Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Heart Chronicle (Part 1)

Today is Day 4 in my new life as a heart attack patient.

I entered Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Emergency Room at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11. I had driven myself to the hospital after experiencing strange chest discomfort and increasing pain, of a sort that would make any aware person realize that action was needed. I wasn’t exactly sure what was wrong, of course, but I had a suspicion, and besides, when we’re talking about pain, then understanding exact cause is irrelevant.

Vandy’s ER team rushed into action, and, unlike TV medical shows—where glib professionals preoccupied with their personal lives offer pregnant-with-meaning commentary while dealing with medical challenges—these folks attended to me only, with determination and focus. (Really, I don’t think even one of the medics was thinking about his/her orgasm.)

I am moved when I think about what I witnessed. I wish I had names, but alas the event was a blur of bodies lurching left and right of me, as wires and tubes, laptops, oral medications, monitors, IVs, EKG stuff—you name it—were brought to bear on the case. Whoever you all are, you are simply, indescribably amazing, and whoever taught you your craft should be incredibly proud.

Finally, about two hours into all of this, after a combination of nitroglycerine pills and morphine brought my pain into a manageable state, a Dr. Mark Glazer told me that he was recommending immediate heart surgery for me—to not only isolate the exact cause but also to relieve the problem at the same time. This was the first time in this whole experience that someone had used the term "heart attack."

I am uninsured. I visibly glitched. No one was saying how much any of this would be costing. But I already knew generally how much an ER heart workup costs, ’cause I had one nine years ago at the same place, when I managed to transform a simple anxiety attack into a several-thousand-dollar ER visit, in which I found out that my heart was just fine, thank you. It took me a few years to pay that off. This was different, though. Surgery?

Dr. Glazer appeared slightly perturbed, his face expressively seeming to say, “Well, duh, we KNOW it’s your heart, dummy. Do you wanna try to get it fixed, or should we just send you on your way??”

I can still see the look of exasperation in his eyes, sort of like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, the moment before Harrison Ford leaps into the waterfall, surely plunging to his death.

Finally, after excruciating seconds passed, a nurse to my immediate left—rather cute and African American, as I recall—chimed in with, “Well, $10,000 versus your, uh...” My what??

I caved. Bring it on.

I was whisked into a surgical unit. I stayed alert enough to experience an incision made into my inner thigh near my groin. Then a kind of twilight-sleep sensation overcame me. Next thing I knew, I had awoken in a surgical holding area, in a most blessed kind of blissfulness. (Damn, those drugs are good. Really. No, REALLY!)

Part 2 of The Heart Chronicle coming soon.

1 comment:

Sanora Bartels said...

wow - wow - wow. First of all, I wish you a speedy recovery - I'm off to read Part 2 but this brought tears to my eyes on a couple of levels. It's nice to know that medical professionals truly care about our well-being and your writing is just such a joy to read.