The day before New Year’s Eve, I got up from an indulgent post-breakfast nap with my throat on swollen fire. I had a column of nasty pain running up from about where the esophagus hits the stomach, all the way up to my jaw, and it was even going into my left arm a tad.
“GERD,” thought I. But it seemed unfair. It had been a small breakfast. And sitting up wasn’t relieving the pressure in my neck. It had never made it to my jaw before. Tried TUMS, tried milk, and sent the kid to the store for Mylanta. By the time he got home, I was feeling some better, but it was still bad. Mylanta did jack. That was when I . . .
. . . started Googling. Heaven forfend I act on impulse and call 911 or something. For GERD? It was most assuredly bad GERD. I’d had most of those symptoms before. But . . .
. . . women and chest pain, we’re weird. Both in the way it hits us, and in the way we handle it. That is to say, our cardiac symptoms are not classic, and ever since menarche, we are conditioned to shrug off pain. Tell you a secret, guys? We think you’re big, wussy babies; we tell jokes behind your backs about how tough you’d be with period cramps. Having a baby, ma’am? Walk it off!
SO there I was, fully dressed and ready to go–and not ready to go. My son, however, snarled at me, which is unlike him, so we . . . called a cab. No fuss here, just GERD.
They let us sit for ten minutes in the ER, which told me the admissions clerk must be just as impressed as I was with my chest pain, especially since I only got about a C+ on the little test she gave me, consisting of male-normed symptoms of The Big One. But they took me in, gave me an EKG–which I aced–and took some blood. I didn’t even ask them why, because that’s what they do: collect samples just-in-case, and send in some brave soul to put in an IV.
Welp, I failed the blood test. The resident was freakin’ perky as he told me that one of my heart enzymes was 50 times normal: My heart muscle had been damaged, and I had had a heart attack. Small, but undeniable.
“Oh, shit,” I said, and started to giggle. I mean, a heart attack? I’m 54. True, I have every other major risk factor except being a smoker (let’s not be excessive here), but it just seemed so surreal.
Because it was a three-day New Year’s weekend, I spent it in the hospital, waiting for the slightly fancier hospital’s center for angioplasty to open on Tuesday. I had many sticky things placed under my left boob and a heparin drip in my inevitably screechy IV. As holidays, despite visits and a good view of the fireworks, it sort of sucked.
Tuesday came, however, and I started off with an echocardiogram, which is a sonogram of the heart. I was a little appalled to learn that the heart doesn’t politely and sedately tap out a simple one-two; it dances sort of gelatinously, and the Doppler picked up several different rhythms, including “du-wacky-du-wacky-du.” What was this thing in my chest, anyway? Then I had the angiogram.
I thought I’d known what it was and what it was up to.Wrong. Right coronary artery was 95% blocked. In the words of the OR nurse, I was “one cheeseburger away.”
This is having your guardian angel scruff you seconds before you go over a precipice, only it’s THE Precipice, and why not have gone there in the Sooner rather than Later?
Kinda leaves you with a question that wants answering, that does.