In the past, I’ve ignored my friend, Instinct, on many occasion and found myself in all sorts of messes: rotten boyfriends with all the red flags that I should never have even looked at ever yet considered dating (and turned out to be duds), expensive jeans I knew I would never wear after I bought them (and didn’t) and that damn ‘lease to own’ condo situation we set-up that backfired in our face last month (anyone want to rent a condo in NW Portland, btw?).
For once in my life, however, I decided to listen to that pesky Instinct this morning when she awoke me at 3:45 with a chest pain of sorts. Per normal, I spent an hour ignoring Instinct and trying to write my pain off as “probably a panic attack.” I’ve never had a panic attack before so I’m not sure why I believed my expert opinion on this topic for any amount of time–but I did…for about an hour and fifteen minutes.
At 5:00 am, it became clear that this pain was not subsiding–and my crazed Google searches told me that panic attacks generally don’t last that long anyway. So, having no other excuses that could explain away my pain, I listened to Instinct for once and called 9-1-1.
And while chaos ensued, I’m so glad I did.
The scene was dramatic, to say the least. Four fire fighters and three paramedics showed up in less than a couple minutes. Imagine me, bed-worn, crazy haired and mortified, on my couch, surrounded by SEVEN burly men hooking me up to various machines all at once. They were all very kind, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not the world’s biggest fan of being the center of attention, and this, folks was MY show…I was the center. After several minutes of testing my vitals and especially my heart, they concluded I wasn’t having “the kind of heart attack you see on tv, but there are many different levels of heart attacks you can have so we should take you in.”
So, in I went, taking my first ambulance ride–which also seemed very dramatic but they really wanted to get IV fluids in me so I obliged. Except, they tried FOUR times to get the IV in and couldn’t do it. FOUR.EXCRUCIATING.TIMES.
I ended up a Legacy Emanuel which, under construction, looks about like a war zone right now and couldn’t help but think, “WHAT HAVE I DONE?!” It was overwhelming and scary-and I was being quickly wheeled through particle board lined hallways with paper signs to an EMERGENCY ROOM! “Are you kidding me with this?” I kept thinking.
Apparently “chest pain” signals “freak out” in the ER because I quickly found myself in a tiny room surrounded by a doctor, two nurses and two EMT students who proceeded to ask at least 236 questions in two minutes, whilst making my strip my shirt off and hooking me up to one of those octopus-like hospital contraptions that measures your important numbers. It was a total whirlwind and one that I’m still trying to fully figure out.
THREE more painful attempts later and they got an IV in where they drained my blood like a vampire and then left me to wait for the results. And wait. And wait…for a chest x-ray, a pee test and an iodine CAT Scan. But the meantime, they had to put in the final and EIGHTH IV, after the seventh one failed.
EIGHT IV’s later I looked pretty rough.
My blood levels came back elevated on two counts: one that indicates you could potentially have a heart problem and one that indicates you could potentially have a pulmonary embolism (blood clot of the lungs).
So, I was tested for more things and we waited, waited and waited some more. My arms bruised up from all the IV’ing and I began to look like a wacked out meth-head. I forgot to wear underwear. I sweated that terrible kind of nervous sweat that makes you smell. It was really the pits, you guys. (no pun intended)
When we finally saw the doctor again about 11:00, he informed me that I didn’t have any life threatening conditions going on, despite my odd blood levels.
EXCELLENT. Soooo… why does it hurt when I breathe?
While they can’t tell me for sure what is causing my pain since there just aren’t enough tests out there to measure every single thing, but they believe it to be something called pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest wall. I’ve never known someone to have this–I don’t think it’s super rare, I don’t think it’s totally common either–but it is a temporary and manageable condition according to the doctor. They don’t know what caused it in my case but say it will heal by itself in a couple days to a couple weeks.
Can I just tell you that I’m so happy I listened to my instinct this time? Had we not been able to rule out heart problems and a blood clot, I would have inevitably gone to work in pain, fretted over this all day and ended up at the doctor anyway.
And my advice for you, too, is just to listen. I think sometimes our instincts embarrass us because it’s such a non-scientific thing and if we follow it and are wrong, we feel stupid. But I feel like listening to mine saved me a lot of additional grief and suffering this morning and had I listened to Instinct more often in the past, I would have saved myself some, then, too!