This is the story of how I played Spoons too hard, and ended up in the hospital.
Nope, not kidding.
You see, about a year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I started taking a low dose of an appropriate med, and made a few life changes, and that seemed to take care of it. However, apparently over the last few months, even as I’ve been making more life changes and seeing some measurable results (small amount of weight loss, some other improvements), it seems that my blood pressure has been creeping up again. The last time I was at the doctor, it was high, but not scary high, and I wasn’t having any other bad symptoms, plus there was the improvement in other areas, so we didn’t make any changes.
And then on Sunday, when I was playing Spoons, something happened. I’m still not really sure what it was, though the current medical theory is a sudden spike in blood pressure, combined with pulling a muscle in my chest wall. The result was me going lightheaded, and feeling like all the air had been knocked out of my lungs. The moment that this happened was when I was grabbing violently for a spoon (have I ever mentioned that I have this leetle competitive streak? also, I got my spoon), and laughing so hard that I was wheezing. In the blink of an eye I went from wheezing from laughter to wheezing and not laughing, sitting there in a cold sweat, my hands suddenly freezing, feeling like I was going to either a) vomit, b) pass out, c) fall out of my chair, or d) all of the above. So I sat very still in order to not do any of those things, and moved carefully, and fought off the faint feelings, and little by little my head began to clear, my heart stopped pounding quite so hard, and the warmth started to return to my hands.
No one at the table with me noticed that anything had happened.
I won the next two rounds of spoons while I was sitting there recovering.
When I finally lost a round, I felt well enough that I thought I could stand without falling over, so I went off to the bathroom. My cheeks were beet red. When I came out, I asked my host if there was any aspirin in the house. There wasn’t. I sat quietly until the game was over, and then drove myself home, debating with myself all the way whether I should really be driving myself to the nearest Emergency Room (or driving myself at all), and praying Hail Mary’s. In the end I told myself that home was next to the nearest Emergency Room (I live next to a hospital), so if I was feeling really bad by the time I got home, I would go there instead. But I was feeling marginally better, so I just went home, took a couple aspirin, got ready for bed, prayed “If I die before I wake…” and went to sleep.
I’m not going to pretend that any of the decisions I made during this were at all good decisions, or the medically recommended ones. In fact, they were pretty bloody stupid. The problem is that I hate being fussed over, and I cannot deal with other people’s emotions or panic when I am trying to handle my own. When I am in a lot of pain, physical or emotional, my instinct every time is to retreat and regroup until I know how to deal with it, and how to present it to others in such a way that they will not panic, or fuss, or make me have to deal with and comfort their negative emotions. If I had told the people at the table with me that I thought I was having a heart attack, they would have taken care of me, but there would have been an awful lot of me having to reassure people, and redirect their misguided attempts to help, and they probably would have called an ambulance, and it would have been huge and dramatic, and I absolutely could not face that right then. If I were a better, more humble person, maybe I could have just accepted all of that, and asked for the help I needed. But I wasn’t, and so I didn’t.
The next day, I felt terrible all day – light-headed, chest hurting. If I moved too fast, or walked too far, I felt worse. I walked some mail down to the mail room, and had to stop to sit down on my way back. An employee came up to talk about their career prospects while I was resting. I was laughing at the irony of the situation as I made polite responses, and waited for the light-headedness to fade. I did try to call my doctor to talk to him about what happened, but he wasn’t taking calls, and I didn’t have the energy to push it. I was terrified, but I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. I got a sub to teach for me at swing club because I was afraid that I couldn’t teach myself without passing out.
On Tuesday when I woke up, I felt much better. My energy was back, and my chest didn’t hurt. I almost decided not to call my doctor after all. However, right about 11:30, my chest started hurting again. So I waited until noon (that’s when my doctor takes calls), and called in. We discussed some of the test results from my recent visit (improvement, hurrah!), and then I told him about what had happened Sunday. He said that it was probably nothing serious, but that I needed to go to the nearest ER and get it checked out. I said that, since I work at a hospital, I was down the hall from the nearest ER, and did I need to go now, or could I wait until after work? He said I should go now. So I called my co-worker, and told her what I was doing, went to the bathroom, grabbed my purse, and went. I didn’t log out of my computer, I didn’t put away my work, and I didn’t grab my coat. I honestly thought they’d just run a couple of tests in the ER, and let me go home later that day.
It was possibly one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done to walk into that ER, write my name down on the list, and sit down to wait to be called. I couldn’t stop thinking about my brother. It wasn’t until I’d actually sat down in the waiting room that it occurred to me that I should maybe let my family know that I was there. So I texted Mariah, Sae and Johnnycakes. Pretty soon a nurse came over and asked me why I was there. I said that I was having chest pain, the first time I’d said that out loud to anyone but my doctor. He put me in a wheelchair, and they took me back.
In the ER they ran a slew of tests, all of which seemed to show that my heart was fine. Except my blood pressure was really high. It had been really scary high when I came in, and started to slowly come down the longer I was there. That, combined with my family history, was enough to make them cautious, so they decided to admit me for observation overnight, and to run more tests (stress test, echocardiogram) in the morning. At that point I did not want to stay – I wanted them to tell me that everything was fine and I could go home now. But I wasn’t in control anymore. And that’s how I found myself Tuesday night in a hospital bed, wired up six ways to Sunday, trying to figure out exactly how long my cell phone battery would last, and how I was going to get clean underwear (answer: Dad brought them to me, along with toothbrush and deodorant, all lovingly packaged up by Mom & Indy).
Being in the hospital is such a surreal experience. It’s like you don’t have jurisdiction over your own body. People come in with requests for various body fluids, or reach down your shirt to attach wires, or come in the middle of the night to take your temperature or run tests. They’re all very polite and professional about it, but it’s still hard to take. I don’t know how many times I had to tell someone that no, there was no chance that I was pregnant, and that I knew this first because of exactly where I was in my monthly cycle, and second because I hadn’t seen any angels lately. One guy completely didn’t understand, and I then had to explain that seeing angels is how you get babies if you’re not having sex. The guy behind him got the joke, but I think he still didn’t.
It’s even more surreal being a patient in a hospital where people know you. Where you know way too much about the guy who’s currently attaching wires to your chest, and the girl who brings you your meal menu is a friend, and the ladies who come to draw your blood want to talk about uniform options. When the manager of Food Services heard I was there, he personally came up to lay all the services of his entire department at my feet, offering anything at all to help my stay be even the slightest bit more pleasant. He was so achingly earnest and sincerely distressed at my situation. I was just stressed enough that I had to restrain myself from asking if he would like to swear fealty to me now? Or maybe just some quail’s eggs for breakfast? Or his firstborn child on a platter? Except all I really wanted was to figure out what I had to say to get him to go away, because I wasn’t wearing a bra, and I don’t really know him all that well.
All of my tests came back negative, showing that my heart is doing just fine. My blood pressure is still high (and spiked alarmingly during the stress test), but the heart is fine. So they let me go home (I had to stop on the way out to get my coat from my office). They’ve changed up my meds a little, and I have an appointment to see my regular doctor next week. As soon as I can get the doctor who saw me at the hospital to sign my work release, I can go back to work.
And then hopefully this adventure will be over.