once I was settled in, texts went out to friends and family and I started having visitors.  The docs upped my dosage of the IV drip and gave me shots of another drug through my IV connections.  [Yes, plural, as they stuck me on the back of both hands.  Did I mention I have a thing about needles?  I totally do.]  Most of Wednesday was chatting with friends and family while waiting for my heart to get its act together.  If it didn't, they'd have to a procedure to shock my heart into sinus rhythm.  I'd be unconscious as it would be very painful.  It was scheduled for 1:00 PM on Thursday.

Around 10:00 PM, the last person finally left (my mom) and I got some sleep.  When the nurses came in at 11:30 PM to take my blood pressure again [done every 4 hours], they told me my heart had slipped back into sinus rhythm.  Now they had to get my blood pressure down.  That took another two days before the medicines brought it down far enough the doctor would discharge me.

So after dinner on Friday, I got to leave and come home.  I'm on four medicines and need to make follow-up appointments with my primary doctor and the attending cardiologist.  I'll participate in a sleep study, as sleep apnea can trigger this and my diet now radically reduces the amount of sodium I can have.

Saturday morning it finally hit me how close I came to dying.  Writing this on Sunday is still hard.  I've had to pause several times to de-stress while writing this.  In fact, I'm stopping here for now.  I'll do an edit later - I just needed to get this written so I can think about other things.

Later!

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