Having passed the 5 year anniversary of my heart attack on October 13 and having turned 48 in November, I was celebrating the fading of the presence of heart disease in my life. Want to know what I got for Christmas this year? I got a little reality check that I do indeed have heart disease.
Three nights ago I was minding my own business, having settled into bed for the evening when shortly after midnight I was awakened by violent vomiting. Sweet–I had the really and I mean really nasty gastrointestinal flu that is going around here, or did I? About 3 am after 3 hours of the stomach flu, I started to feel my heart rate racing. Between bouts of vomiting I hurried and got my blood pressure cuff. I took my blood pressure and although it was okay–110/75 , my heart rate was a little concerning at a resting 95. I figured it was just because I was sick and went back to having every bit of liquid exit my body. At about 5 am, my heart was racing so fast that I was dizzy and couldn’t catch my breath. Another blood pressure check revealed that my blood pressure was still okay but the lowest heart rate I could get was a resting 130. At that point the blood pressure cuff makes all kinds of noises and flashes indicating I should probably get my ass to the hospital.
All I can think of is all the stories of nausea and vomiting being an indication of a heart attack and I am trying to determine through my dizziness and shortness of breath if I am having cardiac symptoms caused by the stomach flu or if I am having a heart attack with nausea and vomiting as the symptom. It is the first time in almost five years that I had felt like I was actually having a second heart attack in my 40’s. I could hear my early rising husband milling around downstairs so I called him on his cell phone because I was too dizzy just to go downstairs. He didn’t answer but instead yelled up the stairs at me. I said I have to go to the hospital. He was trying to find my shoes for me and I was just yelling that we have to go right now or call an ambulance. I headed out the door in the cold with no shoes on. I’d rather freeze my feet off than die.
My husband was running stop signs and passing people to get us to the ER and even as I was struggling to breathe, I still managed to tell him how to drive! In my mind I was thinking of my dear friend and heart sister Julie who had just been in an American Heart Association Blog about holiday heart attacks. How did I not see this coming?
We arrived at the ER and somehow mentioning that I am a STEMI survivor, I have 5 stents in my LAD and I can’t breathe got me right in. It turns out that I was severely dehydrated and that caused the spike in my heart rate which was actually over 140 when I was standing. The 130 was when I was laying down. After about 6 hours of laying in the ER and my heart rate still being 115, they decided better safe than sorry and admitted me.
They gave me a total of 5 bags of fluid by yesterday morning. The very nice hospitalist decided that my heart rate had come down enough that I could go home when she came by to see me.
When I got home, it was clear to me that they weren’t 100% convinced it wasn’t a heart attack either. They handed me about 5 pages of lab tests and results to give to my primary care physician. Right there in the middle were multiple tests run for my cardiac enzymes which measure for myocardial injury. It was a better safe than sorry thing because they were normal but it was nice to see in print that I truly didn’t have a heart attack. Still today I am a little queasy and I probably overdid it a bit today (I’m heading to bed as soon as I publish this) but I’m glad I went to the hospital. Nothing like a scare to bring heart disease back to the forefront of my life!
I always tell people to get to the hospital if they are having cardiac symptoms. I have been twice to the ER for this–once I was having a heart attack and once I wasn’t. I don’t feel bad about this time when I wasn’t. It turned out either way that the hospital was really where I needed to be. For those of you that are people who “just don’t go to the doctor”, let me tell you that there are no trophies for the number of times you should have gone to the doctor and didn’t. In fact, it can cost you your life and the only trophies for that are a coffin and broken-hearted friends and family. The number one thing I hear from people and more often from women is, “I would be embarrassed if it was nothing.” Well, better embarrassed than dead!
Take care of yourselves this holiday season and pay attention to your health! Here’s to a happy and cardiac event free 2017–cheers!