One of the scariest moments of our life was waking up to the news that Chris was having a heart attack. This was one year ago today. It turned out to be something much different, but it makes you sit up and be thankful for the life you have.
Wendy and I had a good laugh when I opened my computer just now. “Warning signs of a heart attack” was my last web page. I looked it up this morning, and have been at the St. Francis Medical Center since. Here’s the day’s story.
Earlier in the week I fought two days in bed with Strep Throat. No big deal, got on antibiotics and started recovering. I called the doctor back complaining that the medication was causing my heart to beat fast, feeling jittery and anxious, strange. So the doctor switched my antibiotics, and I took my first dosage last night. Again, no big deal.
Mistake. Never assume a symptom is from something specific, like a medication. It could be totally different, like this was.
I woke up at 5:15 with a pain in my chest. It was a pain unlike I’ve ever felt, so I knew something was up. I tried to first shake it off, made coffee, popped a couple tylonol. It wasn’t getting any better, so I started googling “chest pain.”
A lot of lives are probably saved by today’s Internet searching. I pulled up a webpage of possible signs of a heart attack. As I read, the feeling was scary. Chest pain, extended to arms and shoulders and neck, numbing jaw, shortness of breath. I was feeling all of this. “My Lord,” I thought. “I think I’m having a heart attack.”
Have you ever been tooling down a highway in your car, and all of a sudden the engine starts puttering? Maybe dies? And you’re left coasting for a while, wondering what to do, halfway not believing this was happening and halfway hoping the engine would just kick back up and driving would commence? (Our book, Love in the House, opens with such a story, come to think of it.)
I woke Wendy up and explained the problem. We both decided we should go into the Emergency Room. Wendy dropped me off to park the car and I walked straight to the desk, “I’m having chest pains.” The ladies kicked into gear, got me into a room, and tested me right away. Sure enough, I was showing “some serious cardio problems,” the nurse let me know, and I was wheeled down the hall for a closer look by the ER doctor.
More tests. Lots of Q&A. The ER doc was convinced that I had or was in the middle of having a heart attack. But head logic was pushing the other direction. I have absolutely no issues with my heart. I jog, I hike, I hunt. My family lineage: no heart problems. I’m 41, for crying out loud. Which to listen to, my heart or my head? So, I was sent to cardiology for a catheter: cameras and wires were sent up from my waist to my heart to take a careful look at my heart to see what’s going on.
The report back (and the reason I’m writing this from the hospital bed the evening of) is that I did not have a “heart attack.” Actually, a “heart attack” is not really a failure of the heart, but of the arteries. Doc says my arteries look fantastic. But I had myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. I suppose myocarditis is more technically a “heart attack,” because it is a virus attacking the heart, which can be just as deadly.
One of the chambers of my heart was inflamed, and the doctors were able to apply the needed treatment to take care of it pronto. Now, 14 hours after my initial chest pain, I’m tired and a little groggy. But no chest pain, no shortness of breath. It appears everything is fine.
Dear God, I am so thankful for this outcome. And most of all, the love around me.
Love is so good. Wendy and I had those tearful connections, sobs of love and appreciation that soulmates understand. I enjoyed wonderful conversations with visiting friends. Playing on the iPhone with my grandson was a real treat. Several friends left messages, especially enjoyed one from my friend Ron (his daughter is getting married tomorrow, and I’m sad we won’t be able to attend). And I had some real special moments on the phone with my folks from Minnesota. When your elder parents cry and tell you how much they love you, it does much to heal your heart.