My second novennial visit to the hospital E.R. for chest pain

Back in 2004, I was having some chest pains, though not on the left side, where my heart is located. Still, I called my primary care physician’s office, and her office suggested I go to St. Peter’s Hospital and get it checked out. I don’t much remember the details, except that I spent about eight hours there before I went home.

Thursday, April 11, I’m getting the Daughter ready for school when I felt a real tightness on the upper right side of my chest; had it been on the other side, I would have thought it was a heart attack and would have called 911. Still, it was most uncomfortable, and I wasn’t doing anything more strenuous than clearing the breakfast dishes. Using the previous advice, I took the bus to St. Peter’s Hospital; it was a straight shot from my house, a little more than a mile away. I COULD have walked there, actually, especially in the time I waited for the ride, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it.

Got to the ER about 8:40 a.m., got seen right away by a nurse. The ER room very…gray; gray walls on most sides, speckled gray walls on the other. They hooked me up to some various contraptions that monitored my heart rate, my blood pressure, my oxygen capacity and other vitals. I saw in turn, at least two nurses, and two doctors, interrupted by long periods of not much.

For some reason, speaking to the primary ER doctor – I knew she was primary, because there was a series of pictures of attending physicians that she gave me, her photo circled – I’d been there just long enough that my brain had temporarily fallen asleep. She asked what medicines I was taking, and I was giving her a list of what I was allergic to. Realizing this, I stopped, but could remember what I had taken, by brand name or dosage; eventually, they got better info from my primary care doctor.

There was an older woman, 81 by her own description, who was some sort of hospital aide, and she asked me if I needed anything. I noted that a phone would be nice.

It occurred to me that I ought to contact my wife. Only one thing; I didn’t know how. She is a teacher of English as a Second Language who works for this multi-county entity called Capital Region BOCES. In any given week, she might be in one of five schools in three school districts, one in each of three counties, and it alternates somewhat from week to week. So I called my friend and colleague Alexis at work and asked her to track down my wife, but for her not to worry. She found my wife’s supervisor, and the supervisor called my wife to pass on the message.

Meanwhile, Alexis came to the ER, gave me a bunch of magazines to read, and stayed until my wife arrived. Alexis told me that my terse message on the call-in number at work, which meant that everyone knew I would be out made one of our co-workers quite nervous. “That was the shortest message he ever left; it must be serious!” I had eaten nothing, so someone got me some dry chicken sandwich; it was better than nothing, barely.

The hospital had decided that I should stay for “observation,” which in medical speak means I was going to be admitted! I was still in the ER only because there were no rooms available at the moment. Finally, around 2:30 p.m., I got wheeled to a room. It was a nice room, as hospital rooms go. I wasn’t exactly relaxed – I had oxygen in my nose for a time, and all sorts of cathodes (is that what they are called?) stuck on my chest, so that movement was limited.

The Wife left for a time but came back with The Daughter. My child may have been more worried than I. I told her that I’d always love her. She asked, “What if you die?” I noted that I’d STILL love her, from heaven. The three of us had dinner. My hospital meal was chicken, which wasn’t bad, and beans, which were rubbery. The family brought their own grub. We played a few hands of UNO together before they left.

I watched the news on TV, and a couple other things, yet doing nothing is tiring. I tried to go to sleep around 9:15, but I was cold. So I got what the hospital called a blanket, which was barely helpful until they closed the door to my room about 11 p.m. That also muffled the sound of a bunch of monitors beeping from the nurses’ station and/or other people’s rooms.

Evidently, the afternoon nurse was not on the ball, according to the evening nurse, because the former had orders to take blood from me, and it did not happen. So I got blood drawn at 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.; I was awake already for the latter, but still. i was also awake at 4:40 a.m. when they weighed me, something that was supposed to have happened earlier.

Interesting that my temperature (c. 36.5) was given in metric units. Apparently, that’s the world standard, although the US has been SLOW to convert. 36.5 C is about 97.7 F; my temperature tends to run 1F low. I also know that my BP is excellent (115/65 +/- 5 over time), my heart rate is fine 9c 64/bpm), and my oxygen is good (98 to 99%).

In the morning, I’m tired but can’t sleep. Alternatingly watch CBS Morning News, the Weather Channel (tornadoes in the southeast, snow in the Midwest), ESPN and some other sports news. I discover that every sports analyst said the exact same thing about some San Diego Padres player who got hit by a 3-2 pitch, charged the pitcher’s mound to tussle with the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, the end result of which is that the pitcher broke his collarbone. No, the Padre won’t be suspended as long as the Dodger pitcher will be out, as the Dodgers manager wants; it’ll be 5 to 8 games. I watched a little of the first round of the Masters golf tournament. At least I avoided the Jodi Arias wall-to-wall live trial coverage; I STILL don’t know who she is, or what she allegedly did.

Shortly after breakfast (pancakes – but they forgot the syrup – fruit cup, and some of the worst oatmeal I’ve ever attempted to eat), someone took my lunch order, which got me to thinking I’d be there for a while. About 11 a.m., though, a physician assistant asked me a bunch of questions; my answers meant I could be discharged. This was followed by a doctor essentially making sure the PA did her job, the technician taking all those cathode stickers off, and the nurse disconnecting everything else attached to me.

Their timing was a bit too bad; I was actually enjoying watching the talk show The View, with Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman talking about the new movie about Jackie Robinson, 42. Also was discharged before the lunch, which sounded really good; and in any case, they were going to bring me tea, rather than the coffee I’d been getting and don’t drink.

So, if I did not have a heart condition, what DID I have? Dunno, but this is my working theory: I have started riding my bicycle part of the way to work and back, putting on the CDTA the rest of the way. This involves lifting the bike, which isn’t light. My left elbow has been troubling me for a few weeks, for no known reason, so I may have been overcompensating on my right side when I would lift up the bike; my occasionally sore right shoulder suggests that. So I had some sort of spasm that affected my upper right chest area.

In any case, I’m seeing my primary care doc in a couple weeks to revisit this issue.

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11 thoughts on “My second novennial visit to the hospital E.R. for chest pain

  1. Hi Roger..was just wondering if you had an echocardiogram done? If you can get your insurance to cough up for this investigation it would yield a structural picture of the heart using ultrasonic equipment, no xrays involved in this procedure. However a routine chest x-ray, if not done recently, is also helpful in offering an explanation when these symptoms kick in, if only to rule out various pathologies. Hope you are feeling better now. Jess

  2. Having done this routine several times Iself I can relate & you have my full empathy. Usually it’s something like “It’s probably not my heart… but What If I’m Wrong?!”
    Take care of yourself, and remember: Old Men shouldn’t be lifting bicycles, that’s what young people are for.

  3. Roger, your ticker is OK, and that’s fine. It’s all a process of elimination (especially colon screenings, ha ha). You did the right thing checking in.

    And why on earth are hospital blankets skimpier than those little fleece throws for five bucks at the Dollar Store? Even my acupuncturist heats the blanket before bringing it in.

    We watch Nurse Jackie and I always wish, drug-addled though she may be, that more staff were like her. I love the little old lady of the story.

    Be healthy, eat your whole grains, and keep up with the exercise. Me? I’m gonna hop on an ice floe when it’s my time… unless they are all melted by then. Peace, Amy

  4. Geez, man. I’ve been a bit too wrapped up in my own health stuff lately, so I decided I needed to check in with you after too many days of not doing it. And I read about you and the Lydster. I’m so sorry you guys are having health issues and very glad to read that they don’t seem to have been serious. Take care of yourselves!

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