yes, it was a heart attack

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I thought it was just an extra florid panic attack. I did take some pure aspirin and a clonazepam, just in case it was a real heart attack, but I was naked and in bed and all my clothes and keys and ID and crap were all over and I could not face a bunch of EMTs coming barreling in to save my ass when I was in such disarray.

I did what I could do and decided that we'd find out if I was still alive in the morning.

I was.

I had an appointment at the DMV to renew, to upgrade to the new fascist Real ID, and so proceeded to put my contact lenses in backward and drove to town. All went beautifully until the eye test. I could not get my right eye to read diddly squat and so they sent me off with a form for an optometrist to fill out.


But it meant I could go home and sleep, at least. A few days later I was telling an online friend about my weird panic/heart attack and he had a fit and made me PROMISE to go to the ER. I'm okay at ignoring advice, but I cannot ignore a promise. So I did.

I walked in the ER entrance of the local hospital and filled out the little sign in card with my name and the words "heart attack" for my reason for coming to the ER.

A wind kicked up and I found myself with about twenty people dancing attendance on me. I'm like, oh, mellow out guys. It was a few days ago. They had already taken my blood. They assured me it was NOT a few days ago, but had been ongoing for all those days. It's not like in the movies.

They had to tell me this about ten times.

I felt fine.

Ace EMT/ER-pro installing my IV portal... where they just make a little tap in your vein to lower the number of times they need to stick you with stuff. Portable chest x-ray incoming. Doctors, nurses, technicians, massive busy-ness all around me. Mountain woman ER doctor coming in and out and rushing to take return calls from cardiologists everywhere. She came in and told me they were going to send me on a life flight to Eureka.

I'm all, like, I so totally can drive. I'm fine. Tenth time, No, dear, you're not.

Should have eaten something before I went in because after the initial flurry of activity there was a very long interval where they were trying to run the ER and get calls back from doctors about the best place to send me... and then, of course, to get the flight together with the ambulances... and they did NOT want to feed me in case I went into massive cardiac arrest and would need to go straight into some sort of procedure or other.

And a twelve-year-old girl in the room next to me screaming obscenities at the top of her lungs, nurses excusing it as her having a seizure... which, strictly speaking, could be deemed true, but really she was having shitty parenting and needed to be lined up with them and shot... but... merciful medical professionals burbled all through that ER that day.

So a bunch of hunky EMT life flight guys eventually showed up in my room and started fawning all over me, hooking me up to monitors and strapping me onto my mountaineer's-rescue-rig-looking thing, sliding me into their ambulance and out to the waiting gnat plane. Murmuring to me all the things to expect and not to worry about, because it was pretty turbulent out there, pre-storm and they didn't want me thinking we were going down. Landing safely after a rough ride, and being greeted by even more hunky EMTs in a waiting ambulance to get me from Arcata airport down to St. Jo's in Eureka.

They dumped me into some huge observation room in the ER there and it was full on night and a long line of nurses and doctors with questions and me whimpering about needing to eat, and them saying I can't eat anything until they're clear I don't have to go for emergency surgery.

And then I find out their cafeteria had been closed for hours and if I was going to have a midnight cutoff before eating I was going to be one seriously even more miserable old lady. I wasn't even miserable about my state of emergency because I felt fine, but the hunger thing was really getting pretty severe.

FINALLY, at around 11pm a nurse brought me some little snack boxes the cafeteria fixes up for people after they close. It was mostly horrible stuff, but I ate all but the muffin like I was close to death. I'm not even ever that hungry on days when I decide not to eat all day. It was awful.

They finally got me a room — in their "progressive care unit" — around midnight, with a roommate who was pretty nice but a total mess and extremely concerned about her pee and the measuring of it.

Next morning the heart surgeon came in with his whole crew and another portable imaging gizmo to gape at while asking me questions and plotting their course. They decided stent. The one blockage had already grown its own three bypass vessel blood supply, and it was only the other blockage that was of concern. So. Stent. They don't have to even knock you out for that. They put you in la la land so you don't freak out.

All was hunky dory until they were pulling out the line they'd used to get up to my heart from my groin. Hadn't felt a thing, and then I felt the pain of the whole cosmos and people are screaming at me not to tense up and not to hold my breath and it was only a few seconds, but holy mother of Jupiter and Saturn fucker, there were hundreds or thousands of generations of utterly murderous human and alien abjection packed into that few seconds. ALL sentient beings.

I did my boiling rivers of tears thing for the nurse who was assigned to wheel me back to my room. She was concerned as heck. I had to comfort her that I am an olympian of tears, that it's cosmic, and don't worry. I did it for a year running once. It only lasted about an hour this time, and there wasn't even any soreness, just that few seconds of beyond description pain. I returned immediately to being just fine.

But the white board full of my name and specs and nurses and orders and stuff had filled up with the injunction not to move around for four hours... and, of course, I was having restless leg syndrome pretty damn hard, but I mostly complied for the duration. There was a nurse who was not satisfied with that four hours of holding still-ish. She saw some blood on the dressing, after they'd already had me on major blood thinners for quite a while.

She's going all officious and telling me I could "bleed out" if I get out of bed. It's really only a very tiny hole and, yes, we do not want blood dripping or pouring out of it, but I'm in the fucking hospital and a little bleeding isn't going to KILL me. Basically, she did not like my insubordinate appeal to reason — and more didn't like when I had defended my new roommate's one pack a month "nicotine abuse" by pointing out that amounted to less than one cigarette a day, not even really a smoker — except if you are an NPC authoritarian bitch — and so I needed to pay.

She lied to the night nurse that I had to hold still not to bleed out and I was trying to get up too soon. I told him right in front of her that was untrue, that I'd held still the required amount of time, my legs wanted to move pretty badly and I'm not playing fast and loose with my emergency medical treatment. He took it to the doctor to settle. The doctor said I could walk if I felt like it. Ms. Officious Imperious Anti-Less-Than-a-Cigarette-a-Day Nazi RN slunk off to wherever people like that go, and I took a gentle little stroll around the ICU/PCU floor — receiving approving and supportive murmurs from staff as I passed — until my legs felt like they were my legs again, got back in bed and hooked myself back up to my monitor so the computer wouldn't think I was dead.

My bald geezer Bay Area native night nurse was the shit. He made me feel safe and strong and happy and went off and made me the ultimate cup of coffee to show off his high level nursing skills. He was so mellow and competent and humorous and did it all without losing an iota of professionalism. He'd make Nazi Nurse look like chopped liver if you'd been too dim to see she was chopped liver before you even met him.

I was well off into the Zen cosmos and all I really could NOT abide was even a micrometer of anything approximating unkindness, let alone baldfaced lies. I was both the protector of souls and the protected of body. I was fine.

My case manager got me a ride back home from some contractor for that sort of thing or other. His name was Dave and he'd kept in good touch with me and the doctors who were preparing my official hospital discharge papers. He drove like a fucking maniac while telling me about all his strokes and other cardiac incidents and very evidently using the tailgating of semis to insure a "safe" trip up the coast highway strategy. We had to stop in Orick to hand over a prescription to a young woman with purple hair and then zipped off to find another semi to tailgate. I settled on calling this my Hospital Discharge Stress Test.

I got home safely and scared the living snot out of the rats from the chaos next door who were in the process of taking over my house while I was gone. I think they were planning on using my bedding to shred up for a nest... or I finally noticed the holes in my sheets. Pick. That was some kind of fitting homecoming, I guess. I don't know what it fits either... just expressing my solidarity with karma, with strings of existential threat level calamities so long that they begin to make me laugh, black humor devotee as I have always been.

I stayed in my little cosmos for a few days. I finally got up the nerve to remove the blood-soaked dressings from the eventual removal of my IV line and the puncture wound on my groin from the stent placement line. Neither had hurt at all, not even sore, and I was covered all over torso and arms with dirty gunk from the sticky patches for the 'round-the-clock monitoring leads and I wanted a bath pretty goddam badly... EVEN though it had to be in my not-a-tub.

I lived through it all.

The absolute portrait of the weirdness of heart attacks — so consistently atypical as to only be even more atypical if they are typical — in women. Here I am. Typically atypical. And just fine. Which is to tell you, I'm probably never going to know if I'm really having another heart attack because I had a five-day-long one and didn't know it.

All the doctors and nurses agreed that it is genetic. My dad had the quadruple bypass business and my mother had heart failure, so, they say, with a family history like that, I was going to have some ticker problems sooner or later. Here I am.

I have to believe them because I felt almost immediately much better than before the heart attack.

And my darling online friend I've never seen in meatspace saved my life.

pipe up any time....