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:
"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.
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.