So guess what. I have atrial fibrillation. Who knew? Not me. But, Tuesday was an interesting day. Started out very normal with a swim in the morning, then home for a shower and quick cruise through the house picking up and putting away. Then I started baking–cookies and fudge to send to my clients and croissants for my chapter RWA meeting on Saturday. Nothing unusual, except that as I bustled about the kitchen setting rolls to rise, mixing up cookie dough, stirring fudge, I kept having heart palpitations.
Now, I’ve had heart palpitations for several years and have always believed they were part of that syndrome whose name must not be spoken (menopause). That’s what I was told by my gyno and by a heart doctor back in 2006, except he added that not only was I menopausal, but also fat and that if I’d exercise once in a while, maybe I wouldn’t have them. Yes, he said this to a woman who works hard to get three days of swimming in a week and is on her treadmill when she’s not in the pool. When I told him this, his gracious response was, “Well apparently, that’s not enough.” Needless to say, I didn’t go back to him. Instead, I learned how to control the palpitations–bear down or cough and they’ll stop.
But this time, I couldn’t stop them. I tried. For three hours I tried. I bore down, I sat, I coughed, I tried some yoga, but they kept coming and with them, dizziness and shortness of breath and an odd burning sensation under my left shoulder blade. I kept baking, thinking I would talk to Husband about it when he got home. I really wanted to get this stuff done since I had a big editing gig coming along later in the week.
Enter my dear friend, Charlie, who stopped by to bring me a gift–a lovely turquoise vase he’d found for the lake cottage. When he came in, he asked, “Are you okay?” Normally, I would’ve said, “Sure, I’m fine,” but I’d been fighting the palpitations and accompanying symptoms for over three hours and I was getting scared. So I told him how I felt. After a few minutes of questions, he finally said. “Turn off the oven, we’re going to the Immediate Care.” I balked for a second, but by then, I’d started shaking, so I shut down the kitchen, grabbed my coat, and Charlie drove me to the Immediate Care.
The took me back as soon as I told them my symptoms, hooked me up to an EKG machine, and promptly called an ambulance. Charlie, God bless him, caught the terrified look in my eyes and held my hand, stayed with me as they loaded me into the ambulance, and called Husband to apprise him of him situation. Then, in a move way above and beyond the call of friend duty, this lovely guy followed the ambulance some thirteen miles south to the hospital (through what was now rush hour traffic), and waited for Husband to arrive.
In the ER, they used drugs to get my heart rate (which was in the neighborhood of 160 to 190 beats per minute) down to what they referred as a regular sinus rhythm (below 100 bpm). In the following twenty-four hours, I think I probably had fifty little sticky lead things pressed on and yanked off my heart area, gave them at least a pint of blood, and was poked, prodded, listened to, x-rayed and ultrasounded. All very graciously and kindly.
In the end, the cardiologist diagnosed atrial fib. When I told him the previous cardio doc had told me I was just fat and menopausal, he gave me a bewildered smile and said, “He said that? Really?”
“Yup,” I replied and Husband verified it with a nod.
“Well, this has nothing to do with your weight. You are healthy, your blood work is great, the echo shows a normal heart, you just have a little glitch in your electrical system. It acted up…so now, we’ll figure out how to make it stop misbehaving.” He prescribed a low dose pill form of the med that had been dripping into me via IV in the hospital and outfitted me with an event monitor that I’ll wear for thirty days. I push the button on the monitor whenever I feel my heart acting funny, but so far I haven’t had to push it. I hope that means the pills are doing their job.
In retrospect, learning that my electrical system is squirrelly wasn’t really the revelation in all this, although it was kind of a surprise. The real take-away was discovering what a good friend I have in Charlie. I knew we’d become closer friends in the past year or so. We’re both freelancers and regularly call one another with grammar 911s and style questions. He’s a peach, I always enjoy chatting with him and he’s often my sounding board for editing and writing issues.
He knows me well enough to know that something wasn’t right when he knocked on my door, and he took charge and got me help. He didn’t have to take me to Immediate Care or hold my hand while I waited for the ambulance or take care of contacting Husband or follow me down to the ER so I’d have someone with me until Husband arrived. But he did. He modestly dismisses this, but I believe he probably saved my life or least kept me from suffering a more severe issue than I did.
Just saying thanks feels a little inadequate…but, until I get the chance to say a proper “Merci!” to my dear friend, saying it here is going to have to do. So, thanks, Charlie. Thanks for being there, thanks for caring enough to take me to get help, thanks for being a friend. You’re the best!