Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Last Few Days

That was really scary.

Thursday night, I finally got the kids in bed and staying there, poured myself a bowl of cereal, and the phone rang. DH, sounding out of breath, telling me that's he's driving home and is having a lot of chest pain and it's shooting down his left arm and making is fingers tingly. And HE'S DRIVING! All I could picture was him crashing into a telephone pole and me trying to tell the ambulance where they can find him. I, as calmly as I can, find out where he is (he happened to be pretty close to his parents'), and tell him to drive there so they can drive him to the ER. I would be there as soon as I could.

I must admit, I pride myself in keeping calm in an emergency. But this was a little much for me. I did feel panic creeping in as I called everyone that lived near by to come sit with the kids so I could go. No one was home. I went next door and, trying to keep calm, relayed what I knew to my neighbors and they told me to go, they would sit with the kids. I went back in the house and felt like I was going around in circles. I got DH a book and one for me (we've done ER trips for the kids MANY times and know how long they normally last) and then found myself straightening up the house. Like it mattered. But I did.

Then I left the door open (one neighbor was coming over right then) and began driving to the hospital. I called him and started talking to him on his cell (he still sounded really bad) and soon realized that I was right behind his mom's car following them. We parked at the ER and he was able to get out of the car himself, though he was somewhat hunched over and grabbing his chest. We got to the counter, which DH needed to lean on to hold himself up, and I heard myself say in a low, tight voice I did not recognize to the woman whose back was towards us, "He's having chest pain." She took one glance at him and whipped a wheelchair around for him. She wheeled him to the room right behind her and had me stay to register him. Since he's in the computer (yeah, we're ALL in the computer there) it didn't take long, maybe two minutes, but by the time I got back to him the EKG was almost finished. It was normal, but his pain was still extreme.

The nurse left and others soon filed in - blood tests, more registration info (that's right, when it's bad enough, they come to you), a PA to take more info. All this time, the sharp stabbing pain directly above his heart was coming every minute or so, the amount of pain deemed a "10" on the pain scale by DH. He was losing feeling in his left hand so much that he was no longer able to squeeze as strongly as he could with his right. If he moved the pain escalated. Or laughed. Or turned his head. Or took a somewhat deep breath. It got to the point that I was reminding him how to find a focal point and focus on his breathing, the tricks I learned in preparing for natural childbirth.

They moved him to another room down the hall and started treating him as if he was having a heart attack, giving him four baby aspirins and a nitroglycerin tablet under his tongue. Apparently just about anyone with severe chest pain is treated this way, just in case. They wheeled him off for some test, and by the time he came back the pain was better, down to an "8". Another tablet, more relief. After the third tablet under his tongue, the pain was down to a "1". That sure seemed significant to me! The nurse said that he would definitely be admitted. The doctor came in and told him that if he were a betting man, he would say this is NOT cardiac related (all the tests were coming back clean, including the blood test looking for excess cardiac enzymes), but he was staying just in case. Apparently the fact that this was Thursday night and that we would still have a day in the hospital for them to run tests was good. They gave him a nitro patch (that would give him a steady amount of nitroglycerin) and admitted him. And I drove home.

I was so tempted to pick up one of the kids and bring them to bed with me so I could have a warm body next to me, but didn't want to wake any of them, so I didn't. It worked out since J came in around 4 in the morning and was then amazed because I didn't make her go back to bed, instead told her to go get her "Mine" and come back in bed with me. She did, no questions asked. DH called around 6:15 or so, to tell me that the pain came back during the night, though not as bad as it had been, and that a doctor and a PA were in already to tell him they would be running all kinds of tests today and would not discharge him until they got to the bottom of it. By 7 all three of them were in bed with me (I guess they woke, saw J not there, and figured out where she must be) though I don't really remember the boys joining us, and I took a breath and started to tell them what as going on.

I explained that last night Daddy's heart starting hurting him so we took him to the hospital and the doctors are helping him feel better. B, who has a hero worship thing going on with his Daddy, teared up immediately asking if the doctors gave him a shot that made him go to sleep. I had to think for a moment before I realized he was asking if the doctors gave him anastesia so they could operate on him. For some reason the idea of being put to sleep like that (no, we don't have a pet and he has never heard of an animal being "put to sleep") terrifies him. I assured him that Daddy is being given medicine so his heart doesn't hurt right now but he is wide awake. I didn't want to tell him that Daddy won't be having an operation because at that point I really didn't know. The other two asked questions, but didn't seem as upset. I explained to them what our day would be like today since it was changing (and that's really hard for A). We had planned to see Peter Pan that day as a family (a local children's theater camp performs different kids' shows each week) so of course we had to do that (couldn't change things THAT much - it had been on the kids' calendar all week). My sister agreed to take the kids after that and keep them overnight, so I told them the order of the day: we would eat breakfast, go visit Daddy, see Peter Pan, and then go to Aunt J's for lunch and to have a sleepover, and I kept repeating it as the day progressed so all of them (A) would remember it.

DH called me twice while I was getting the kids ready to leave the house. Once to tell me that a doctor had just been there and told him that he would be going home a little later that morning (?!!) despite that fact that he still had significant pain and they hadn't figured out what was causing it and then again to tell me they just gave him something for the pain and that he wasn't sure when he would be going home and he didn't really care anymore. Yeah, they gave him some good stuff, but at least then I knew he wasn't really going home any time soon - they wouldn't have given him something so strong if he was going home.

I finally go them out the door and to the hospital. Major miscalculation - I forgot to prep them for how DH would look. He was hooked up to all kinds of monitors, had an Oxygen tube in his nose, and was receiving saline through an IV. B kept looking everywhere but DH, asking him questions all the time (especially about the needle they used to give him the IV and whether or not they gave him something to make him go to sleep - apparently Mommy's word was not enough). A was excited about all the electronics he saw around DH and had to find out what each number and line meant. J was the first to agree to go up and give DH a hug, which made something start beeping, which caused A so much panic that he couldn't even look at DH. I encouraged him to give Daddy a hug (if he wanted) and he approached Daddy so tentatively, hands flapping, that I reasurred him that he didn't have to hug him if he didn't want to, to which he replied, "Okay!" and backed away completely. My MIL was there and volunteered to take the kids for a walk so DH and I could talk. She found some monitors in the hallway that were not hooked up to anything and let the kids touch them some so they could see that they were not so scary. I went out in the hallway and tracked down DH's nurse to find out if his perception that he would be released soon was accurate (of course it wasn't) and gave him some more info that she needed. As soon as I went back in the room, DH was laughing at me that I had to go "rat him out." Hey, just doing what I had to do!

And with that, I took the kids to see Peter Pan, again reminding them of the new schedule a few times as we drove. We sat down and watched the AMAZING production - professional quality entertainment all performed by KIDS! A was definitely off through most of the show, needing to sit on my lap about 1/4 of the way through (he often craves pressure so seeks out hugs a lot), at times turning in to me for a tight hug, at times turning to the show but staying on my lap. J, not to lose her Mommy's lap, insisted on sitting on my lap too (luckily I have two knees and lots of experience sharing my lap), cuddling into me to rest. B sat with his hands over his ears (two years ago we had attempted to watch another production of Peter Pan and B had gotten two scared about the idea of the crocodile eating Captain Hook's hand so we had to leave) pressed up against my right side. When the show was over and I repeated the schedule for the rest of the day (go out and meet the characters, go to Aunt J's for lunch and then for a sleepover while Mommy went back to see Daddy) A broke down completely, sobbing that he thought we were having lunch at home (see why I repeat the schedule so often, even though it still didn't work this time?). Luckily we were in the absolute top row so I was able to pull him onto my lap and rock him as he cried. The other two, almost oblivious to A's hysteria, began pestering me to go out so we could see Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, anxious we would miss them. It got to the point that I started looking around the auditorium, desparately searching for anyone else that I knew who could help. Never mind all the people we saw before the show started that we knew, I couldn't find anyone now. I finally was able to get A to verbalize WHY he wanted to have lunch at home (yes, I'm so grateful he is verbal) and then reasssured him that he could have his electronic time on Aunt J's computer just like he does at home, but not if he kept crying. That stopped him quickly enough, and we went out to say hi to the various characters. I then drove them to J's, went home to get a couple things for DH, pack the kids' stuff for their sleepover, and put together some things for me to do while waiting in his room, and then drove back to the hospital.

Part two will come later - my time is up and I have to get home so I can join everyone at my IL's for dinner. I am so behind in paperwork (which I was planning to be doing this afternoon) but writing seems to help me process things, so that's what I chose to do instead, and I think that did help.


Lauren said...

Tim Russert had a stress test very soon before he died. They are of limited value.

I strongly recommend that you read the book Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman. I'm trying to follow his healthy diet the best I can, for other reasons.

I'm thinking about you and Chaz.

MommaHen said...

Have they checked for gall bladder? I've heard it can feel like you described.

By the way, um....make sure "lauren" doesnt hear of any traumatic events I might have! Its nice to give you the info, but...maybe in a different way??? Seriously.

RuthWells said...

Oh, R. Good thoughts coming your way. (Must have been the week for ambiguous heart issues -- my dad was admitted on Tuesday. He's okay, but may need surgery.)

O said...

R, hang in there. I wish we lived closer but I can drive reaaally fast if I need to.
Hope everything is on the mend...

Adorable Girlfriend said...

Rachel, I am so sorry to hear about your husband. It sounds like being at the hospital is the best place for him right now. The fact that he is having chest pains, but his tests look good is promising. I am curious what his CK, isoenzymes and cortisol values were.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do.

Stress tests have a very significant value. Please do not knock the validity because of the occasional blips in the system, Lauren.

Anjali said...

Major healing thoughts coming your way. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed it's something GI related -- those exact symptoms DH has run in our family as severe acid reflux.

Anonymous said...

Oh my! Keeping you all in my thoughts.

Motherhood101aplus said...

As a daughter and daughter in law of people who have heart attacks -don't wait to drive someone there.
Take the ambulance. The EMTs might be better equipped to assist in an emergency.
Good luck to DH and to Mommy!