It was a restless night of sleep, my heart pounding in my chest through light dreams. I awoke feeling worn out, as though I had not rested at all. Although I have battled with anxiety and panic attacks for years, the thumping in my heart was something I hadn’t yet experienced.
I had been weaning myself from my usual caffeine habit over the past few days, so I thought this was perhaps attributable to that. I dug around under the sink in the bathroom until I found the blood pressure monitor that we had somehow acquired. While I knew the home monitor was not as accurate as going to the doctor, I was shocked when it told me my heart rate was 140 beats per minute.
I quick search on the web yielded that this was close to double the normal resting heart rate for someone my age. I was concerned because I hadn’t taken any sugar, caffeine or chocolate. In fact, I was running on an empty stomach. I sat quietly on the floor with my kitty and petted her soft fur until my heart rate seemed to come down a bit.
When I got to work, I busied myself with other things, trying not to think about my thumping chest. I was a bit short of breath, and definitely felt off. I spoke to a nurse friend of mine who said I should probably get checked out. Around lunch time, I decided to walk over to employee health and saw the nurse practitioner.
She took my heart rate and did a few other diagnostics before deciding that I needed to go to the Emergency Department for further examination. She walked me down, asking if I had been drinking heavily the night before. She knew that I was a homebrewer. I knew that she didn’t drink at all, and didn’t appreciate her implication that I might be dealing with alcohol withdrawal of all things, thereby making me a chemically-dependent alcoholic.
At the emergency department, they took me back quickly for an EKG, which looked normal. They sat me in another area, taking my insurance information, and then told me to go in the waiting area. I figured it wouldn’t be that long before someone would tell me I was fine and sent me home. Boy, was I wrong.
As I entered the waiting area, it was overwhelmed with people in various stages of needing care. There were the obvious “mystery pain” people, addicts who came to the ER just to get a few prescription pain meds. There were also the people who were hurt on the job, some obviously faking, some in legit pain. One of them, a man in construction style clothing, was throwing up over the side of his wheelchair and on to the floor. His friend, who unceremoniously deposited him off in the waiting room, was long gone.
In the ER, I always feel like I have to prove that I’m not faking it, I’m not like some of these asshats. I’m legit, you guys, and scared. I had to wait almost two hours to be taken back. By then, my husband was nearly there, also very concerned for me. They took me back into a room, handed me a gown and told me to put it on.
A nurse came and hooked me up to a bunch of machines, taping sticky pads all over my arms, back and sides. Another came by not long after and asked me to give a urine sample. She wasn’t clear that I needed to go to the bathroom to do so, which confused me. She clearly handed me a wet wipe with the empty cup, so I could have deduced that she fully intended me to drop trow and fill the cup right there.
I asked where the bathroom was so I could provide the sample, but didn’t catch where she said it was, and then she was gone. I did my best to untangle myself from all the machines I was connected to, unsure of what I was really doing. I stepped out, trying to find her, only to have the gown half fall off and expose myself. A kind orderly came by and tied up the back for me so I’d have some semblance of dignity.
I came back and left the sample. The nurse returned shortly thereafter and reattached all my machinery. She also hooked me up for an IV. Could it be my heart problems were all related to being dehydrated? Impossible. My blood work came back fine, and by the time the IV was finished, I was tired, cold and ready to go home.
I still have no idea what was causing my earlier symptoms, being hooked up to a machine and being forced to do nothing for almost four hours would slow anyone’s heart rate, simply out of boredom. They did tell me I had an irregular heart beat and palpitations, but not what could be causing them. She gave me some vague instructions to reduce stress and try to stay hydrated. I have a follow up with a cardiologist in a few weeks, so hopefully we’ll figure it out at that point.