Well, this was one of the more interesting weekends I’ve had. On Saturday, I spent 5 hours in the Mercy Hospital Emergency Department as a guest in their Chest Pain Center. I didn’t really have chest pain, but when you experience Atrial Fibrillation and your heart is beating non-stop at 160 beats a minute, the Chest Pain Center is a good place to be.
I’ve had blood pressure problems in the past but am controlling it with medication, diet and exercise. And on occasion I experience palpitations and an irregular heartbeat. But my cardiologist, who I trust implicitly, told me the palpitations and irregular heartbeat are normal and most people experience these symptoms now and then. In fact, most people don’t even realize it when their hearts are dancing around. Well, I noticed it. Thought my heart would leap out of my chest.
Once taken to the Chest Pain Center, which quite remarkably took less than 10 minutes after I arrived at the ER, the staff had me on monitors, an IV drip, and heavy-duty medication to restore normal sinus rhythm. They warned that if the drugs didn’t do the trick in a few hours, they would likely have to shock my heart. Hearing this, of course, made my heart beat even faster. I’ve seen those metal paddles on ER and want no part of them pressing on my chest and sending an electrical charge through my body.
The nurse who treated me was wonderful and my wife stayed right by my side, encouraging me and offering comfort the best she could under the circumstances. There’s no other way to delicately say this, but I was scared shitless. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life, and I can tell you first hand, it put me in touch with reality in a hurry.
An hour and a half into the IV drip and the nurse skipped into the room and announced, “Yippee, we converted you to a normal sinus rhythm.” She then proudly showed me the normal EKG, which didn’t mean much to me, but weighing her enthusiasm I figured it was good news.
Before they released me, the on-staff cardiologist tried to explain what happened but couldn’t tell me why it happened. I understood the mechanics of what my heart was doing when it went nuts, but the cause was still unknown. The doctor asked me if I was under unusual stress. I looked at my wife and knew exactly what she was thinking. Was I under unusual stress? Quickly recapping the last few months of my life, it was pretty darn easy to conclude that I have never been so wired in my life. I was quietly unraveling and didn’t even realize it. Internalizing everything in my life, I felt that I had the madness under control. Obviously, my heart didn’t agree. Between issues with my job, personal BS, the launch of my novel, working with the PR people, losing my cat, Alex, trying to find time to start the sequel to my novel—the list is endless.
Over the weekend, I clearly understood that stress, or more accurately, my inability to manage stress would indeed send me to an early grave. So I did lots of soul searching this weekend—spent lots of time talking to God. I’m a Christian and I have a good relationship with my Creator, but our relationship grew more intimate this weekend. In His infinite wisdom, God gave me a wakeup call. In His unique way, He delivered a message that I heard loud and clear; a profound warning. I can’t snap my fingers and make the stress in my life magically disappear. But what I can do is look at things through different eyes and recognize that nothing in life is so important that you should put your health at risk. I’m happy to be at work on this gloomy, rainy, wonderful Monday morning.