Increasing chest pressure which was first noticed the last week of September. Higher than normal blood pressure on the first stress test. Then the fearful conclusion following the nuclear stress test; you have a shadow on your heart. It could be a blocked artery. Shock and denial. I'm only 45! I've gained weight but I'm not obese. I work out. I haven't eaten red meat since 1984. My cholesterol level is good. There's no history of heart disease in my family. I'm not a saltaholic or fried food freak. Rationalizations and denial weren't making me feel better.
The abnormal stress test results came in on Friday. I had an appointment with a cardiologist the following Tuesday. By Saturday morning, the pressure was so bad I could barely function. I was trying to push through it and take new photos of the kittens to update my website. That got me out of breath. Fearful that I was a walking time bomb, I called the doctor again. He suggested I go directly to Yale-New Haven Hospital an hour away, rationalizing that if I did need to have something done, I'd end up there anyway.
I stayed calm while the kids freaked out. I had been an emotional mess the day before when I got the results, but was amazed at my level demeanor that day. I did, however, struggle with my own emotions when Kelsey broke down, telling her I needed her to be strong for me. Tyler intervened and pulled her away to another room to talk her down.
As soon as we got to Yale-New Haven, I regretted coming there. Paranoid about the H1N1, everyone coming into the emergency room had to wear a mask. We were also told that Kelsey would have to leave because she's under 18. Most cases of swine flu are in minors so she was considered at risk. Fortunately, one nurse felt sorry for Kelsey when she started crying and argued that it was okay to let her stay because she looked 18 and was obviously upset. So is it a blessing or a curse when your teenage daughter looks older than her age?
Once taken back to the emergency area for monitoring, I asked if I could use the bathroom before all the equipment was hooked up to me. I was told that it was too risky because I had chest pain. "It's too risky to not allow me to pee", I replied. "Is the bathroom up stairs?" Just around the corner. "It's a risk I'm willing to take." So the kids and I waited around for the rest of the afternoon, putting our masks on if a medical person came in our curtained off area. About an hour after Jay got there around 3 pm, I was finally moved into a regular room and the masks came off permanently. My angiogram was scheduled for the next morning.
The last time I stayed at a hospital, it was over 14 years ago. I call that hospital stay "Kelsey Marie". This time, I had to share a room with Rosa, a woman who was also hooked up to a heart monitor and spoke little English. At first, I was fine with all the conversation behind my roommate's curtain because it was Spanish and therefore easy for me to tune out. It was at times loud enough that I couldn't have my own conversations without difficulty. Her phone rang a lot, and the sound of the ringer was obnoxious. After the first night, I had Jay try to turn down the volume on her phone while Rosa was off having tests done. That didn't help. Apparently the volume controls are an empty tease.
I learned from eavesdropping that Rosa was originally from Ecuador. Her grown son seemed to be an aggravation to her, hence the yelling over the phone. She needed a nurse or aid who spoke Spanish to help her with ordering her food from room service or translating the more complicated communication.
I kept my fingers crossed that Rosa would be able to leave on Saturday if I couldn't. My hopes fell when the nurse told Rosa she could leave but she could stay if she wanted. What insurance covers using the hospital as a hotel? Rosa wanted to stay.
My coronary angiogram showed no blockages in my heart at all. That's great! My heart IS healthy after all. However, they wanted to rule out possible blood clots in my lungs. That would involve injecting more radioactive dye which would be safer to do after my kidneys had time to clean things out. Another night for me too. At least I got to remove the heart monitor that had been attached to six electrodes and wires coming out of the front of my top. I looked like a robot and felt weird sleeping with the monitor box like it was some sort of teddy bear.
Rosa and I were going to be roommates another night. Our interactions thus far had been minimal. I was in the bed closest to the door and the bathroom, Rosa had the window. We would exchange greetings only when she had to schlep past my bed to go to the bathroom, one of her hands securing her modesty by holding her johnnie together in the back. I felt good that I'd thought ahead enough to pack pajamas, clean underwear and basic toiletries. I asked a few times to be moved into a private room, but was told those were for the contagious patients and they had no spare rooms. I tried to tell myself it could be worse.....my roommate could have been some old complaining lady who tried to talk to me all the time. I tried to accept it, but the resentment was building.
Jay decided to spend the next night in the hospital so he wouldn't have to do so much driving. The kids visited Sunday and seemed relieved when I told them they could leave, giving them a list of animal care chores to do and nagging Kelsey to get herself up in the morning for school. That evening, I was lying in bed either reading or watching TV and Jay sat beside me studying. Rosa was on the phone for two hours straight, full of animated loud conversation. I turned up the volume on the TV, holding the remote with the speaker built in next to my ear to hear. At 9 pm, Rosa's nurse came in and I thanked her, hinting quietly that maybe she could get her patient off the phone. Finally some quiet. Then Rosa started watching her TV. She was obviously feeling better than she had the first night when she fell asleep early. The problem with her watching TV was that apparently the movie was an action film. Every time something happened, Rose reacted audibly with an "oh!" or gasping. It almost sounded like she was having sex over there. Which, by the way, I wondered about at one point earlier when her husband was visiting and I heard a lot of kissing and bed creaking. How sick is this woman, my new Nemesis?
I asked for a sleeping pill and a percocet to relieve the ache in my leg from the invasion of my femoral artery earlier that day and help me sleep. My aggravation level was high at this point but I tried to go to sleep. Rosa's phone rang at 11 pm. I had been told that calls wouldn't be put through after 10. She obviously still wanted to talk and I was not happy. I unplugged my IV from the wall socket and rolling the IV stand with me, walked to the front nurse station to complain. That worked. Rosa got off the phone and fell asleep quickly. I was awakened again at 1 am by the alarm going off on my IV indicating that it was empty.
Next morning, I'm tired and desperately want a shower. Because of the whole angiogram, major hole in a major artery thing, I was instructed to wait 24 hours before showering to allow it to heal. After the shower, my mood improved considerably although Jay joked that I must be feeling better because I was complaining so much. I had a CT scan done and while we were in the room waiting for results and clearance to be discharged, we learned more about Rosa.
A translator and a social worker were talking to her. Through the translator we found that Rosa had only completed her education through the 8th grade, her grown children were okay except for her oldest son. He and she had an argument that turned violent, the police were called, and she suffered chest pain from the stress, bringing her to our shared world. My resentment turned to sympathy.
Interestingly enough, once Rosa overheard that I was leaving, she came over to talk to us. I'm sure she was happy to see me leave but as it turned out she works as a housekeeper. She wanted to know if we needed her services. She didn't seem to understand that we lived an hour away and insisted upon giving us her phone number.
I've left Rosa and the hospital experience behind, grateful to come home to cat litter, hair on the furniture and chickens. My veins are recovering from their abuse and I'm still finding sticky residue from the electrodes on my torso. I don't know what's wrong with me, only that it's not likely to kill me any time soon. More tests to come. Next stop, an endoscopy.
I know this is not a great story, no cute photos of me with wires attached my body, no near death experiences or miracles. But I wanted to write this for myself since judging by the lack of comments, I'm not sure anyone other than Howard really reads these anyway. (hint, hint)