Friday, February 09, 2007

Getting Old

Well, I've had an interesting evening.

I guess it actually started this morning at work. I was just walking through the cube farm when I experienced this sharp pain in my chest. It was on the right side. It hurt when I inhaled. I thought "Wow! That's weird." Not knowing what it was, I went back to my desk and waited a few minutes and it went away.

I was fine the rest of the day.

Got home and was changing into my comfy-lounging clothes when it hit me again.

But this time it didn't go away.

For those of you who don't know (or just don't care), let me give you some background. I'm a white (duh) 51 year old guy (again, duh) who just quit smoking 6 months ago after about 3 decades of smoking. I have high blood pressure. I'm packing around about 25 lbs more than I would like. Most of my days are spent in meetings trying to squeeze even the slightest hint of something that even vaguely resembles a "requirement" out of people who have no fucking idea what they want.

When I'm not doing that, I sit behind a desk staring at a computer screen not answering the phone and not responding to e-mails.

I'm Dilbert, without the tie.

After work, I come home, look at some porn on the internets, choke the chicken, have some supper and a cocktail, watch some TV, maybe play Scrabble online with the girlfriend and go to bed.

So in a nutshell, I have some risk factors.

On top of that, I may lean a bit towards hypochondria.

I blame my occupation.

My job is to assimilate lots of data, and be able to see every logical and possible outcome and impact contained in that data.

You can give me any single fact, and I can immediately tell you the WORST POSSIBLE SCENARIO that can be extrapolated from that fact.

So I'm home. I'm having chest pains. I have risk factors.

Part of me says it's nothing; don't be stupid, it will pass.

Another part of me says you're an old, fat, lazy, ex-smoker with chest pains; don't be stupid, go to the hospital.

So I went to the ER to get it checked out.

They gave me an EKG, they took blood, they gave me a chest X-ray.

The EKG was kinda cool because they hooked all of those little electrodes up to me just like they used to do to astronauts to monitor their telemetry.

Felt kinda like Wally Schirra.

But I looked more like Story Musgrave.

They told me they were going to do the EKG and the blood, but no one told me about the chest X-ray.

One of the nurses dropped in to let me know that the EKG looked fine and they were waiting for the blood work to come back and it shouldn't be too much longer.

Then a tech showed up with a portable X-ray machine to take a picture of my chest.

I'm thinking "OH FUCK!!! The doctor saw something in the blood work (elevated T-Cell counts or something...I watch too much TV) that made her order a chest X-ray. I've got cancer! I knew it! I knew there was no point in quitting smoking! It was too late! Now I'll just die of the same stuff that would have killed me anyway, but I'll die fat and cranky!! FUCK!!!"

Throughout this whole thing, my blood pressure is through the fucking roof! It's like a space elevator. We're talking readings like 190 over 130. Every time the cuff inflates it sets off an alarm and I can hear the nurses say to other nurses "Come look at this!" They let me know that blood pressure that high can cause chest pains too. They kept urging me to calm down and relax. Don't get worried until we get worried.

Well, ya know what? I'm a 50+ guy with high blood pressure anyway who is spending a Friday night in the ER with chest pains. I'm not sure how to turn that into some kind of fucking "Zen moment" where I am at peace with the universe. I'm scared and expecting the worst.

The EKG comes back normal.

Blood tests all come back normal.

Nothing on the chest X-rays alarms the doctor. She tells me that the X-rays they order for a standard cardio ER evaluation aren't very good at detecting tumors or masses, or that sort of thing. But she says that if there is a problem, they can usually see SOMETHING and she isn't seeing anything. She'll have a radiologist take a look at it and give my primary doctor the results, but the only thing she is concerned about right now is my blood pressure.

She really doesn't want to send me home with my blood pressure that high and I really don't want to start my weekend with an overnight stay at the hospital.

I ask her if there is anything we can do to lower my blood pressure. She says she can give me medication that will lower it, but that she would want me to stay in the hospital if she did that.

So I say "Let me ask you this. How does alcohol affect blood pressure? Because after the night I've had, I'm feeling like having a drink." She smiled, patted my leg and said "It lowers it. But you didn't hear that from me!"

So now I am home, "lowering my blood pressure" (wink wink), and getting ready for bed.

I am supposed to schedule a "Stress Echo" and have the results sent to my primary MD.

It's now 10:22pm and my wrist-cuff tells me my bp is 108 over 45.

I think I'm ready for bed.

Geez. What a day.


travelingal said...

Good grief, XO.

Having gone through what you did before, the blood test reveals if you've had a heart attack. Obviously, you haven't and that's good news.

Don't delay getting to see a cardiologist though. I have a good one if you want a recommendation.

Now of course we want regular updates.

Janet said...

I think I'd want a drink too. Holy crap!

Glad we don't have to visit you in the hospital!

Spyder said...

Something similar happened to my husband but with his left arm & shoulder. Ended up that he had pulled a muscle. Best trip to ER ever! He wasn't happy about the extra $$ that it was going to cost us for having him checked out. But I wasn't going to take a chance. So good for your for being smart enough to get your ass to the ER. Now follow up & find out what the hell is going on in your bod.