About a week ago I was schlepped to the hospital by ambulance at the lovely hour of four in the morning. Along the way, the ambulance driver managed to hit every bump in the road he could find. It was sort of like riding a wild beast. Or like riding my heart, which had also gone wild.
“AFib,” the EMT advised her partner, as she interpreted the EKG. Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) occurs when the top half of the heart marches to the beat of a different drummer from the bottom half of the heart. It results in a wild, anaerobic dance that will make your ventricles turn on their afterburners, while your lungs struggle to catch up.
I’ve been told that AFib is not usually a fatal condition, but that it can lead to a massive stroke if your blood is prone to coagulating. Which is no problem if you’re a hemophiliac descendant of ancient British royalty.
My wife handed my wallet, containing my driver’s license, insurance card, and everything else that gives me permission to live, to the EMT. While laying supine, I watched her place it on a shelf above my head and to my left. This was the last I saw of my wallet. Either the ambulance crew or the hospital staff lost it. Both point fingers at each other. I suspect that it bounced out a window after hitting one of those bumps, on the ride to the hospital.
“AFib,” they confirmed at the hospital. They poked my arm a dozen times until they found a vein. Then they fed some poison down a line, designed to reduce my heartbeat, which was racing along like a hummingbird in a meadow of May flowers.
I kept shaking violently, probably from shock. They told me to stop shaking. I managed to force my arm to sit still, but then my feet erupted in quivers.
“You MUST stop shaking sir!” they yelled again, as if I was doing this on purpose. I stopped my feet, and then my head shook. I stopped my head, and then my belly contorted. I finally managed to stop everything. But then my lungs and breathing got all shaky. This was the funnest game of whack-a-mole I’ve ever played.
The poison went to work, and my beats per minute came down closer to 100, the safe upper limit. But not close enough. A doctor ordered an RN, over the phone, to administer a more powerful drug. The RN looked scared. He flat-out refused, claiming that perhaps something was misheard over the phone. But finally, after much coaching from his peers, he relented. I retracted slightly as he approached my bedside with his sinister vial of venom in his trembling hand.
But then he glanced up at my heartbeat monitor and exclaimed, “Whoa! It’s down to 85! How’d you do that sir?”
“Just laying here, I guess,” I shrugged. Or maybe when my heart saw how nervous he was, it decided to start behaving.
As my heart rate decreased, I felt increasingly better. I asked the RN if I’d be able to ballroom dance after I left the hospital. He said he didn’t see why not. I said that I did. Hell, I don’t know how to ballroom dance.
Suddenly I was feeling great and wanted the hell out of there. But no, I was attached by an IV line. I was a prisoner, at the mercy of the hospital. And the doctor on the phone wanted me admitted as an in-patient, for observation and further testing.
I looked around for my wife to rescue me. And that’s when I remembered. No visitors were allowed in the ER, due to coronavirus social distancing restrictions. She was at home watching TV and enjoying life without me, as I lay enfettered upon a gurney.
While warming my back there, I overheard lots of talk about the coronavirus. The RNs were cussing mad. They were bitching about our country’s lack of preparation for this pandemic. They expressed fear and outrage over a lack of testing, masks, and ventilators.
And they seemed to harbor resentment toward every patient they deigned to lay their eyes on. We would be the death of them, and their clinched jaws betrayed a calculus that weighed remaining on the job, against cutting and running for the high hills.
They shook their heads in dismay when relating a story about a patient who had all the symptoms of coronavirus, but was refused a test. He was refused because he had not recently been in a foreign country. It was steups all around, at this news.
Their fear was contagious as corona itself. I realized I was likely sitting in a petri dish full of Covid-19 germs. A hospital is not a good place to avoid a virus during a pandemic. I tugged at my IV line, but hell, they put that goddamned thing in pretty tight. And besides, I’m squeamish.
Finally an orderly came and wheeled me away from those future zombies, to my hospital room. The corridors of this medical facility were eerily deserted. In fact, I thought I glimpsed a few ghosts. “No visitors are allowed,” the orderly explained in a haunting whisper. “Coronavirus,” he breathed the word long and heavy.
The next few hours consisted of me loafing in bed watching Trump on the hospital room TV, as he delivered an uplifting press conference of false hopes and fulsome reassurances. And in the bottom-right corner of the screen, the Dow was falling like a stone over the Grand Canyon.
I finally received an echocardiogram. Which found nothing wrong with my heart, except that it was hollow like my head, and echoed a lot. Hmm, a mystery. So what caused my AFib? Later, a thin doctor with an Indian accent strode into the room and recommended that I see a cardiologist.
That was last week. Exactly one week later my heart went wild again. But this time my wife stuffed me into her car, rather than an ambulance, and trundled me to a better hospital.
There I received drugs to tame my heart, and all kinds of erudite medical advice. In one tidbit of twisted medical wisdom, my emergency room doctor told me that my condition was so serious, I should not be in the hospital. Huh? Not with the coronavirus going around, he pointed out. Hmm, I had a hard time wrapping my head around that strange concept.
But I guess these are the days we live in.
I’ve gotta level with my readers. My heart’s been giving me a run for my money lately, and I’ve been wondering if I’m close to cashing in my chips. I think I have to slow down. Perhaps sit out a few hands.
Part of that slowdown may include cutting back on blogging. So you may see a few less posts, comments, and replies coming from me in the future.
Okay, now that all the whooping, hollering, and gunshots fired in the air have died down, don’t expect me to go away completely. I’ll still be around, lurking and smirking in the shadows. And I also have a backlog of posts just festering to cover the blogosphere, like some kind of skeevy motel room bed rash.
But overall, things are likely to get a bit more quiet around these parts. Unless I’m like Colin, who says he’s going away, then stays and throws a party. Hey, what’s that all about, Colin? 🙂
But no, I’ve got to get some rest. I need a little more napping for awhile. And I might just up my meditation game, wax fey, and persuade my jumpy cardiac nerves to settle down around a stick of incense. I think it may help.
So it’s time for me to be like Manjushri, take a ride on a wild beast, and settle the fucker down. I have to go off and tame my heart gone wild.
In case you’re interested, here’s a little video about that dastardly heart condition, AFib: