Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Seeing the Light (Again)

Just in case anyone noticed, I’ve been MIA for a little while.  First, of course, because of the recent holiday weekend.  Nobody seems to be paying attention during those kinds of weekends anyway, so that’s kind of expected.

Then, on Wednesday, we had a little scare.  The coronary kind.  Not a fun day.  An ambulance, the ER, a zillion tests (including lots of needles), endless waiting, overnight admission, more tests, etc., etc.  All those kinds of things that make you start thinking about “mortality” and “enjoying life” while you have the chance.

But I’m ahead of myself.  First off, I’ve had a condition called Atrial Fibrillation for about 8 years.  There are a number of different kinds, but basically it means that your heart can get out of rhythm from time to time (or it can be chronic) and alter your pulse rate and blood pressure.  The heart usually winds up beating too fast and irregularly – an arrythmia.  By itself, AF isn’t terribly dangerous.  It’s not like ventricular fibrillation which can be fatal in a matter of minutes.  But it certainly can be annoying.  And it can increase the possibility of having a stroke, since clots can form in your heart when it’s not in sinus rhythm.

Now, all of that stuff can be controlled with medication.  Up until Wednesday, that was true for me.  As I said, I’ve dealt with this for 8 years.  No big deal.  I’d have episodes from time to time, but nothing that I couldn’t deal with.  Heck, most of the time I’m in normal SR.  When I’d go into A-Fib it would usually be just  for a few hours and then the “system” would correct itself.  My only reaction was to slow down a little.  A-Fib will drop your blood presuure so dizziness and fainting are real possibilities.  But Wednesday was different.

The episode that started Wednesday morning was far worse than any I’d ever had.  Standing up was nearly impossible and breathing was difficult.  I began to sweat (something I rarely do).  My chest was “tight”.  Even then I was 90% sure that this was just a really severe A-Fib episode, but I’m not totally stupid.  The symptoms I just described could also mean angina or even a heart attack.  Not much choice.  Dial 911.

As luck would have it, the A-Fib event ended just before the ambulance arrived.  But we were off to the hospital anyway.  Might as well see it through, I figured, just in case.

After that, an endless series of EKG’s and bloodwork.  The EKG’s looked fine, but the bloodwork showed a slightly elevated troponin T level.  Troponin T is a protein that the heart muscle gives off when it’s been injured.  The normal level is 0.0 to 0.10 micrograms per liter of blood.  My first test came back at 0.13, just slightly too high.  So we had to wait at least 6 more hours to test again.  Which wound up meaning an overnight stay.  The 2nd test came back lower, but they were still concerned.  One doctor seemed convinced that I actually had had a heart attack.  I was sure at this point that I had not, but my opinion didn’t count for much.

The next day, more tests.  Including a stress test with an ultrasound.  That turned out to be not much fun, but it did have the benefit of getting me the hell out of the hospital.  I “passed” the stress test and the ultrasound showed no evidence of any heart muscle damage.  So they turned me loose.  But not before I had a brand new cardiologist and 2 new medications.  This guy told me that the meds I’d been on weren’t doing me any good anymore.  He didn’t say so, but I got the distinct impression that he didn’t think that they ever had done me much good.

So here we are.  Day 1 of brand new pills.  One of which is a fairly strong anti-arrythmia drug (I hadn’t been on an antiarrythmia drug before).  That should be interesting.  Hopefully, it’ll work.  All I know is that I don’t want to ever relive Wednesday’s “event”.  That was simply scary.  No other way, I think, to describe it.  Just flat-ass scary.


10 Responses to “Seeing the Light (Again)”

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, John. Yeah, I’ve been trying not to think about the cost. Insurance should cover pretty much all of it, but it’ll still be tough to look at. And as you correctly point out, taking chances can result in “costs” of a different kind.

  1. meanderingpassage

    The only other event I know of which can generate more fear in the moment then a possible heart attack is getting a letter from the IRS requesting an audit. But you were right, there is no other choice in these situations except to Dial 911. Mighty glad to hear it wasn’t a heart attack and I hope your new meds will have more benefits then side effects. Looks like there’s a few more trips to the southwest in you after all, Paul! 🙂

    Take care of yourself!

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Earl. So far so good on the new pills……..

      And there sure as hell will be more trips!

  2. Cedric

    Only just read your post and I have to say I am exceptionaly glad to be reading it, meaning, I am extremely glad you are around to write it 😉 My father had the same condition as you Paul. He had it for well over two decades and it didn’t affect his lifestyle at all. When he passed away last year, in his 80’s, the doctors said he died of old age and that in the end the condition which he thought would end his life ended up having no influence whatsoever. My father had one episode as you described. Just the one, I think it was around 15 years ago. Like you he found it to be quite a scary experience but true to form he didn’t let it bother him too long and just got on with life. Sounds like you’re doing much the same which is good to see. All the best Paul, keep travelling, keep shooting and keep writing.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Cedric. I asked the doctor why he thought this one incident was so much worse than normal and what might have triggered it. He hadn’t a clue. Sometimes, he said, they just happen like that. Not all that reassuring, I guess, but at least he was honest. Hopefully, I’ll have the same good fortune as your father! One of them is certainly enough……..

      What’s sort of funny (now, anyway) is that while it was happening I kept thinking that I might not make it back to Utah. That seemed to bother me as much as anything.

  3. themiddlegeneration

    I’m happy to hear you are back and doing fine. What a scary episode you described… Hopefully the new meds will keep that from happening again. Take some time to rest up. Sit on your porch with your camera and see if anything catches your eye. Most of your pictures are very majestic scenes, but maybe you will find some interesting shots closer to home while you are recuperating. Best wishes.-Laura

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Laura. As for the “new meds”, I seem to have had an allergic reaction to one of them (a skin rash). So the doctor told me to stop taking them until he could figure out what to do next. There’s always something, right?

      As for the “close to home” images, you’re right. No other choices at the moment.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Don. I take it you’re back in NY now. I hope you have an easier time seeing your cardiologist than I’ve had. I had a skin reaction to a new medication he prescribed and the soonest I can see him is next Wednesday. Must be a lot of customers for cardiologists in this neck of the woods these days……..


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