Although it never was as bad as doctors feared, it sure makes me thankful for my time with Jean and the boys and to be able to see my parents and sister. There were times when I wondered how much more of that time I'd get.
I had noticed a bit of chest discomfort during the day Tuesday. I wondered about it, but didn't think too much of it. I ran three miles Wednesday morning with no problem, but then I noticed it a little more later in the day and it began to concern me more. But it wasn't enough where I even mentioned it to Jean because I didn't want to needlessly worry her.
On Wednesday night, however, I start to feel it while trying to sleep. The combination of this and anxiety because I don't know what's going on keep me from going back to sleep after 3 a.m. I call our family medical practice as soon as it opens at 7 a.m., explain what I am dealing with and ask to see a doctor that morning.
They give me an 11 a.m. appointment, and I go off to work a little before 8 a.m. Noticed the discomfort a little, but not too bad. But I still am worried about what is going on. I leave work for the appointment and figure I'll be back in an hour or so.
I figure that they'll tell me that I am worried over nothing, I'll feel silly and they'll send me back to work. I figured wrong.
They take an EKG (above isn't that EKG, but one they took later) and don't like what they see. One area where it's supposed to be a straight line, there is a dip. I'm later told that this is something doctors are told to look out for. If they see it, it is a sign of potential issues.
Not only am I not be going back to work, I'm headed to an emergency room. They are so paranoid about what they see, that they don't want me to drive there.
That is my first moment of huge anxiety.
Then comes the difficult call to Jean. Difficult in that the news is hard to deliver and that it is hard to keep it together while delivering the news.
There is little reason for humor at this point, but it's funny when they ask whether I wanted to go to Duke Hospital or UNC Hospitals. I was wishing that I had such a choice a week earlier when Alex's high school graduation ceremony was held at Hansbrough (some call it Cameron) Indoor Stadium. The Smith Center would have been a much better choice!
I'm sure either choice would have been fine, but the all the people at UNC Hospitals were nice, helpful and professional.
I call the office and tell them it might be a while before I got back to work. For the first time in my life, I am taken to a hospital in an ambulance, and with all kinds of stuff hooked up to me, including oxygen. The only positive at this point is that they don't think it's urgent enough to use a siren and rush me to UNC Hospitals. It is a nice leisurely drive.
Jean and my sister, Juli (who works at the hospital), arrive soon after I get to the emergency room. The scene is interesting. At one point somebody kidded, "get your popcorn, the show's about to start." I soon find out what they are taking about. A man is brought in who is loudly cursing at everybody. He was accompanied by officers and had to be subdued.
Still curious about what the deal was with that guy, but I soon have bigger concerns.
They take another EKG and, although it was a bit better, the cardiologists still are concerned. They tell me that they are going do a cardiac catheterization, and that they think it's possible that they'll have to put a stent in. They really don't know what they will find.
Then comes the alarming words they are required to tell me: That any time they do that sort of thing, that there is a risk. And that in rare cases, it could result in death. They ask me questions about blood transfusions and whether I would want them to do anything they could to resuscitate me.
That was pretty scary. One of my thoughts at that point: I never got to see Alex before I went to work. I hadn't seen my parents for a few days. Would I be able to do that again? I'd never had those sorts of thoughts before (except when worried about Alex driving home late at night like any parent of a teenager.) I even think to myself that at least I got to see Alex graduate from high school.
Yeah, I was that worried.
Given the risks I've been told about, giving Jean a kiss as I went into the room felt way too quick. I'm thinking that if that's the last time for that, it happened way too fast!
An army of medical personnel gather around me and the strangeness starts. From them shaving where I never would shave, much less have anybody else doing it, to realizing where they'd be going in. Look it up if you're curious. They said that it was much easier to go through that procedure with me than many patients who are overweight.
The good news came about 30 minutes later. There was no blockage, there would be no stent. The relief at that point makes the relief felt after a narrow Carolina win in the NCAA tournament seem like nothing.
I'm happy to greet Jean and Juli, and soon my parents, afterward.
Then there was the fun night in the hospital room with several leads stuck to me and people poking and prodding me on a regular basis (including at 5 in the morning). Even though my worries turned out to be unfounded, it is so nice when Alex and Scott come to my room later in the afternoon!
Other than discussions with the doctors on Friday, the main activity before I escaped from the joint was an ultrasound. (And I didn't even think I was showing!)
The doctors say they tell most patients in my situation to be more active, but with 26 marathons and many runs behind me, they say that this isn't a concern for me. They have me taking "baby aspirin" and Pravastatin daily and believe that this keep my healthy.
They've told me that the EKG is so alarming that I should keep in my wallet the EKG readout they gave me so that doctors in the future don't freak out.
I'm just thankful that this didn't happen one week earlier. Alex's high school graduation was that afternoon. I wouldn't have wanted to miss that, and probably would have put off going to the doctor another day.
I never was inclined to do any sort of waxing and having to take off seven electrodes makes me certain I never want to do that! They left them on when I left the hospital because they said it would be easier to take off when I take a shower. Yeah, but it still didn't feel too good!
The only lingering irritation is the soreness from the catheterization and being told to try not to bend that leg too much or lift more than 10 pounds for a few days. And the worst of it: Being told not to run for 5-10 days.
At least I know I've got plenty of miles left to run. For a time on Thursday, I was starting to wonder!