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» Wednesday, July 01, 2015Time After Time After Time After Time...
Monday was a usual workday that ended annoyingly: there was an accident on the ramp I use to get on the freeway. It was twenty minutes of five before I even got on I-85 north to get on I-285 westbound. It took me 70 minutes to get home. James had gotten in late and was looking weary. Good thing dinner was simple: chicken and dumplings from Sprouts, plus a cucumber and tomato salad. Watched Police Surgeon at its new time, and the usual Monday stuff.
At bedtime I put Snowy in the bedroom and covered him up, and Tucker had been put into his crate. When I came out of the spare room James was sitting on his computer chair with a peculiar look on his face. He had told me before that, since he began having the lung problems, he sometimes gets a tightness across his chest. He usually takes some Naproxen and it goes away. But tonight he had the pain, plus a radiating pain in his jaw, and heartburn, and the Naproxen hadn't worked.
Well, we had to go. At 11:30 a.m. we found ourselves in the Wellstar emergency room. When they found out he had chest pain, they immediately took an EKG. The last time this had happened, they had us in the back with James all hooked up to monitors; I don't know what the EKG showed, but this time we were just stuck out there in the waiting room. Waiting. And waiting. About 3 a.m. we were starving, and shared a bag of Doritos. (Why are there no healthy snacks in hospital waiting rooms? No juice, just soda, and a snack machine full of chips and cookies.)
Since we were just sitting there, I did ask if they had found something or not. I mean, if he was having a heart attack, wouldn't he be in the back room all wired up? Anyway, finally they called us back after three a.m. (yes, we're into Tuesday morning now) for the blood test. Then we went back to the waiting room. The emergency folks didn't seem to be all that concerned!
At 4:30, they finally brought him into the back. They said his tests looked normal, but there was something the attending was not sure of and they wanted to admit him. It took them another 90 minutes to reach Kaiser, who of course said they couldn't admit him at Wellstar because it's not their hospital; they would have an ambulance take us to Northside Hospital. At this point we had both been up for 24 hours straight and were exhausted, and tired of repeating the story about the hypersensitivity pneumonitis and the pains to everyone who wandered in. The registered nurse who was taking care of James, Ben, offered me a sandwich because we were both hungry, but James couldn't have anything, not even a juice, in case they had to give him a test. I ate it but was so upset by that time I almost threw it back up. Plus I was having my usual "I'm-in-a-stressful-situation" problem: multiple trips to the bathroom.
At 7 a.m. the ambulance finally showed up. Ben waited to go off shift until we left, which was nice, and the two ambulance people were funny. I took everything we'd brought with us, and went home to wake up Snowy and put the television on for him, then take Tucker for a walk. I had some oatmeal, yogurt, and milk. By that time it was rush hour and I don't do I-285 until after nine o'clock. I put Tucker out on the deck and sacked out next to Snowy for an hour; then let Tucker back in because the sun was getting strong on the deck and slept another half hour. Then I got up, got James a change of clothes, the charger for his phone and his tablet, and a few other things, and I also packed up my laptop in case he was going to have to stay overnight. I could work on my story or we could watch a movie on Netflix. Once Tucker was back in his crate, I was off.
Parked in the garage at Northside, then had to find James. I followed the directions on the garage elevator and went to the eighth floor visitor center, then somehow started talking to a very nice Indian lady whose name I have now forgotten. She led me through a long walk at the side of the hospital, into a hallway, and then got me to the fourth floor elevators, but when I told someone on the fourth floor I was looking for the cardiac recovery unit, they sent me down to the first floor (I'm so glad I used the luggage carrier for the bag of James' things and the laptop). There in the cardiac center, Sandy the receptionist made a few phone calls and found James—back on the fourth floor. All I had to do when I was up on four was to turn left; what a rabbit warren that place is. I figured I'd have to use a sherpa guide, a GPS, and a seeing eye dog to get back to the garage.
James was in one of those little cubbies they give to you when you actually don't have a room yet but they are testing you, with a bed, a chair, and a television. He had already had a CT scan with dye and they took some more blood. He hadn't had a meal, but his nurse, Holly, who was an absolute doll, had let him have some graham crackers and some juice. I had a peanut butter-and-honey sandwich and a plum with me which I ate over the course of the afternoon.
In the afternoon, he had an interesting test. First they made him swallow a very low-level radioactive isotope and drink water to get it through his system. They then took a CT scan of his heart with the radioactive isotope running through it as a resting phase. Then he had to wait a bit, and they gave him a stress test. Because he can't walk well enough to do the treadmill test, they used a drug to artificially stress his heart. They warned him that he might feel all sorts of things, like a bad hot flash, or other symptoms of a racing heart, but he said all he did was "feel odd," like he knew his heart was being stressed. This was the only part of the test I didn't see; I even got to sit there for the first CT scan. After the stress test was over, they finally gave him some food: three small meatballs in chicken broth, and a bag of chips and some soda.
Then we had to wait to take one last scan, and they did it about three times because the picture wasn't coming out the way they needed it. Finally we went back to Holly and the little room and sat and waited. She had ordered supper for him, and he shared with me; some roast beef and rice pilaf and a bowl of peaches and tiny little containers of juice.
About four thirty, the doctor came in and said they could find nothing at all wrong with his heart. No signs of a heart attack, or an obstruction, or anything. The doctor said the pain was probably from the lung problem. She told him to take Tylenol instead of Naproxen if it hurt again. We were free! And finally, too, because we'd both been without sleep for 35 hours (except for the short respite I had in the morning and the nap he took before bedtime on Monday night). He got his release papers, and when I told Holly where I was parked, she knew a way to get us to the door closest to the garage exit. We were looking forward to getting home, having a small meal, and getting some sleep.
Holly stayed with James while I headed off to get the car. As I was walking across the little round area between the garage and the buildings, my heart gave a little jump. This happens sometimes when I get very hungry.
Except it kept jumping. I could feel it start to race and was appalled. I've been exercising more lately—I'm doing a mile just walking the dog; that doesn't count the other walking I do—and I haven't had heart palpitations since 2009! All I could think of was get to the car and take my pill, which is what the doctor told me to do if it happened, and what has always worked. I went up in the elevator, found the car, took the pill and sat there for a few minutes feeling my heart dance around in my chest. It takes a while for the pill to kick in.
But I knew what I had to do. I drove the car down to where James and Holly were waiting, and asked her if she could take my pulse. She did and agreed with me that it was racing. I sat down on the bench while she went inside and called someone; a couple of nurses came running out and circled me, asking all sorts of questions. I explained this had happened before and I had medication I took for it, and I'd taken that. Someone showed up with one of the heart/pulse monitor machines and my heart rate was bouncing back from 178 to 87 to 158 and then settled out at 185. All I could do was groan. Why now? It was five p.m. and we had almost made it home.
So one nurse wheeled James, and one wheeled me, and back we went to the emergency room. Now I was the one with the monitor, and the IV, and getting my blood taken. Of course, by the time we got there, the pill had done its job and kicked in. My pulse went to 85 for a while, and then went back down to 75-77 as we sat there and got hungrier and hungrier and more and more tired. A doctor came in after about an hour, and I explained for about the third time about the first time it had happened in 2002 and then again one other time, and then in 2009 and it hadn't happened since then. I was pretty sure it was a combination of stress and hunger and sheer tiredness. The room they put us in was like an oven, and I had to sit there on the gurney and watch poor James try to not collapse under the weight of his slowly drooping eyelids.
Finally we got sprung around nine o'clock. I guess they didn't find anything wrong in the blood test, but I have no idea because I know I signed the release papers and when we left the room I was assigned to I didn't see anything left behind, but the papers never left with us.
We had one last minor bobble. Holly called someone to make sure my car didn't get towed, but the nurses in the emergency room were only allowed to wheelchair both of us to the doors of the emergency room, and that wasn't where we were parked. Someone called security and they took us to the car.
James actually drove the car but we were both on the lookout on the way home because we were so tired. We stopped at Wendy's to get small hamburgers each (I would have preferred soup, but Wendy's was the closest place to home), and, despite wanting to go to bed, sat up watching Doctor Who so we could at least digest our food a little before sleep. At least that was the plan. After "Happiness Patrol" ended, James disappeared. I had put Tucker in his crate while watching the first part of "Silver Nemesis," and then went to check on him. I figured he was taking a shower. No, he had stretched out on the comforter and was already asleep. When I poked him and asked, "Don't you want to take a shower?" he murmured. "No! I'm asleep!" and that was that.
Oh, well. What the hell. I can wash the bedclothes all out on Thursday, since I'm off work. I crawled on top of the bedclothes with one of the fleece blankets from the spare room and was out like a light.
So today we slept until 10:30 (11 1/2 hours), then got dressed and went to Panera for lunch (chicken soup and a grilled cheese sandwich; mmmmnnnn), picked up the medicine for James' lungs, then came home, took showers, and went back to bed until about five. Sat outside in a rainstorm breathing the nice cool air. Watched Police Surgeon and the game shows, and then Planes: Fire and Rescue, which was just what we needed. The short which comes with it is hilarious!
And oh, yay, it's bedtime again. I love that word. A superb word.
Oh, James' results came back from the blood test they took to see what caused the hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Everything was negative including the bird test.