Saturday, October 25, 2014

My Heart Incident-Saturday April13/2013 9:30am

On Second Thought
Life's Lessons Revised
 Illegitimi Non Carborundum:
 Don't Let The Bastards Wear You Down 
"I learned that it is not the result that is the goal, but how many people make the journey with you, love you and cherish you."
 Globe and Mail Oct7/2013   Tasneem Veli
As I awake this Saturday morning, I find myself a resident of Room 5327 of the Heart Institute, University of Ottawa. Just 2 short days ago, I was woken out of a sound sleep by a heavy, labouring pain, which felt like an anchor on my chest. Immediately alarm bells sounded, "Was I having a heart attack", something I feared was my genetic destiny. Despite my best effort to eat well, exercise religiously, and to try to maintain a stress-free life, I found myself alarmed, scared and uncertain as to what my future life would be.
Despite my symptoms, I chose to proceed with my normal daily life including seeing patients like Mr. X,  who was seeing me,ironically,to change his Type A personality. For those of you not familiar, Type A personalities tend to be aggressive, demanding, and are at high risk to have cardiac difficulties.
I was not completely convinced I was in the middle of a heart attack. Having seen my father suffer some 7 heart attacks, my symptoms did not quite  match up to his.
 Nevertheless, after enduring the pain all day without resolution, I decided to go to the hospital. A quick trip to the local hospital, not by ambulance as suggested by the telehealth nurse, but simply as a passenger in a car driven by my worried and frantic girlfriend.
Arrival at the very same hospital a very short time ago I was the distinguished Chief Psychologist, now a frightened and humble patient. A simply greeting by the triage nurse, a quick explanation of my symptoms, a designation of a 10 code priority, and literally 60 seconds latter I found myself on a gurney in the observation room.
During the next12 hours, my life flashes before me, images of  past regrets, present conflicts and future dreams, intertwined in a cacophonic,multi-sensory environment of life and death drama. Am I really having a heart attack?
As I try to understand what has happened other allied heath workers probe and invade my body with various instruments in an attempt to answer this question.EKG,blood analysis and other modern diagnostic tests led to the conclusion by my emergency physician that I have had a mild heart attack. I am immediately given mass dosages of heparin to thin my blood.
A cardiology consultation is requested and soon after arrives a very young slim pony-tailed  lady who claims to my amazement to be a 1st year resident. After further tests the young protégée, decides on the bases of a 6th sense, that something does not add up. She orders further tests whose results support her alternative diagnosis. This young Dr. states I did not have a heart attack but have a condition called parimycardius. An unusual condition in which a cold or virus attaches itself to the wall of the heart muscle. No doubt, my recent trip to Mexico, in which I broke my cardinal rule not to leave on a Monday, is a contributing factor although as a rational experienced psychologist, I would never admit this publicly.
Following my now brilliant Dr.'s advice and astute diagnosis, I proceeded to reward her with the following  life lesson, "Don't be afraid to follow your inner voice or 6th sense and you will have a stellar career."
 Following my new diagnosis, a more benign diagnosis than a heart attack, but still life changing, I spend the remainder of the night attempting to sleep on a gurney, all the while trying to come to terms with what this mean to me.
 Early next morning a bed became available in the Heart Institute, which is physically located  next to the Ottawa Civic Hospital. Transported via the long, dingy corridors that connect various wings of   the hospital I am literally and figuratively traveling through  the bowels of the hospital. Protocol requires a nurse and a security officer to accompany me.The unspoken reason, I am a risk for cardiac arrest and in an emergency a second person is needed  to seek help. In a previous life I visited this esteemed institution,  not in a supine position, but walking, thinking and successfully persuading the executive of the heart institute to add a psychology position to the Cardiac Rehabitation team.
 Finally I arrive at Room 5727, where I am immediately examined by a nurse who tethers me to a telemetric device which monitors my vital signs, which are then projected onto various screens displayed throughout the ward. I am indeed a heart patient, restricted to H4 ward.
 As I acclimatize to my surroundings, I soon learn I am in a protective community which has a rhythm and beat of it's own. Life is very structured. Each member of the team whether it be the cleaning staff, the woman who serves you your meal or your nurse is dedicated to assist you in a warm, friendly and engaging manner.
 I learn quickly that 7am is the start of the 12 hour day shift, where every morning you are woken by your day nurse who examines you ,to be followed soon after by the blood technician who draws blood so that your enzymes can be monitored. In my particular case this is especially important as the enzymes indicate whether my heart muscle has been damaged. As a result of the virus attaching itself to my heart muscles, there are inflamed , rubbing or chafing with my heart. In the ears of a trained cardiologist a stethoscope allows the DR. to hear the rubbing and assess my progress.
My day consists of eating ,resting, walking the corridors of the ward and visiting with my fellow inmates who gather around the TV in the family room. Members of my new community include a farmer, a businessman, and a labour, mostly but not exclusively men from all walks of life. In many ways we represent the  various ethnic and cultures from around the world all united in our struggle with heart disease. Many are waiting for bypass surgery others for a heart transplant. To show you how heart disease can impact anyone, on the ward there is a very young woman, a triathlon athlete no less , who was waiting for a heart transplant.
Despite our mutual frailties or perhaps because of them one tends to bond quickly to one's inmates. Whether it is walking the square corridors of the ward together, or in other cases simply waving as fellow inmates go bye, we become familiar with each others stories and try to offer support to each other. Some patients are long distances from their home , do not have the day to day support of their families, and therefore  appreciate and value the ongoing inmate support.
Food, or the lack of it, is a big concern on the ward. Hospital meals are nutritious, but limited in quantity, more often than not leaving the inmate starving. One quickly leans on family ,visitors or sharing with your fellow inmate to combat this common problem. The communal fridge of the inmates is full of goodies which is shared by all.
After spending a very long week-end at the Heart Institute I am scheduled early Monday am for an echocardiogram, the results which will determine if I am released from the hospital. The new is good and I am released with specific instructions to severely restrict my physical activities and to take massive doses of aspirin. Fortunately my recover goes well . I realize I have dodged a bullet and am grateful and thankful for my return to good health.
Cardiac disease does not discriminate, no matter what one's status in life.We are all susceptible to health issues, a very humbling common denominator to us all.Carpe Diem-"seize the day".