11/30/10

Double time, with feeling.

A couple of weeks ago, I got out of bed and went downstairs to shower and get ready for work. While I was standing there in the bathroom, I suddenly felt light-headed and a little sweaty and sick to my stomach. I also realized my heart was beating like a mad mofo and my pulse rate was upwards of 120 or so. I sat down and it passed, but I still didn't feel great. I decided to work from home, except there was one catch -- I had left my work laptop at work, so if I wanted to work from home, I'd have to go get it.

By the time I got out of the shower, I felt pretty good. I got in the car, drove to work, told my boss I was going to head home and work from there just in case it happened again and I needed to go to the ER or something. l packed up my computer and headed home. About half-way there, it happened again, only this time I couldn't put my head between my legs because I was driving in fairly heavy traffic and doing about 75 mph, and that would have been slightly difficult. I figured I probably should get off the road before I passed out and wrecked someone's day.

I was conveniently close to a rest stop, so I called my wife and told her where I was, and also casually added that she might want to call 911, as crazy as that sounds. I knew that most of the time, the "rub my left arm, then grab my chest" heart attacks didn't usually happen without warning signs, unless you're on TV. I knew enough to know that a heart attack can take many forms, and that the most common symptoms are just indigestion and some chest pressure, which seems like a pretty ridiculous reason to go to the hospital.

By the time the EMT's got there with the ambulance, I was fine again, and standing next to my car waiting for them. They pulled up and the guy says, "Um....are we here for you?" I confirmed that they were, and I jumped in the truck. The EMT had to go at least 350 pounds, and he was probably 5' 6" at most. I have no idea how he worked inside that little truck all day. He had me take off my shirt and lie down, then he hooked me up to the EKG. My pulse was a little higher than normal, but not 120 like it was before. I had him go back to my car to get my computer, and he noticed all the hiking gear in the back. When he came back, he mentioned it and then told me he has to get more exercise. He asked me if I ate breakfast, and when I tell him I did, he asked me what I had. When I said fruit, oatmeal and egg whites he just shook his head and looked at me like I was some kind of weird new species of mammal he'd never seen before. I think he may have muttered "fuck you" under his breath.

I then enjoyed a very long and bumpy ride to the hospital. I was really surprised that the ambulance didn't have a smoother ride. I can't imagine trying to keep severely injured people stabilized in this thing. It was like riding in the back bed of a double axle Ford F-150.

We got to the hospital and I wanted to walk in, but they wouldn't let me, so I got wheeled in on the stretcher. They chucked me in a room, and after a nurse took my blood pressure and hooked me up to yet another EKG, I sat and waited for the doctor.

While I was waiting, I could hear just about everything going on in the ER. Some guy outside my curtain was getting checked in and I overheard the following conversation:

"Name?"
"Steve Andrews."
"Phone number?"
"518-573-2987"
"And your social?"
"I have a few friends, yeah."

I thought the nurse was going to piss herself trying to keep a straight face. I didn't bother. I just laughed out loud.

After some attendant sucked about six vials of blood out of my arm, the doctor came in and asked me a bunch of questions, and then told me the wonderful news that they were going to admit me for an overnight stay, just to keep an eye on me and do some additional blood tests every six hours to make sure I didn't have a heart attack.

Thus began the period of waiting for a bed. My wife and I sat there from about 11 a.m. to five p.m. while absolutely nothing happened. The blood pressure cuff would inflate, threaten to pop my arm off at the elbow, then deflate. I amused myself by noting that no two blood pressure measurements were ever the same. Quality equipment. Or quality blood pressure, perhaps. But I'm fairly certain it wasn't me.

They came in and asked me if I had eaten, and I said no, so they told me they'd bring me a turkey sandwich. I was expecting this:


What I got, while technically a "turkey sandwich," consisted of exactly one slice of cheap deli turkey between two slices of stale bread. That's it. I ate it because I was really hungry and figured I might as well, since it probably cost me $75.

They finally found a room for me, and the first thing I saw when they wheeled me in was some old dude's newly bandaged stump. He had just had his leg amputated at the knee, and holy shit he was a talker. Didn't matter if there happened to be a listener or not. He would just talk. He'd talk at the TV. He'd hum, whistle, sing with the headphones on, sing with the headphones off, talk to me even though I was clearly listening intently to my ipod and typing madly on my computer. I'm pretty sure he was as crazy as a shithouse rat. He was also half-deaf, so when his wife came to play bridge with him, between the two of them and their television, I was ready to just check myself out and drive home.

The doctor eventually visited me, and asked me a bunch of other questions, then they wheeled me out for a CAT scan with contrast. The guy doing it was named Manuel and he had a self-inflicted gang tattoo between his thumb and finger. He said he was going to flush out the IV and when he did it, he also injected me with about a quarter-inch of air. All I could think of was how in the movies they kill someone by injecting air into their veins. I said, "Uh, hey, there was a lot of air in that." He smiled a little stone cold smile and said, "It would take at least two of these syringes full of air to kill you." I didn't ask him how he knew that, but I swear he almost added a "Pendejo" to the end. He then injected something radioactive into me that I think was probably some sort of ionic iodine. He told me it was for contrast, but felt like it was expressly designed to warm my o-ring.

So I didn't die from the air bubble, and the test showed that I didn't have any sort of aneurysm, so that was good. The first blood tests came back too, and they were fine. So far it was looking like something electrical. They wheeled me back to my room and in the time it took for me to get out of the chair and into my bed I learned from the old dude that he had diabetes, had been here for nine weeks, and he was hoping to go home for Thanksgiving, but it wasn't looking good. No wonder he was stir crazy.

I quickly jammed my earbuds back in and waited for dinner. I was in the cardiac ward, which is technically monitored by intensive care. They have a special "heart patient" diet, which they signed me up for. It appeared to be a deep fried hot pocket stuffed with broccoli and cheese, with a side of coffee, and more broccoli, so I'm pretty sure "heart patient diet" is code for "let's see how many beds we can free up by morning." It was horrible at any rate, and my wife went to the cafeteria and got me two sliced of equally horrible pizza. While I was eating, I could hear the guy next to me eating. He sounded like a pig rooting in a trough, and he was making all these sounds like, "Mmmmmm.... ohhhhhh..... unnnnnnnnh... slurpppp...and grunting in between. I looked at my wife and she whispered, "Is he eating it or screwing it?" I didn't have the nerve to look.

The funny thing about hospitals is that they have to do all this different stuff to you all night. They have to check your blood pressure, take your temperature, take blood samples, give you medication, and probe you anally.* Instead of coming in once and doing it all, they time it so each person comes in to do a different thing every hour or so. Their goal, as far as I can tell, is to evenly distribute these activities so they coincide with the exact second you actually fall asleep. Add the buzz saw snoring coming from the one-legged annoyance machine in next bed and I got zero sleep.

The next morning, the doctor told me I could go free, but I had to wait until they finished processing me. He got the details on my cardiologist appointment, and said he'd send over the paperwork. As he was leaving, stumpy Joe told him to call a nurse because he "felt like he had to go." This did not mean that the nurses got him out of bed and brought him to our shared bathroom. This meant they brought the bathroom to him. They had something that looked like a walker with a toilet seat on it, and under the seat was a plastic pan. Luckily, I was in a position to get up and leave, so I stood in the hallway until the deed was done.

I told the nurse it was to give him some privacy but it was really because I just ate breakfast and I didn't want to see it again. After they aired the room out, I went back to waiting to be discharged. I decided I wanted to brush my teeth after I ate breakfast, so I walked into the bathroom, only to be hit in the face with the stench of a thousand cesspools. Apparently, the nurse didn't empty the bucket -- she just left it sitting there in the bathroom to marinate. I hate hospitals.

I actually walked down the hallway and used the public bathroom, and then thankfully got the hell out of there. A day or so later, I went to the cardiologist, and he also asked me a bunch of questions. After I answered them, he said, and I quote, "I want you to stop drinking coffee and alcohol." I said, "Why not just kick me in the nuts, too?" No, I didn't. What I actually said was, "I hate you so much right now," and he didn't even crack a smile. He was as serious as a...well...yeah.

So on the 7th I have a stress test, but he thinks it's going to come up clean since I told him I did 14 miles with a 60 lb pack on my back a few weeks ago and didn't have an issue. He says he's just doing it to be thorough. In the meantime, I'm wired up with a monitor that beeps and records my heart rate if I so much as walk up the stairs fast. I have two extraneous nipples that I apply every morning and then attach wires to. I call them my bionic nubbins.

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In other news, we saw John Waite in a small 300-seat theater a couple of weeks ago, playing an acoustic show. Just him, a fantastic acoustic guitar player and a bass player. He did rearranged versions of Babys songs from back in the day, as well as some Bad English and a bunch of new and old solo stuff. Even covered a few Dylan tunes. He sounded great. Apparently he has a new record coming out in February. The only depressing thing? Babys fans are fucking old. I felt like I was at an AARP meeting. I tried to take a picture to show you just how old they were, but the flash kept reflecting off glasses and shiny bald heads, so it didn't come out.

Afterward, he stuck around to sign some autographs and do a little meet and greet. Nice guy. Here's Mrs. JV with John:


Lastly, I'm waiting on some final comments/edits from a buddy of mine, and then the book is D.O.N.E. Or at least as far as I'm concerned. If there are still typos and grammatical problems, I'll have to live with them. The Kindle version is also looking good. The last step is to determine pricing, and I'm sort of stuck on it. I'm thinking $12.95 for the print version and $6.95 for the Kindle version. Any thoughts? Too much? Too little?

* What? They aren't supposed to do that? Don't tell me that now.

40 comments:

  1. Uhm, great post, hope you're well, blah blahblah -

    BABYS FANS ARE NOT OLD!!! ;-)

    Look at your wife? She's super hot! I am a massive, unapologetic Babys (and Bad English and John Waite) fan and I refuse to think of myself as old (it's doesn't mean I'm not old, I simply refuse to think of myself that way). Really? Is 47 old now?

    And, congrats on finishing the book - awesome achievement.

    PMT
    http://thisthattheotherone.blogspot.com

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  2. PM, No! I'm talking mid-60's at least.

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  3. Anonymous10:01 PM

    I have a Kindle and I would be happy to pay 9.99 for your book. Unless it sucks, but then it will be too late, you will already have the 9.99. Just kidding, i am really looking forward to reading the book, your blog has entertained me for free much too long.

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  4. And stay away from caffeinated sodas also..and hydrate

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  5. Dude! Hope everything checks out okay with the stress test and VERY glad you seem to be doing better in the meantime. Heart shit is scary. I had an episode of atrial fibrillation that landed me in the cardiac ward several years ago (while I was pregnant! do I win?) and while it resolved itself after lots of meds (I'm still waiting to find out my girl child glows in the dark from whatever cocktail they gave me in my i.v.) I do get VERY brief episodes of it every now and then, which scare the hell out of me. Ugh.

    So. Yeah. Get better!

    And I will gladly pay whatever for the print copy of your book. Can't wait to read it!

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  6. was on a Holter monitor for similarly random heart misfires for a couple days. i was told to push the button and write down what was going on when my heart started goin wonky. turns out? my heart was fine. for nearly every incident, i'd written "KDCM", which was a callsign for my boss at the time, a "Knuckle Dragging Cave Man". i got better when i changed jobs...

    good luck. avoid the soda and that redbull stuff. oh, and green tea.

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  7. You're gonna HATE the stress test. Miles with backpacks are no comparison to that punishment!

    But it does sound like you're in pretty good shape, so it'll be all right, I'm sure.

    I had a bad experience in a hospital, too. Seems to be the norm these days.

    John Waite is awesome! I'd love to see him with less than 1500 people around.

    Peace <3
    Jay

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  8. They did a CAT scan but no angiogram?

    I'm a little bit older than you but I ended up in the ER this past summer with a "cramp" in my left shoulder. I'd had similar nausea episodes on and off for the previous half year or so. ECG at the ER was normal but blood tests showed elevated levels of triponin - positive indication of heart attack. I was admitted and got the "cardiac" diet which was pretty much clear fluids only (you know, leftover dirty dish water that they call "soup"). Angiogram the next day indicated a 90% blockage so I got the angioplasty and a stent installed. Docs say that a blood clot hitting the narrow part of the artery will trigger symptoms like light-headedness and nausea. Even without blockages an inflammatory event can prompt a heart attack. Encountered a couple of guys at cardiac rehab who had had "heart events" even though their angiograms showed clear.

    Make sure you follow up and take care.

    Oh, and my cardiologist told me that an alcoholic drink or two a day would help bring up my HDL cholesterol levels. Unofficially, of course.

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  9. Very entertaining blog...I happened upon it quite by accident. As for your hospital stay...glad I live in Canada!!

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  10. Teacup8:25 AM

    I'm so glad everything turned out OK. You were so smart to have had yourself checked. We need to have you around.

    Your wife is very pretty. (I think she wants you around, too.)

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  11. Anonymous8:41 AM

    JV, sorry to hear about your "episode", but glad you are doing better. Take care of yourself.

    Can't wait to get the book. Be sure to let us know when and where we can get it.

    Holly

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  12. The prices you quote for your book sound very reasonable. I'd pay more as you crack me up. I can't wait to buy a copy.

    Sorry to hear about your hosipital foray and hope all ends up well. They do suck, but probably not as bad as the alternative which would be - hmm, I don't know.

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  13. Sorry to hear about this, JV...I'm only an EMT but it sounds like V-Tach, (ventricular tachycardia) which is a PITA but not too dire. I'll be interested to know what they tell you.

    Also: Ambulances aren't Ford F150s. Ambulances are Ford F450 Turbo Diesels with double sets of big hard tires and a box mounted on the back. I was as surprised as you when I became an EMT that ambulances don't have some sort of special suspension. I've done 50 interfacility transfers of 120-160 miles round trip in the last five months with patients...I swear my tits sit about an inch lower than they did before I got certified.

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  14. The irony of a morbidly obese EMT rescuing a healthy-living & athletic possible Heart attack victim just proves...

    genetics are a smartass bitch.

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  15. Ugh...I'd rather just have the heart attack than give up alcohol, but I'm VERY glad that you're taking care of yourself, because I'd rather give up alcohol (at least for a while) than your blog. I know you know as well as anyone that all the tests can look good and it's not a guarantee, so take care of yourself.

    And...John Waite! You get the best concerts up there.

    Those prices are great. Like others, I'd even pay more. Congratulations on finishing it!

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  16. I'm with KC: you get the best concerts up there! By the way, I just checked and John Waite is 58! (I thought he looked a little wrinkly in the pic).

    Although the hospital stay sucked while it was happening the telling of it was very entertaining. And I'll gladly pay whatever you're charging for the book.

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  17. Dude, that sucks. I'm glad things appear to be okay, but dang. And what up with no alcohol and coffee?

    So, indigestion and chest pain is bad? Because I have that all the time. Maybe I need to spend some time on Web MD.

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  18. Glad to hear you are getting this looked at. Hope it turns out well.

    Gotta ask, did Mrs. JV exchange hair care tips with John Waite?

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  19. Anonymous5:22 PM

    Glad to hear you will be around to publish your book. Prices sound more than fair.
    Not only is your wife lovely looking her comment regarding roommates eating had my crying.

    Keep up the great stories.

    RobinM

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  20. Mary R.5:40 PM

    Be well, JV! Hopefully, it's just the coffee.

    My husband is looking for work in Saratoga. I told him to stop in the store that sells your wife's collection and get me one of her beautiful scarves and a hat for Christmas.

    Also, put me down for two of your printed books (for starters). I hope they are ready before Christmas. Great gifts!

    My students always ask why I am laughing at my desk and I show them some of your posts----the clean ones, anyway. JC Penney is a huge hit. They want to know if I dressed like that.
    Thanks for all the laughs!

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  21. Deli turkey isn't real turkey is it? It certainly lacks in the flavor of the bird!

    Glad you're feeling better JV!

    The prices sound like a steal...can't wait to get my hands on one!

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  22. You're a smart guy to go the route you did with your symptoms. You'll be fine or possibly dead eventually, but at least you're DOING something about signs that I would probably try to ignore.

    I part with most of $20 most work days just for lunch. I'll happily pay that much for your book!

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  23. I think the prices for the book sound more than reasonable. Love the descriptions of your ER visit. I am wondering how you remember all these details....(tapping notes into your blackberry while Pedro is shooting you up? ;-)
    Sucks about no alcohol. Guiness makes a good non alcoholic brew called Kaliber. Only thing that kept me happy through two pregnancies.

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  24. Janie9:01 PM

    First, very glad to hear the tests have come back negative and hope the stress test does as well.

    Second, priceless description of all the nasty parts of hospitals - great belly laugh of the day!

    Last, thank you so much for thinking of us Kindle readers, too. It's my favorite gadget ever, and I really appreciate you making the book available that way as well! The prices sound very fair, and I will be looking forward to a great new book!

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  25. very funny account of a hospital stay. Of course it's not funny when it's you. Good read :)

    BTW I hate hospitals, have had multiple surgeries so I know the experience sucks!

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  26. kristina12:43 PM

    Hope all is well with all of your tests, and it was just a little anxiety or indigestion causing the symptoms...

    The price of your print edition of the book sounds more than reasonable, but I have to tell you I have a hard time with electronic versions of books for more than about 5 bucks. Yes, I know, all of your hard work went into, the "publisher" has to be paid, the seller has to be paid, and most importantly, you need to be paid. But, wouldn't you rather sell thousands of copies for $4 - $5 than a few hundred for $10?

    A gentleman with a little perspective on the topic: here.

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  27. Dude- hope all is well. I'm a middle aged female follower, who can't wait for your book. Charge is totally reasonable- especially compared with the price of a suck-ass hospital turkey sandwich. Hey, just spent the the day before Thanksgiving in radiology at our local hospital because of an 'electrical' problem...(left bundle branch block) Cardiologist said I'm like a car with a bad alternator.(God, they've got great people skills!) The stress test didn't suck as bad as the holter monitor (the C 'girls' get in the way of those little sticky patches)
    Anyway- you're too talented to have this slow you down...feel better!!!

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  28. Good luck with the tests, you'll probably be fine. If you're fit and healthy, any issues you have (if you have them) will be easier to treat.
    That hospital sounds like no fun at all.
    I spent a few days in hospital here in Australia with pneumonia a few months back. It was kind of like a hotel, except as with you the bastards kept waking me up to stick needles in me, and I had to wait about 12 hours or so to get a transfer to a different hospital that had an available bed. I got transferred in at about 1am, having been at the hospital since before 9am. Then they woke me about 3 to fit a new IV, then woke me again at 6, then again at 7. Apparently while I was there I should "rest". ;)

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  29. Anon, I'm thinking it will be much cheaper than 9.99. It will probably be under 5 bucks for at least a little while.

    Silli, thanks for the advice. I used to have an occasional mountain dew, but mostly stuck with water or iced tea. Now I drink water.

    Badger, what did they do? Anything?

    Daisy, I thought about that too, but unless is subconscious stress, my job isn't it. It can be stressful once in a while, but I'm not a broker or anything.

    jay, you should look at his current tour. It's a good show. Thanks for the stress test warning. I got the paper work. It says that in rare cases, it can cause heart attack and/or death, so I'm not worried.

    Rob, no, no angio. Just a cat scan to check for aortic aneurysm (runs in my family) and an echo but I think he's waiting for the stress test results for anything else.

    Kay, you guys get 3 course meals up there?

    Teacup, most of the time you're probably right.

    Holly, I'm hoping next week.

    Robin thanks. Your price is double everyone else's if that's cool. :)

    SM, I can't believe you know that.

    Ed, you got that right. Then again, he was probably 25 years old and might not be here in ten years. Who knows, right? I could have spent all this time eating right and exercising and now I'm gonna drop on the treadmill.

    KC, thanks. I am hoping to keep the cost down on the Kindle version. And JW was amazing. You should see it if you can.

    Jen, he looks younger from far away. Don't we all?

    Muskrat, don't look at the symptoms for a heart attack. You'll be thinking, "shit. I had three of those last week."

    Mick, he was selling his own brand of conditioner next to the CDs. Actually, last time we saw him he had a buzz cut.

    Mary, what's he do? And they will be. Assuming I make it to next week!

    Semky, I used to ignore it too, until my buddy had a heart attack at 46 and died. His only symptom was indigestion and light-headedness.

    Hinde, not even close to real turkey. Tastes like shit.

    Emm, non-alcoholic beer is as useless as decaffeinated coffee.

    Janie, I just bought one to make sure the formatting looked good. Typos, however, you'll have to forgive me for.

    Katley, luckily I've never had an extended stay, and hope to keep it that way.

    Kristina, I'm with you there. I have to figure out how much of my hide amazon wants first, but I think sub-$5 is certainly possible, at least for a while.

    Skip, thanks! I hope your problem gets addressed too. Heart stuff is stressful.

    Codemonkey, that sounds horrible. They are out of beds?

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  30. Mary R7:37 PM

    "Mary, what's he do? And they will be. Assuming I make it to next week!"

    He was in sales, but will do anything at this point.....may have to move. Nice.

    So excited for the book and to hear good news on your health!

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  31. KMarie9:49 PM

    Sounds like you keep yourself really healthy! I hope all your test turn out a-okay.

    Book prices sound great! Will I be able to put the book on my Christmas list???

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  32. JV, thanks for not croaking on us, because a world without 15 Minute Lunch is a world I don't want to live in. I'm super excited about the book, and if I were honest I'd say $12.95 isn't enough, but I like $12.95, so I'm not going to be honest. :D Glad you're feeling better, good luck with all the tests and getting probed and all that.

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  33. I think your book prices are more than reasonable and I can't wait to buy one. I also highly recommend that you put some sort of warning at the top of your page telling people to not eat or drink while reading your posts. I nearly choked on my apple. It was not pretty. I'm wiping my own spit off my computer screen as I type this (I'm a mom so I have four arms, which enables me to do stuff like that).

    Thank you for sharing your talent on here. Your hospital story was just what I needed. Been there, done that - wish it was that funny in reality.

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  34. Anonymous2:56 PM

    JV, I'll buy it at whatever price you decide. (But don't tell my husband!) Glad your medical problems turned out to be OK - make sure to follow up on your recommended testing - I'm in the business, I have to say that!! :-)

    Thanks for all of the laughs over the last couple of years!

    ScarlettO

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  35. Anonymous10:25 PM

    Can't wait for your book!
    I had a blood transfusion a few years ago and I also saw the air bubbles in the tubing. I called the nurse and asked her if it was bad for my heart or something if air gets into it. She said it would be okay, they were small bubbles. Well, those little bubbles kept joining up with eachother until they were one BIG bubble. I watched it with fear as it crept closer and closer to my vein, and I was just considering if I should rip the tube out of my hand, or at least pinch it off and call the nurse back, when it disappeared into my flesh. Moments later, I had the absolute worst chest pain I could imagine. I assume it's what a heart attack must feel like. I couldn't breathe, just kept gasping in pain. I wonder if that bubble might have been just a little bigger, could it have killed me??

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  36. Jennifer12:31 PM

    Sounds similar to when I started having panic attacks. I was driving and out of nowhere my pulse starts racing to double what it is normally, I felt that I was about to faint, had weird tingling on my face and hands...I just didn't feel right. I had to pull over and get out of my car. It passed after about 15 or 20 minutes, and I continued on my way only to have it return about an hour later.

    I debated whether to go to the ER, but chose not to (as I'm in my thirties and healthy). Instead I went home to rest, and called into work, telling a coworker to check in on me later b/c I was scared. I went to the doctor a couple days later and had an EKG and other tests. All turned out normal. After the next attack, sometime later, I had another EKG, etc., again fine. That's when I was told about panic attacks. It sounded crazy to me as I, like most people, had no clue what a real panic attack is. They are scary and consist of VERY REAL physical responses. It's often compared to the feeling of having a heart attack, and usually comes out of nowhere, for no reason. At least that's the case for me. I was given an anti-anxiety medication that I take only when I feel one coming on, which is maybe once every couple months. And it really helps.

    Sorry for the long post, and I'm no doctor, but I just wanted to share my story in case it helps. I'm sure all will turn out well for you!

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  37. This post just renewed my fear and hatred of hospitals. Ugh.

    But I'm so excited about your book, Johnny, and I can't wait to get a copy in my hot little hands!

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  38. Never mind the cost. Where do we get 'em?

    t.

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  39. FA, I think the answer to that is Thursday. Watch this space.

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  40. Sounds like what I get from time to time. I have what are called preventricular contractions -- aka skipped beats -- but when I have a few in a row, I feel like I'm about ready to pass out. If that's what's going on (or something similar to that) - your doc is right. Cut out the caffeine and alcohol. Yeah, I don't listen either.

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