Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sinus Tachycardia

First a note to my squeamish friend LL Cool Joe and anyone else who has a phobia of things medical: do not read this post!  I'm fine, see you next time, bye bye now!

For those of you who are still with me, you get to hear the exciting story of how I spent yesterday in the emergency room.  Even as I was gasping for breath, wondering if I might actually be dying of a heart attack, I managed to whisper to Ken "This is going to make one helluva blog post."

As you know I've been sick since Monday.  As the days rolled by, I was itching to get back to my regular routine.  I started re-introducing elements of normalcy, at what I figured was a reasonable pace.

On Thursday evening, I ate my first regular-sized meal since I got sick.  That didn't sit so well.  As soon as the plate was empty, I broke out in a cold sweat.  I didn't feel like throwing up, but my body went into fight-or-flight mode and stayed that way for three long hours.  I was flooded with adrenaline and my heart was pumping a mile a minute.

Finally I settled a bit and got a decent night's sleep.  The next morning I decided that if I couldn't eat normally at least I could do a light stretching and exercise routine.  I have done this routine almost every morning for the past 15 years, even when I'm sick.  I always seem to feel better with moderate exercise (I'm talking about lifting 3 lb. hand weights here, nothing crazy).  It has never let me down before.

I was  partway through my workout when my heart started racing again.  I immediately put down my weights and sat on the floor.  I tried to stay calm and breathe through it.  Ken chided me for overdoing things.  He had to go out to run some errands, so he settled me on the couch and left.  I waited to feel better.  But it was soon clear that I was only feeling worse.

I called a nurse-friend of mine.  She asked me some questions and determined that I should get medical attention.  She offered to come over to my place (she doesn't work far from my home) herself, or she said that I could just hang up and call 911.  Of course at that I panicked.  I asked her to please come over.  She wanted my street address, which I gave her, but I was too distraught to remember my own postal code.

My friend called Ken on his cell to meet her at our place.  She counted my pulse at 120 beats per minute.  I was grey in the face and was having trouble walking.  She recommended that we go to an emergency room right away.

In the walk-in triage waiting room, I struggled to catch my breath.  The worst of it came in waves, during which I'd put my head down and just try to endure.  I was so faint that I had to keep my feet up, but there was no place for me to lie down in the walk-in area.  Ken asked the staff, but there were no stretchers available.  I had to curl up in a chair, and then ask Ken to stand in front of me to stop my feet from sliding off the seat, because it was too much exertion for me to hold the position on my own.  At one point I was pretty much ready to lie down on the floor, but I managed to keep it together until a reassuring murse talked to me and got me registered.  How long was it?  I'm not sure.  It felt like eternity but it was probably less than an hour.  Lesson learned: if you really think you might be having a heart attack, don't go to the walk-in e.r. - call 911 and go in an ambulance, or you could die in the triage waiting room.

Finally they strapped a bracelet on my wrist and got me into a room with a stretcher.  Lying down was heavenly.  Someone had painted one of the acoustic tiles on the ceiling with big, colourful flowers.  That was a nice touch.  I still felt like crap, but at least this was progress.

As soon as I was in my gown, a nurse came in and hooked me up to so many  wires and tubes that I felt like a computer.  I only wished that I had a USB port for them to use instead of needles for blood samples.  Initially they took four tubes of blood, then they came back for a fifth (from the other arm this time).  I also had to wear an IV needle, which they never used, but which was sore and gross and I hated it the whole time.  My arms were quite stuck full of holes by the time all was said and done.

My favourite tube was the nasal canula.  Maybe it was partly a placebo effect, but I did feel better knowing that I was getting my own personal oxygen supply.

In fact, I have always thought that being in the hospital, especially being stuck in the emergency room for hours and hours, would be totally unpleasant and I'd be dying to go home, but I wanted to stay.  I felt safe, hooked up to my monitoring machine and surrounded by nice nurses.  Ken barely budged from my bedside the whole time. I was feeling ill and frightened enough that I would rather be where help was close at hand.

As it turns out, however, after seven hours of monitoring and tests, there was no help for me.  They had ruled out every life threatening cause of rapid heart rate; my blood pressure was fine; my heart rhythm was normal in every respect except for the b.p.m., which was spiking up to 130.  They couldn't figure out what might be causing the problem.  They even did a pregnancy test on me (My first ever!  Historical day!) which came back negative, of course, or this post would have a different title.  They were afraid to give me a sedative to calm me down, as all the "sedatives" I've ever tried have resulted in exactly the symptoms I was currently experiencing: rapid heart rate.  Chances are, drugs would just make things worse.

The doctor said she felt badly for not being able to offer me more.  She wrote me a referral to get a Holter monitor test done next week.  She said that if the symptoms became unbearable over the weekend I should come back and she would admit me to the cardiac ward where they would start the Holter test right away.  Then the nurse came to take the nasty IV needle out of my arm and Ken brought me home.

This morning the symptoms started as soon as I stood up.  I toughed it out until 9:00 am, and then called my mother.  I expected her to freak out.  Instead she said: "Oh, that's something that runs in our family."

Oh really.  Nice of you to let me know now.  Is there anything else I should know about my family history before we go on?  Are we prone to fake appendicitis? Might I grow an extra nose one day, from the middle of my forehead, but it's nothing to worry about?  It'll dry up and drop off spontaneously after around three weeks?  Seriously, people need to be warned about these things.

Apparently my mother and her father are both prone to bouts of sinus tachycardia, triggered by physical or emotional stress.  My mother said that when it happens to her it usually resolves gradually within 2 or 3 days.  Of course, as soon as I heard that my anxiety decreased, and within five minutes I was feeling measurably better.  I'm still feeling kind of weak and weird, but it's a world of difference from 24 hours ago.

Now I'm going to go out to buy some easily digestible iron juice to help me recover from those five unnecessary tubes of blood.  *sigh*  That's a month's worth of iron supplementation undone in a day, and this anemic sickie can't tolerate high-powered Palafer at the moment.  I can't even stomach meat.  So I'm going to wobble off to the health food store to find myself some Floradix.  Wish me luck.


wigsf3 said...

Any hot (and single) nurses?

wigsf3 said...

I'll settle for just single.

Sparkling Red said...

Ken and I agreed that both the doctors and the nurses in the Sunnybrook E.R. Green Zone were more attractive, on average, than the cast of Grey's Anatomy. However, I cannot comment on where any of them stand with respect to committed relationships.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Well glad you survived the ordeal and I was thinking about your iron when you mentioned them taking all that blood. I was like "Oh Crap they are gonna take all she has to spare!!"

Feel free to send any hottie female nurses my way.

Sparkling Red said...

The good news is that I found a great cure for feeling dizzy and faint after having my blood taken: stay lying down for seven full hours after the drainage, and I'll be right as rain by the time I get up. Do you think the blood lab at my family doctor's office could accommodate me on that preference?

Jameil said...

Good gracious! At least you know what it is!

DarcKnyt said...

Well, at least it's an answer for you if not a great one. Hope you feel better just as your mom predicts.

DarcsFalcon said...

Wow! How scary! Only to find out, not so scary. At this point, I don't know if I'd be laughing or strangling my mother. A clue would have been nice though!

I'm glad you have some kind of an answer for something that's going on for you healthwise, and I hope you continue to recover from your flu thing.

Praying for you!

Sparkling Red said...

Thanks all. It is certainly reassuring to be better informed. Sadly, it's now Sunday morning, and now that the adrenaline rush has worn off, I feel as flu-y as ever. I guess it hasn't been a full week yet, but if I don't start feeling better in a few days, I'm going to be extremely frustrated.

Juniper said...

Sounds like a scary experience, but I'm glad you found the explanation (even if it came a bit late!).

I know exactly what you mean about feeling safe when plugged into stuff in the hospital, and the nice nasal cannula and the bloody painful injections and IV cannulas!

I hope you're feeling better soon, flu-ey isn't good :-/


Jenski said...

Any chance you can have a medical pow-wow with your Mom? I'm surprised you never knew she got the same thing if it lasts two or three days for her! If I had a nurse friend immediately suggest going to the ER, I think I would have totally freaked out. Glad you got all those tests to rule out scary stuff and found out in the end you can blame it on your mom. ;-)

Sparkling Red said...

Yeah, I'd better get better soon, or they'll have to bring me back into the hospital to admit me to the psych ward. This whole crazy ordeal is driving me buggy!

My mom says that there's nothing else in our medical history that I should be aware of. We'll see. Anyway, I've been blaming all my problems on her all my life, so what's one more? ;-)

kenju said...

I'm glad to know that you are feeling a bit better, and that you know it runs in the family - although I don't know how that is supposed to make you feel better about it. I have had rapid heartbeat on rare occasions and it is scary!

Claire said...

Oh bless you sweetie!

Sending good thoughts your way!


Scarlet Ily said...

What a scary thing to have happen to you! I've had my heart race before for no apparent reason, and I do know that it's brought on my high stress and too much coffee.

I sure hope you're feeling better now! Take care.

Hugs, Ily

Lynn said...

That was scary - I hope you are better now!