A month and a half ago I would have said I wasn’t in any kind of good shape. Pear is a shape but not really a good one for anything but sitting or doing underwear commercials for fruitoftheloom. But even though I didn’t think I was in good shape I thought I was o.k. for a man at my age and stage.
That was then.
What I know now is that my blood pressure had been creeping up for a while, a couple years anyway. I think my problems were postponed about a year and a half ago when I was exercising regularly and watching what I was eating. Dropped some poundage and actually improved my fitness.
But that was then.
Over the last year I’ve gained every pound back that I lost and I’ve lost everything good that I’ve gained. I noticed things about how I was feeling but generally masked it all with copious amounts of caffeine through the newly opened St.Arbucks and by eating – grazing really – through my day.
And then I had some issues that took me to Emergency to discover my BP was resting comfortably around 240/125. Blood pressure is more like golf than bowling and that’s not a score you ever, ever want to see. Over time I started on meds, a diet, daily walks and trips to Emergency and my family doctor. In the early days of this, a month or so ago, I had the worse back spasms that I’ve ever had and pain was pretty much 23/7 (usually one good hour of sleep each night or it would’ve been 24/7). Then came the anxiety/panic attacks.
If you’ve never had anxiety or panic attacks I would encourage you to be very happy about that and never aspire to having them. For a while it was all day, everyday, anytime and anyplace. Sometimes it’s like that nervousness you feel when you are about to be called on to give that big speech in front of the whole class, including that really cute girl you’re trying to impress, only you have no notes and can’t remember the topic you were assigned. All day. Without a break.
It can also be a sudden rush of adrenaline for no particular reason. Rapid heart beat, lungs feeling constricted and unable to draw a deep breath, dizziness, sweating, racing thoughts, trouble swallowing and an impending sense of doom. Or mix and match these and another half dozen symptoms/feelings that appear out of nowhere or sometimes in connection to a specific trigger.
One night I went to bed and woke up after an hour with a rush of adrenaline and pounding heart. I went in the other room to settle down and let my wife (who has been amazing) get some rest. At 1 a.m. I started getting anxious about getting to sleep so I could wake up rested in a few hours for an appointment. At 2 a.m. I started getting really anxious that I couldn’t fall asleep and I paced and prayed, needing to sleep. At 3 a.m. I started getting even more anxious but now I was anxious that I WOULD fall asleep and possibly oversleep and miss my appointment. At 4 a.m. I stopped caring and decided I was screwed either way. Around 4:30 a.m. I drifted off for one hour, waking at 5:30 a.m. I was wide awake.
On another evening I was out for a walk with the elusive Donna and we heard a siren in the distance, a little later we heard another and pretty soon we’d heard about 6 sirens in total. At that moment, from somewhere deep in my subconscious this little thought bubbled to the surface, “There won’t be any ambulances left if I need one.” I wasn’t even feeling too bad but I started getting anxious about the possible shortage of ambulances that I might just, on the off chance, suddenly have need.
I’ve been tested, poked, prodded.
On one late night visit to the ER the young nurse, she didn’t look as old as my 15 year old daughter, was supposed to take 3 vials of blood from my arm. As she tied on the elastic and looked for a vein I heard her say quietly to the older nurse beside her, “I haven’t actually done this before…” The machine monitoring my blood pressure started beeping loudly. The best part came when, with needle in arm but not in vein, she asked the older nurse, “Should I pull out?” “No,” the older nurse calmly said, “fish around for it.” Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.
Another night and another nurse. Same drill. Only this time she complained about how hard my veins were to find. I’m pretty sure they were hiding at this point. She pulled my arm off the bed, then almost bent it backwards at the elbow trying to get some kind of crazy angle. Finally she practically crawled up on the bed with me, straddled my arm and drew blood like I was threatening to thrash around wildly. I probably should have.
3 times the doctors checking me out at the ER came in smiling and said, “Great news, it’s not your heart!” And they started to send me home. Once I said, “I never said I was having a heart attack. I told you how I’m feeling and that I want you to help me not feel like this anymore.”
“Well, it’s not a heart attack!”
“I didn’t think I was having a heart attack!”
And then he said, and I’m telling you the truth…
“How do you know your weren’t having a heart attack? Have you had one before?”
…to be continued…