Heart Gone Wild

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:

Categories: Health

71 replies »

  1. OH MY, TG! I hit the Like button on your post because it is well-written and funny but other than that I am sorry to read about your wonky heart and (selfishly) to read about you cutting back on blogging, and I don’t like that news at all!
    Please take good care of yourself, and I will fondly think of you smirking and lurking and staying safe and healthy. And hopefully you will post from time to time as you feel up to it.



    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had to take my daughter to a hospital two weeks ago tomorrow. They also would not give her the test, but my suspicion is that they were not prepared to test anyone anyway. Anyway, I haven’t gotten terribly sick yet. It’s a shame when a hospital is the scariest place to consider going these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Seems to be the same story everywhere. A shortage of tests, so not many get tested. You’re probably past the incubation phase, so congratulations, it looks like you didn’t catch Covid from the hospital. I never cared much for being around hospitals before Covid, but now I’d really like to stay away from them, if I only could.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have worked from home for 2 weeks now, but have had to go to the store a few times. Social distancing for me is mostly just normal behavior. It is much tougher for my daughter who wants to always be going somewhere, though I finally convinced her that we are not in normal times anymore and need to take these measures.

        Doing what I can. Not disappointed in Trump because he is meeting my expectations – thorough incompetence and politicking.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I have mixed feelings about Trump right now. I kind of agree with him about ending lockdowns and getting everyone back to work. On the other hand, overwhelming our hospitals could be bad news for anyone needing one, including me. Maybe the answer lies in building a whole lot of tent hospitals, and then putting people back to work. But that seems to be a minority opinion in a world full of people afraid of this virus.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I understand the need to keep the economy running. This is one of the scariest things to me at the moment. But, overwhelming and shocking our healthcare systems may be worse at this point. When people think that they can catch this and die without any hope of medical care, that could cause quite a panic.

            When I hear people like the Texas Lt. Governor saying that we just need to get back to work and take it without even addressing this, I find this irresponsible. Can our nation’s healthcare system handle 10 million + patients simultaneously needing an ICU? Then what? Tell them “too bad, go home and die.”?

            I don’t think a medieval Europe style plague is preferable to a temporary economic crisis.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Yeah, I know. But that 10 million number seems kind of high to me. Then again, I’m no expert. Then again, no one seems to be, since this is such a new virus. If the truth be known about how many people have actually been infected, I suspect the death rate number would drop dramatically. But then again, who knows? I think we can all agree that one thing we need is a lot more information.

              Liked by 2 people

              • I threw that out assuming much of the US population would be exposed to this and a small percentage would require hospitalization. That was probably a worst-case number. But I don’t know. Through this entire thing I have been trying to estimate how much of the real picture I am getting.

                Like toilet paper, the hospital industry has a capacity based on market needs and can’t just switch on more capacity instantaneously. I don’t think that it will take too much to overwhelm it. I wonder if we should have already taken lesson from China and built emergency make-shift hospitals.

                In addition, a test for this was available to the world in mid January, but the US seems to have done a horrible job of making it available and using it to control the spread compared to other countries. It is embarrassing. I have seen a lot of nonsensical statements coming from Trump, cutting of infectious disease budgets, and now an apparent total surprise by the mass spreading in the US. Total incompetence.

                Liked by 3 people

                • I think Trump has done a disastrous job as far as planning for this. I’m only inclined to agree with Trump that returning us to some semblance of a working nation might be a good idea. I understand South Korea did it, by requiring employees to be screened for sickness before entering their work site. I don’t like to agree with Trump, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

                  Liked by 1 person

  3. As one who comes from a family with heart issues, and had some scary heart issues back in 2012, I know how serious heart issues can be. I hate to read about the trouble with your heart right now, but as much as I didn’t like to read about what you are presently dealing with I did smile often as I was reading! Your natural wit came through as usual. Your heart may be going wild right now, but it can’t stop your wit! Keep that up Tippy! Humor is a great coping mechanism, it sure does help me a lot! I mean there are situations in life that we have no control over, and we can get very bitter about it, or we can do our best to find reasons to keep smiling as we push through!

    So keep smiling, but do take your health seriously too, for we need you around here! Do what you need to do, even if it means cutting back on here. Your “smirking”, “smart-ass” presence will be missed on the blog, but take care of yourself. Let your unicorn show you the way to that magical valley where the unicorns dance, and hopefully your heart can slow down as you rest. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Well said. Sad story. But if it makes you feel better, my 89-year-old father starting having Afib about 30 years ago… he’s still reading and writing and doing presentations. For the past few years, his biggest problem has been keeping his home town girlfriend from meeting his traveling girlfriend. His biggest complaint in the physical distancing is that he can’t get outside for his two 30-minute walks everyday. I hope you do as well for 30 more years…

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Hey, Tippy! Sorry to hear about your heart, and those potholes can be a bitch. I can only imagine how angry and fearful the hospital staff must be over shortages of critical supplies and equipment. Lay low if you need to. Who am I to complain? I dropped off the face of the WP world for like, 8 months. Like you, I am wary about coming out of my hidey-hole, even for a minor emergency. I was chewing a caramel candy the other day and the damn thing pulled one of my crowns off. How is a dentist going to fix that from 6 feet away? Yikes, he would be breathing right in my face and have his hands in my mouth! So I popped into Drug Mart for DIY repair kit and cemented it back on. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Man I hate to hear that. I got on WP for the first time in a couple of weeks, and the first thing I always do is scroll through to find your latest post. I noticed it had been longer than usual. Yes sir, take it easy and don’t worry about this blogging business, or any other business. We’ll all be out here rooting for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks. That’s a hell of a compliment, and I appreciate it.
      Looks like the medicine the doctor told me to take is keeping my heart stable. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, as I’d hate to have another episode. Those episodes are miserable.
      It’s nice to have someone rooting for me. I’ll try not to let you down.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Holy hell! I didn’t know it happened again. Man Tippy get some rest. And keep in touch where you can. I hope they get things working better for you soon. You know what they say about an apple a day…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This was really hard to read… I so hope you do take it easy. If you have to decrease blogging, I will definitely miss you. But you should take care of yourself, my friend, and I really hope you do. By the way, I’m pretty sure your head is not empty… and likewise your heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. “Exposure to caffeine, alcohol and certain medications.” Throw in chocolate, and I’m not sure what’s worse.

    I had a really good cardiologist. Too bad he quit last year… like my old doctor. He had a theory about my AFib that involved “pacemaker” cells in the heart firing when they thought they’d waited too long for the next signal. But he was honest that even the science of cardiology doesn’t entirely understand the electrical mechanisms of the heart, and that there’s a lot of guessing (and hand-holding). I have my own heart monitor, and I can record episodes or exercise events. My AFib is mostly associated with a low resting heart rate, and I can usually get it to go away by getting my heart rate up. For me, I suspect that more severe episodes have to do with anything that throws metabolic hormones off… viruses, stress, lack of sleep. Aspirin is enough for me to use blood as salad dressing if I nick myself while making dinner, so I’ve avoided those prescriptions that replace alcohol as a challenge to my liver.

    My brother-in-law had tachycardia treated with some procedure that used a laser to make holes in the heart wall. I never heard if the tachycardia was associated with AFib or something else, but my understanding is that it worked very well. I don’t know if that’s the “laser ablation” technique, or something else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well from what I’m learning, Afib has been not been researched much by medical science, so cardiologists have a difficult time understanding and treating it. Most cardiologists are technicians who don’t like to think outside the box. They consider Afib patients to be a nuisance, and are largely dismissive of us.

      So far, what little I’ve learned in the book I just started, is that every Afib patient is different, and has different triggers that will put the heart in arrythmia. And different methods work on different patients, for restoring normal sinus rhythm. Basically we’re kind of on our own to figure out our own personal way to deal with AFib. Ablation is sometimes successful, so I want to consider it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My old cardiologist (now retired) was always pretty attentive to me, even though I wasn’t all that pushy. Though the $4,100 check I wrote on the way out from my last visit to his office a couple of years back might explain a lot. I told him that if I drop dead after a run or a bike ride, that’s okay with me. I just don’t want to die slowly in front of a TV… my fear is a pacemaker. The last time I saw him, he did a massive evaluation… 24-hour monitor, electrocardiogram (pretty cool), max-VO and stress test on a treadmill, blood chem, and even a second opinion from another cardiologist. No dye though, since there’s a stroke risk associated. He figured I probably have some heart damage and a somewhat scarred valve, but figured my odds of dying from what’s there now are fairly slim. Expensive hand-holding.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s some pretty expensive hand-holding, alright. But it sounds like you got some peace of mind out it, and that’s priceless.

          I agree with you, I don’t want to die slowly in front of a TV also. What a pathetic way to spend the last years of one’s life.

          Liked by 1 person

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