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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

195 BPM

"Yeah, your heart's really racing along there," the lead paramedic was telling me as I tried to remember if I'd turned off the stove in case they had to take me away in a hearse. "One hundred and.... ninety-five!  What do you say we take a trip to the hospital and get you checked out."

I nodded weakly, afraid to exert myself any more than I had to considering my heart was just about to burst.  Woozily, I tried thinking about what had caused this, why I was feeling this way, why AndrĂ© the Giant had crawled into my chest cavity, grabbed hold of my heart with his massive hands and kept squeezing, squeezing, squeeeeeeeeeeezing.

The pain of it was like nothing I'd ever felt in my life, and as a card-carrying klutz, I've felt a lot of pain.  Broken bones, sprains and twisted joints were nothing compared to this hell I was feeling.  I felt like I was dying.  I was dizzy and weak with pain and fear.  What would happen to Hana and StuKitty?  No one had my key and no one would know what had happened.  Who would tell my mom?  How would she react?  Would she be sad or would she be angry with the pain of losing me?

"You're young and healthy, so I'm pretty sure it's not cardiac," the new hot EMT was saying.  Oh, sure, now there was a hot one.  He'd sneaked up on me on my left side and started putting all sorts of new sticky EKG thingies on my chest and belly.  As if I hadn't been plastered with enough shit already.

"I'm too fat," I slurred, "that's why this is happening to me."

"You are not too fat," Hot Boy argued.  "Trust me, you look just fine."

"I need to lose 30 pounds," I insisted.

"You'd be losing too much if you did that," he said.  "Relax and don't move so we can get a better read on your heart."

Relax.  Yeah, right!  My heart is going to explode, I have a tea stain on my PJ pants from earlier this morning before all this happened, and I hadn't shaved my legs in 3 days.  Fairly certain I looked like Chewbacca, I tried to hide my legs from his probing hands with all those stupid sticky EKG things.

"Time to take a ride," said Mr. Authority, the first one who'd announced that my heart was beating faster than a bad techno record.  "Can you get onto the gurney okay?"

"My cats," I moaned.  "I need to know that they're okay.  The white & gray one likes to escape."

"They're both on the bed, looking at us all weird.  They'll be fine."

"I need to see them," my stubborn ass told them.  I got up off the couch, stumbled through the kitchen.  Fell.

"What's that all about?" yelled Mr. Authority.


Strong hands gripped my arm painfully and led me to the gurney.  I dizzily fell into it, adjusting myself as directed to make sure I wouldn't fall off.  Lights flashed everywhere as they wheeled me down the walkway.  My neighbor, her face creased with concern, asked if I wanted her to call my mom.  "Nooooo," I pleaded.  "Not right now.  I don't want to worry her."  I'm so much like my dad in that respect.  He does the same thing to me every time he gets hospitalized...

Hot Boy had to sit with me, of course.  I avoided looking at him, despite his ridiculous beauty.  I don't deserve to see him, I told myself.  I need to lose 30 pounds.

Within minutes, we'd wound our way through Midtown and ended up at Sutter General's ER, as I'd directed. It's the closest to my house, without being a Level I Trauma Center like UCD, which automatically comes with a 14-hour wait if you're not in dire danger.  I'd forgotten I couldn't breathe and my heart was failing.  It might have only taken 3 hours instead.

They checked me in and I was taken to a room already housed by another Kimberly.  I didn't want witnesses to my misery, but there she was, behind a thin, ugly curtain.  Repeatedly they asked the same questions: where does it hurt?  Can you describe the pain?  NO, I wanted to yell.  I cannot fucking BREATHE anymore, it hurts so bad.  QUIT ASKING ME QUESTIONS AND HELP ME!!!

"It's probably just anxiety," said a short, blonde, perky nurse.  I wanted to bitch slap her.

"I've had anxiety attacks before.  This feels nothing like that," I wheezed.

Big mistake.

"Ohhhh, you've had anxiety?  Okayyyyy, don't wooooorrrrryyy...." she purred in the same condescending voice all nurses use for the "whack jobs". "You'll be just fine."

Fuck.  Now they were going to 5150 me for an alleged anxiety attack.

In my regular, rational mind, I scolded myself for having let on that I'd ever had anything close to a DSM-IV related condition.  I worked in the mental health field long enough to know that even the most innocent symptoms can be twisted to suit the goals of undergrad interns and LCSW-hopefuls, regardless of the patient's real condition.  But, in my defense, I felt I had to let them know; I had to let them see that I knew the difference between the physical and the psychological.  Any anxiety I did feel at the moment was not the cause of my discomfort and pain, it was the result of it!  "I'm a mental health worker!!!" I wanted to scream.  "I know what this is all about!"

Of course, they didn't take me seriously after that.  Everyone's tone of voice turned syrupy sweet. The kind of voice reserved only for they psych patients.  After being properly wired to every cardiac machine (they do try covering their butts even if their diagnoses have already been made), SHE came in: a short, icy blonde with steely gray eyes, her lips set in a tight frown, the nostrils of her slender nose flaring slightly.  I hadn't noticed at the time that the gal from registration was explaining how I could apply for a county medical program for folks without insurance; when she heard that, Ice Princess, MD, decided I was an unworthy subject.

They gave me an IV of something I'll never know the name of, but my reaction to what was given confirmed that it was probably Ativan or Klonopin; something mild and of the anti-anxiety family to "chill me out".  An amusing tech took me to get a chest x-ray, swapping favorite lines from Forrest Gump with me.  He made me feel human when the rest of them made me feel like a statistic.

After the x-ray I was brought back down to my bed.  No one reconnected me to all my vital stats machines.  I waited.  Waited to see if someone would show up to tell me where the bathroom was.  Waited to find out what the hell was wrong with my heart, a muscle that was born wrong inside of me in the first place, but had been kind to me thus far.  Please, please, don't make me go on heart meds, I pleaded to no one, and no one answered.  Okay, I figured.  It's an ER.  They're busy.

Hours passed and eventually I was transferred to a different, single room (only after one of the hot male nurses realized that there was more than one patient in the double room he was cleaning).  My new nurse, Jenny - the first name I'd gotten all day - was super sweet but left me unattended almost immediately.  "Steve", the next dude, had the requisite "cool" sense of humor, but again, was nowhere to be found when I needed him.  Like when I needed a blanket because I was cold.  I got out of my bed, threw all the wires over my left shoulder in an effort to get close to the cabinet of warm blankets that was RIGHT THERE!!!  And nothing.  I was literally six inches away from a warm blankie and unable to get any closer for fear of damaging an important vein into which my (ever-so-poorly-administered) IV was dripping.  I literally had to flag "Steve" down like an airport runway worker, waving my right arm in the air in a gesture quite similar to that of Donnie Wahlberg's in New Kids On the Block's "Hangin' Tough" video (yes, it was 17 years ago but I have a very photographic memory and remember it vividly).  He wrapped the blanket around my shoulders and I waited for another couple of hours for some real answers.

Heh.  How naive of me to think I'd actually get those.

"Ms. Morales, I'm afraid everything has come back clear and you are fine," said Dr. Bitch - er, Dr. Ritz, her steely gray eyes flashing with disapproval and her own conceit.  Really, for someone at least 10 years younger than I am, she had some serious issues.  Lighten up a little, bitch, thought I.

I asked her what I could do to help alleviate the feelings of pressure and squeezing, even if the med they'd given me "for the pain" (a med whose name I still don't know; guess I'll find out w/the bill).  Her answer?

"I don't know what to tell you about that."


"If I can't take my Albuterol anymore, what can I do when I'm having an asthma attack?  I'm dealing with a cold here... my lungs are the first to react to any sort of URI."

Again, her cold gray eyes flashed at the mention of "URI".  She obviously didn't think I knew all of her medical jargon.

"I don't know what to tell you about that either," was her clipped reply.

Fucking bitch!  If you don't know, then why am I here???  You're the alleged doctor!!! I wanted to scream, but had no lung power, no heart, no life left in me to even argue with this troglodyte in scrubs and a lab coat.

I was released without further instructions, without a signed discharge form, without answers.  I'm sure they thought that would be the end of it because I was "just another anxiety patient".  Too bad for them I landed in the hospital again, just two days later...


Anonymous said...

Kimberly, you are too kind in your description of Dr. Ritz! That entire experience would have caused me anxiety on top of the asthma! I am glad you are better, so you can tickle yourself with the thought of a lawsuit. I'm sure Louie knows a good attorney.


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Kimberly A. Morales
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