9.29.2005

Medical Arrest!

Okay, so the other day I developed a sharp pain in my shoulder and arm. I diagnosed myself as having either a pinched nerve or a pulled muscle. Regardless, I figured a couple of muscle relaxers and some rest was just what I needed. I called my doc and was told she was still on medical leave.

I described my problem and asked, "Who is she referring to?"

"Well, gosh, I don't really know who might be able to get you in," I was told. "You could go to the emergency room."


"I have a pinched nerve, I am not dying. I don't think it's an emergency per se, just something I need to get taken care of so I can work. I've taken Advil and used ice packs, but I really think maybe I need a muscle relaxer," I explained.

"Well, all I can tell you is to go to ER if you need to be seen."

I angrily hung up and tried to resume work at my desk. My shoulder kept throbbing. Finally I decided my only choice was to join the doctorless masses and visit the minor emergency care clinic.

When I was called back to the exam room I described the problem to the Physician's Assistant, who put me through a short drill of range-of-movement testing. He exited and sent a nurse in.

The nurse arrived with a portable EKG machine and explained that because the pain was in my left arm they needed to make sure it wasn't heart related. Fine. I can see how they might need to make sure. The nurse asked if I had any shortness of breath or chest pains. Nope, I assured her. Just a pulled muscle. We chit chatted a bit while she hooked me up. The test was quickly completed and I was instructed to get dressed and wait for the doc.

Doc walks in and introduces himself. "You're going to need to go to the hospital," he says.

I laugh. "Yeah, right. Very funny. It's a pulled muscle right?"

The doctor looked serious. "Well, I can't really say. What I can tell you is that you need some further testing."

"Okay, fine. Give me referral and I'll follow up on the tests, but really, my immediate problem is this pulled muscle."

"I don't think you understand. You need these tests now."

I was becoming frustrated. "Fine, okay, where do I need to go?" At this point I was resigned to going home to just a hot shower and more Advil.

"I need you to come with me."

Okay, sure, I'm game. Gotta fill out some release papers I guess. I pick up my keys and follow him across the hall where I am quickly surrounded by two nurses who simultaneously take my pulse, hook up a blood pressure cuff and instruct me to open my mouth. While all this is happening one nurse explains that what I have just been given is Nitro and that I will be going to the heart Hospital.

I begin to protest. "Nitro? What if I don't need Nitro? In fact, I don't think I need Nitro at all! And what exactly does Nitro do if you DON'T need it? What did that damned EKG say anyway?!"

In the ensuing frenzied exchange I learn that my EKG looked normal, my blood pressure was normal, in fact ALL my vitals are normal, but because of "the nature of" my complaint they have to rule out
heart attack.

"This is because Of the law firm I work for right? Okay, yes, we do sue doctors, but I promise you don't have to go to this extreme as a CYA measure. Really, just give me my keys and I promise I'll get some heart testing. I have wasted enough of your time." That's when I heard the siren.

I looked at the nurse. "Tell me that is not for me, " I say, in disbelief.

"Yes, the doctor cannot legally let you leave if he believes you may be having a heart attack."

"But I am NOT HAVING A HEART ATTACK! I feel fine!"

The ambulance drivers arrive in time to hear this statement and both begin chuckling.

"Is this the patient," they ask, "Do you know how much grief we are going to get when we deliver what appears to be perfectly healthy patient to Cardiac Emergency?" One EMT goes to find the doctor while the other waits with me chuckling and confiding that this particular clinic is known for it's overkill. The second EMT comes back and states that they are, indeed, taking me to the hospital. In fact, from this point on I am not even allowed to stand up.

Amid my protests of "You have got to be kidding!" I am lifted onto the gurney and loaded into the ambulance.

Once there I try reasoning with the EMT guys. "Now, are you guys gonna let me go or are you gonna insist on making me go to the hospital? I FEEL FINE!" the EMTs won't budge and explain that now that responsibility has been transferred to them I am, indeed, going to the hospital. One begins to explain the tests that will be performed and that these are necessary because of my "chief complain" of left arm pain. They mildly agree that this is overkill, and admit that no one wants it to be their ass on the line of I were to leave and have a heart attack. They even have a sense of humour as they begin to joke that they are going to run "lights and siren" all the way.

So, that's how I came to be delivered to the heart hospital and described to the receiving docs as having normal vitals and a stubborn attitude. Thankfully the docs at the hospital aren't much for overreaction and after another quick EKG and some blood work they release me within the hour. They did schedule some follow up testing because of my age. Weight and smoking history.

I recently had my first treadmill stress test and echocardiagram. I passed both, though I am now on cholesterol medication and am trying to both quit smoking and be diligent about incorporating an exercise routine into my schedule.

I mean, the trauma, expense, and inconvenience of NOT having a heart attack was bad enough. I certainly don't want to do it for real!

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Having limitations on your lifestyle is NOT the same as being poor.