As I was congratulating myself on my infected leg’s progressing recovery and as I went to bed, I began to suffer from an upset stomach. After some dramatic moaning on my part, my wife called our HMO’s Advice Nurse, who after some diagnostic questions urged me to call 911 (she was obviously concerned I might be having a heart attack). So I called the 911 dispatcher, who advised me to CHEW four of my baby aspirin (I normal swallow one each morning as a prophylactic measure — chewing is vital so they get into the blood stream quickly). A couple of volunteer EMTs arrived and assessed me, a process I observed with interest mixed with my continuing discomfort. As the pain was not shooting up my arms and I was not showing other immediate indications of cardiac arrest, they did not start pumping my chest or applying paddles.
After a bit, a better equipped AID unit arrived with professional EMTs.
They also assessed me, with more sophisticated equipment involving EKGs and other diagnostic actions. They also evaluated that I was probably not having a cardiac event, but decided to transport me to the island’s hospital. My wife and I scrambled to bring necessary items. Interesting to me was that no matter how well one thinks one is prepared, one is never perfectly ready for emergency events. I simultaneously left things I might have brought and brought things that proved unnecessary.
I was gurneyed from our house to the ambulance, a little tricky with steps and doorways, but managed successfully.
One EMT drove, the other sat in back with me and monitored my EKGs, blood pressure, pulse, and so on as we traveled. At first I was in a stupor, but after a while I recovered enough to question the personable young man. He grew up in Oak Harbor (the city/Naval base at the north end of Whidbey Island); decided to become an EMT right out of high school; and alternates this work with working on Alaskan fishing boats (an occupation I consider right up in danger with climbing Mt. Everest, but he evidently regards as good clean profitable fun); and has a small child.
Eventually we reached the hospital emergency room. (My wife followed a little later and reached the hospital about 20 or 30 minutes after I arrived). Various nurses attended to me and continued the cardiac monitoring. As a “rural” hospital, the accommodations are a bit “bare bone” and the nurses very preoccupied, but I have no complaints about my care or treatment. However, one of the items I should have brought was reading matter as I had long periods unattended and bored.
As usual in hospitals, one gets little not very welcome awareness of other people’s suffering. I heard a lot of loud choking and coughing in a nearby room – I wondered if I should notify the nurses, but later heard one comment to another that someone had thrown up extensively. Nursing is fun work, but most of the nurses I have encountered over the last months (perhaps close to two dozen) seem to enjoy their work.
Eventually a personable young doctor arrived to examine me. (He was interrupted twice to attend to more urgent medical situations.) After asking questions, examining the diagnostic results, and listening to my heart with a stethoscope, he cautiously told me that I didn’t seem to be having a heart attack, but it is not always possible to know for certain. (I learned perhaps more than I wanted to know about the ambiguities of such events.)
He asked me when I had had a stress test [it had been within the last year, I think]. He told me that my heart has a slight murmur. (This was new news to me, despite many people listening to my heart, especially over the last month.) He said, unless I objected, he was going to release me to go home, but he advised me to get a stress test and exam from a cardiologist as soon as possible.
It was now about 3 am in the morning. My wife drove me home very carefully. As we got on the county road that extends the last five miles, we saw two different deer hoping to foil my safe return with suicide assaults, but my wife (despite lack of sleep) alertly avoided them and got me home safely, where I stumbled into bed and quickly fell asleep.
After about two hours of sleep, my wife sturdily got up to let the chickens out and get them their food. She then sat to rest on the couch, and fell asleep. I tiptoed around and went back to bed and listened to the radio on earphones, so she could catch up on desperately needed sleep. After all, she needs to keep her strength up until its my turn to care for her. (This is what life is like when people get old. Perhaps a good reason to avoid reading my blog.)
Monday we have to talk to my personal doctor about whether I should get a stress test (and whether my leg is yet well enough for such exertion). Also, my wife frets about whether our HMO covers the cost of our treatment at a remote location. It’s supposed to if I am admitted, but as I was merely treated as an “outpatient” perhaps there is some loophole and we will go broke.
Another tip. I have quite a bit of body hair. My wife has always said she finds this trait attractive, and regards the modern trend to remove most body hair as repulsive, and turning people into “newts.” However, when you are undergoing a lot of medical treatment, with many applications of electrodes and bandages and “PIC” lines and the lot, and removal of such, body hair causes quite a bit of discomfort as these medical paraphernalia are added and especially removed. (Though, I confess that cold, such as the application of cold hands to my body, causes me much more discomfort than the occasional bits of hair being ripped out.)