beccavox: (quizzical girl)
[personal profile] beccavox
It's been two weeks since I almost died. No, really almost died. No exaggerating, no embellishing...almost...died.

My heart started beating at around 220 beats per minute somewhere around 2:00 a.m. I knew instantly that it was either my tachycardia or Vincent D'Onofrio's acting on the Law and Order: Criminal Intent marathon that had been on for several hours. I'd had this happen before (the tachycardia, not the reaction to VOD) after my ileectomy ten years ago. There are tricks that someone with Supra-ventricular tachycardia can do to slow the heartbeat down; I massaged my carotid artery, I bore down like I was having a terrible bowel movement, I held my nose and tried to blow air out of it, and I tried to relax. Nothing was working, but I was sure that my heart would click back into regular rhythm at any moment. So I dozed through a few more hours of Goren and Eames solving crimes in very dramatic fashion.

I got up from the couch, where I'd spent an uncomfortable night, at 9:00, and my heart was still pounding. I started to get ready to go to work. Fixed my hair. Put on makeup. Got dressed. Then, when I couldn't raise my arms any higher than my waist, I thought that I might not be able to drive. And I panicked. I should have called my mom, my best friend, or an ambulance when my 'at-home' methods didn't work. But I was trying to be cool, work through it, be a tough guy, and not have to see a doctor. But I couldn't fool around anymore. It was real, and I was scared.

I called work to let them know I wasn't coming in, I called my Mom and asked her to drive me to the ER, and called my best friend who talked me through the time it took for my Mother to get to my house. I sat on the front porch, phone in hand, trying not to cry and petting my outside cat and the neighbor's cat. "You'll be okay," Annie kept saying, even though I told her I was scared (and I never admit to that).

The drive to the ER was about thirty minutes and at that point I couldn't sit up, talk without hurting my chest, or think clearly. At the ER entrance, the orderly wheeled me in and took my blood pressure and pulse readings and rushed me to the nearest room with a crash cart. I could barely comprehend what the doctor was saying, but I could make out "tachycardia", "electronic shock", and "cardiac arrest". None of it sounded good, but I understood what they were going to do. I'd seen it on television a million times.

Let me digress: when I was a kid in the '70s, one of my favorite shows was Emergency!, and at least once every two weeks they would have a patient in cardiac arrest who would have to be hit with the 'paddles'. The patient was lying down, the doctors would grab the paddles that were hooked to a machine, someone would yell "Clear!" and the paddles were applied and the patient would react like a huge volt of electricity was going through them. That method, on television, always worked; the patient would be fine in a matter of minutes and, of course, by the end of the show they'd leave the hospital all smiles and unicorns.

That's not how they really do it. First, I was sedated (because 'we can't do this if you're awake' the doctor said, 'it hurts too much'), then, instead of paddles, several sticky patches were applied to my upper and lower torso. I don't remember the first electric shock that stopped and re-started my heart (or the second or the third), but I remember hearing myself scream and I thought, "Why am I screaming?" Oh, yeah, my heart was stopping and starting.

After the third shock, my heart went back to a normal rhythm and I came out of the anesthesia around ten minutes later. I did get one hit of pain killers to help with the sensation of being punched in the chest by an elephant, and the doctors and nurses kept a close eye on me. When the ER doctor came in and talked to me, he said, "I can't believe your heart kept up that rate for that long. To be honest, it should have stopped before you got here." I followed up with my GP who said the same thing, and he scolded me for not getting to the ER sooner.

I've never thought I was invincible, and I've thought, from time to time, about death. But there it was the other day, staring me down, shaking its head at my stupidity. So will I now 'live my life to the fullest'? A little more, sure. I don't want to die anytime soon. So I might as well get on with living.
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