A Recumbent Bike Tried to Kill Me (Part Two)

I have never liked watching those TV shows where doctors are operating on people. To me, it's just way too much information that I don't want or need to know, but John would occasionally watch them with fascination. Me? I'd leave the room.

Modern medicine is wonderful, and I love that they can fix all kinds of things, but being wide awake for an angiogram was not my favourite thing. Basically, they thread a thing up an artery either in your groin or wrist, tinker around and squirt dye in various places while some sort of x-ray thing takes photos, and they watch what's happening on a giant screen. Sounds cool, yes! Only you can't move. And you can FEEL that thing tinkering around inside your chest.

It's most unnerving. Oh, they do ask if you want a sedative , to which I replied, "YES. ALL THE DRUGS." Later I overheard my nurse commenting to another person, "I gave her the sedative but I don't think it even touched her."

Yep. It did. It was the only thing that kept me from leaping off the table and running from the room screaming. Anyway, as the doctor is tinkering around in there he suddenly stops and points to the screen.

"Oh look right there. You have a 90% blockage. We're just going to fix that, okay?"

Okay? Really? Like I'm going to say no while you have this wire moving around in a major artery and I'm unable to move? I don't really think I'm going to argue. Go ahead and stick a stent in there to widen things up so I don't have a major heart attack and die some time in my 50s. I'd like to stick around. And why the HELL do I have a nearly blocked little artery? Sure, it's not the big bad important ones, and it's near the bottom of my heart, but what is up with that?

I don't eat that much bacon. I don't smoke. I can't drink. I have been a healthy weight my whole life. I've never done drugs. I've always been active. Stress? Well. We won't talk about the stress thing. According to the doctors, family history trumps everything, and that I DO have. So ... yay me? Imagine if I didn't live in a healthy way!

I was told I would have had a massive heart attack at around 55 and died. So there you go. Eat your veggies and exercise, people.

Anyway, after all this excitement I assumed that the problem was fixed, they'd put me on some meds and send me home. I'd recover and life would turn back to normal, right?

HA. I was so wrong.

I have since read that many, many people who have angiograms and stent insertion have chest pain, otherwise known as angina afterwards. How does angina feel? Like someone is strangling you, from the inside. My arms go numb and cold, I feel like I'm going to be sick, and my back aches. It is most unpleasant. Some people say that angina feels a lot like heart burn or reflux, but I wouldn't know. I've never had reflux.

The angina started shortly after I went home, and I immediately went back to the ER. Trips to the ER became so routine over the next month that I even had a hospital bag packed read to go. At some point, they told me the pain was reflux and prescribed medication. Give it time to start working, they advised. So being the dutiful girl I am, I took the meds and did every SINGLE thing possible to curb reflux. I ate nothing after 6pm, cut out coffee, chocolate, spicy food, acidic things. I slept on piles of pillows, bought jars of Tums and Gaviscon, and hoped every day that it would go away. I went to my family doctor and begged for help, only to have my prescription medication dose doubled and told to wait it out. I couldn't even get to a cardiologist because, guess what? My family doctor didn't even refer me.

The so called "reflux" attacks started at twice a week, increased to four times a week, and quickly became every day and then twice a day. They were always when I was at rest and between the hours of 5pm to 7am.  It was so bad that finally, I was propped up in bed holding a bucket with tears rolling down my cheeks. I couldn't sleep. I could barely eat. I ached all over. I can't even describe the pain except to say that it rivaled my original heart attack.

Finally, I went to the Emergency Room again before I even had an attack happen, expecting to wait 6 hours and then finally be referred to a cardiologist or at least have my meds changed. It was all really routine; blood work and EKG, being hooked up to monitors etc, until I began to feel the familiar squeeze.

"Um, I'm starting to have chest pain," I casually commented to a nearby nurse. More blood tests and another EKG, some nitro-gylcerin spritzed in my mouth, and I just rode it out. This one isn't so bad. Not nearly as bad as the daily ones I've had the last few days.  Just wait, they'll go on about reflux. Somehow, I can hear a doctor talking urgently on the phone to someone about me, but I can't quite hear what she's saying. Something is up.

A nurse walks over and shuts the curtain. "Okay, you're going to Royal Columbian. The ambulance will be here any second." They start sicking defibrillator pads on me and getting in another IV.

I'm confused. "Um...what's going on?" Wait, what just happened?

"You had another heart attack. Your EKG has changed. There's a team at Royal Columbian waiting."