“If you only knew what you’re putting me through.
It feels like a heart attack.
You’re giving me a heart attack.
Heart attack.” (1982) “Heart Attack” Recorded By: Olivia Newton – John Composers: Paul Bliss & Stephen Kipner
It’s funny how the most unexpected things happen when you least expect them. This scenario came down around my ears, Saturday, June 11th of this year (2022).
It had been years since we had seen one another. My bio-dad, and his wife, live in Lindale, Texas, just outside of Tyler. They had moved from out west, to a nice retirement community where they have their own bungalow, complete with their own driveway and carport. They have enjoyed this place for about three years now. However, it had been about four years since our last visit. I know this because they came for a quick visit while I was in the hospital for a quad-bypass. Procrastination was the victor over the years, keeping me from making the lengthy drive to their house before and after their move to east Texas. Our visit was way past due.
Since Father’s Day was in mid June, we felt the urge to take a daytrip to the Tyler area, about three hours away.
The visit was going nicely, and there was a few items to catch up on. Noon was coming up and lunch out was mentioned. Cracker Barrel seemed to be the ideal location, but it was about a 25-30 minute drive from their place to the Cracker Barrel in Tyler.
I am a diabetic, with heart issues, dying kidneys, among various other related problems on the medical list, too lengthy to jot here. To be blunt, I am a mess. Frankly, life expectancy for me isn’t over the horizon somewhere, so my wife and I tend not to discuss it much.
My new GP put me on a new insulin medication (new for me). By June, my history with it had been a short one, and getting the rhythm of things was still in the adjusting department. Dosages are on a part-time sliding scale. Knowing there was a Cracker Barrel meal coming, with all the trimmings, I stupidly chose to excuse myself in order to inject about 10 units of the new med prior to departing for the restaurant. (I also neglected to test my sugar levels prior to medicating myself. THAT was a huge mistake.) But, I felt good about the length of time between the injection and the serving of the meal. After all, I had experience with injections and timing with other brands of medications. You know what the Bible says about pride? Yep, a fall is coming.
To make a long story short, by the time we arrived, ordered, and was served lunch, a good 40-45 minutes had rolled by on the clock. About 5-10 minutes into our eating lunch, unknowingly to me, I began to sweat like a middle schooler at his first dance. My skin turned pale. I began to move in slow motion. My speech was slurred, and I became unresponsive, even though I was awake and eating my food. Across the table, my stepmom, who is a retired nurse, immediately saw I was going down quickly. My wife began to try to speak to me loudly in efforts to rouse me. Assuming I had hit a sugar low, she began to force orange juice down my throat along with honey and yeast rolls to raise my glucose levels. From my perspective, people were moving their mouths, but I couldn’t hear them, or read their lips well enough. A tunnel-like fog began to arise in my vision, and I wasn’t able to discern what was going on. They tried to walk me out, but my body wasn’t cooperating. I was fading fast. Before you could say, “We need to-go bags”, EMT’s were there with a gurney to wheel me away from my fried chicken. To be perfectly honest, I remember very little concerning this episode. It seems you just can’t take me anywhere.
While in the ambulance, They were pumping me with fluids through an IV while feeding me loads of questions. Thankfully, my wife was there and filled-in the blanks for me. When I began to be able to grasp the situation, I felt the issue was just shooting myself too many units of the med, and way too early. However, the EMTs were concerned about my heart. They suspected a mild heart attack had occurred, or possibly a stroke. I really don’t blame them. Some symptoms were similar. At the same time, I told them I hadn’t felt any indications of either while in the restaurant. To be safe, we chose to go to the ER.
If I said the hospital stay in this particular hospital was smooth, I would be less than honest. The ER folks, as well as the cardiologist on duty, suggested I had experienced a mild heart attack, or at the least, a “cardiac event”. Over the next 24 hours, they ran almost every test they could to determine what had occurred. The cardiologist wanted me to be admitted until Monday, or Tuesday, for a coronary angiogram…yes, with the catheter snaking up through the body from the groin area. By this time, my blood pressure had returned to almost normal, sugars were within average range, and absolutely zero symptoms of stroke, or heart episode. One test revealed a concerning area on the lower backside of my heart, as well as as an elevated CPK cardiac enzyme level, indicating a heart under stress, etc. We had already mentioned the fact that I only have 45% functionality of my heart, and only 21% of my kidneys. We felt nobody was truly listening to us. Oh, well.
Within a 24 hour period in the care of this hospital, there had been some noticeable issues of concern for us. They were adding some unnecessary medications, wrong medications replacing my daily meds, and some meds were skipped in the normal dosage schedule. Things didn’t seem right, and we felt the volley of testing was a bit over the top, as well as the cardiologist missing his next update with us. It was now Sunday afternoon. When we finally got the answer as to why he had not given us the promised update, the short-handed faculty sheepishly revealed he had left early and would communicate again on Monday. Right then, I knew I was NOT in an emergency condition. All we could hear was the echo of “ching-ching” from the proverbial cash register down the hallway.
Right or wrong, we made the decision to check out under the official title of, “Against Medical Advice”. Shortly after, we made the 3 hour drive back home to Dallas. Michelle, my wife, insisted she drive us back herself. I’m a terrible backseat driver. Let’s just say, it wasn’t an easy lift across the counties.
All I could think about was getting an appointment with my trusted cardiologist asap. I can’t tell you how grateful we were to sit in his examination room a couple of days later. Not surprising, he already had the records from the Tyler hospital. He explained that the elevated levels of my heart enzyme was not that high of a concern, especially since it always shows up in the lab work due to my heart history. As to the “area of concern”, the anomaly seen in the tests, he explained it wasn’t much to worry about, due to my history, and that it was a bit disturbed due to the low blood sugar episode as the heart goes under stress in such events. As expected, the cardiologist on duty in Tyler, who didn’t know me, or my history, with the exception of a glance, overreacted. At least that’s the kind way I am putting it. My cardiologist added the anomaly to my file. In December, I will do my annual echocardiogram and will consult with him again at that time. Otherwise, I am to continue to monitor any unusual symptoms, if any.
It was a road trip to remember. In the end, it was my fault for the whole experience interrupting our visit in the first place. Hindsight being 20/20, I would have elected to let the EMTs treat me and then go home. Still, the extent of the episode was enough to raise anyone’s pulse and blood pressure.
While visiting with my cardiologist, I was surprised to see the angst and anxiousness in my wife was still hovering. She remained skeptical about my condition. She questioned the good doctor about my activities. She questioned if I should be driving or not, exercising or not, extending myself or not. He responded so well. He told us that not long ago, he boarded a plane for San Francisco to visit family and friends. As he got to his seat, strapped himself in, he looked up to see that he unknowingly had boarded the problematic Boeing 737 MAX. As you might recall, the Boeing 737 MAX had been grounded worldwide between March 2019 and December 2020, due to flight control mishaps, which caused historic downed flights. At first he said he got overly nervous about his flight. However, after he relaxed his mind, he realized we take chances each and every day, regardless. After he mentioned this, he said his recommendation was to go and live our lives, regardless of my looming health issues. Otherwise, one can become a hermit, leaving one motionless with a weight of concern. That, too, is a biblical concept. My doc is a wise man.
Meanwhile, I have committed myself to return to a local Cracker Barrel and finish my fried chicken. That’s where you can take me.
Whether at home, or on the road, you can read up about “faith steps” in fuel for the race.
“Therefore if you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about the other things? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither labor nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You of little faith!” – Jesus Luke 12:26-28 (NAS)