Practicing What I Preach

Whenever I write about RA and its potential impact on heart health, I describe the symptoms of heart attack, then describe how they may be different for women, and then I strongly encourage people who have those symptoms to call 911 and get themselves to an emergency room.

A desire to not be a hypocritical twit is why I on Monday continued my tour of the city’s emergency departments.

Strapped down and hooked up
photo by David Govoni

Waking up with a racing heart and chest pain had me concerned enough that I toddled off to my family doctor. Having had acid reflux for eons has familiarized me with the extensive variety of symptoms that this condition can cause, but that particular chest pain was new. I’m a big believer in getting new symptoms checked out to assess whether they can be ignored.

Like me, my doctor thought that the symptoms was 99% probably acid reflux. However, given my decades of uncontrolled RA inflammation and high use of NSAIDs, as well as the fact that I’m over 50, there was that 1% chance it could’ve been a heart attack.

And then we decided that it’s much better to visit the ER one too many times without needing it than one too few.

So there I was, calling 911 and travelling in an ambulance for the second time in less than a year and The Boy and I got to spend our day off having another medical adventure.

The ambulance was new and somewhat more comfortable than the last one. It also had a system reminding the paramedics every two minutes or so to “check patient.” This made me wonder why it was necessary — are paramedics likely to daydream while transporting patients on 911 calls? Seems unlikely.

We arrived at St. Michael’s Hospital and within 10 minutes, I was transferred to a room in the Major ER (exciting!), while David loitered in the waiting area. Within another 10 minutes, they had done the initial assessment and taken blood.

And by the way, that assessment contained one of the best questions I have ever heard in a hospital. At the end, the nurse looked at me and said “here at St. Mike’s, we always ask this question: are you safe in your home environment?”

Is that not the most brilliant thing? Why don’t all emergency departments use this question?

I told her yes and then they let David in.

The rest of my visit was remarkably unremarkable, consisting mostly of waiting. At one point, I got disconnected from the heart monitor and turfed from the room,  moving to what can best be described as a parking area in the middle of a larger room filled with curtained off gurneys. Those of us in the middle had clearly been promoted to “waiting for one more test, just about to go home, unlikely to require any procedures” status. It was also a lot more entertaining than being stuck in a room. St. Mike’s is an inner-city facility and the emergency room is a trip no matter what time of day it is. Monday afternoon was no exception.

Eventually I got the all clear — the blood test showed I had not had a heart attack — and I was back home 3 ½ hours after we left.

I’ve spent this week taking it easy and eating what I describe as “cushy” foods. That is, foods that establish a cushion between your stomach lining and the roiling vat of acid. Think soft and white, such as gently baked halibut, lots of mashed potatoes, a medicinal ice cream sundae or two, plus a lot of acidophilus. I’m better now. Well enough to start thinking about similarities between last July and this February. Sure, there was too much eating of things that poke at the beast in my mid-region, but I often do that and only rarely have the kind of GERD that makes me worry I had a heart attack.

However, there was also really high stress levels.

Something has to change. I don’t yet know what, but I’m thinking about it.


Anonymous said…

Judith in Ottawa
AlisonH said…
Thank you for taking good care of you, and my thanks to David and all the medical people.
Wren said…
I'm so glad you're safe rather than sorry, Lene. You're smart to take action. I do envy you your 3.5-hour visit, however. When I took my elderly aunt to ER a few weeks back (also for chest/stomach/GERD pain) we waited in chairs for more than 7 hours, then 3 more in a cubicle while they "monitored" her. I comforted myself that at least, should she go into cardiac arrest while we sat there in the crowd, we were at a hospital and only a few steps from actual trauma doctors.
In the end they admitted her for more tests and kept her for a couple of days until she felt better. Not her heart, thank goodness, but esophageal/GERD issues. She's still waiting for follow-up appointments, my 80-year-old aunt.
Glad for you, my dear. I know how frightening the whole experience is. I just wish our U.S. med. system was better.
Anonymous said…
So glad you are OK.

How can we help with reducing the stress levels?