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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Easter Sunday in the ER

Easter Sunday is always a huge event for my family. We are a Baptist family that convenes every Easter for a large meal and time to reconnect with each other. It's a loving event where miracles are celebrated and people come together to recognize the power of faith. I enjoyed the day, though I had to leave after a few hours from fatigue and pain. I was recovering well from the heart surgery and pericardial effusion, but still this was the biggest outing I had so far. It was exhausting to talk, I would get short of breath walking across the room, and I knew I needed rest. My boyfriend escorted me to his car after I changed into comfier clothes and helped me into the passenger side. We had agreed he would take me home early from the reunion, so I could get a nap in. After I got home I noticed my raised heart rate and felt pressure when I lay down flat. I was struggling for a deep breath and felt familiar pain in my upper stomach and mid back. All these symptoms were eerily familiar to the week previous when I struggled from the pericardial effusion and had to return to Dartmouth. I did not want to go back to Lakes Region General Hospital's ER, especially not on Easter Sunday, but Robbie pushed me to get checked out 'just to be sure' and I begrudgingly climbed back into the car after much deliberation. The emergency room staff recognized my face and came quickly to my aid. They checked my vitals and saw the Tachycardia and high blood pressure. I was wheeled to a bedside where they immediately began the battery of heart tests including an EKG, Echo cardiogram, chest X-Ray, and blood tests. An IV was placed in my left arm, and I saw the doctor within minutes. It appeared that everything was normal, nothing out of place and the heart had only a minor amount of fluid on it, so it was not the severe effusion like my previous visit. They decided pretty quickly that I must have overdone myself with the events of the day and needed rest. My heart rate dropped to a steady 100 bpm and they monitored me for an hour before deciding to discharge me. My mother who had shown up as soon as she heard I was returning to the hospital and found her way from the empty ER waiting room to my bedside, decided to head home. She took off to catch some Zs while me and my man held hands, waiting for discharge paperwork. After an extended period of time the polite female doctor returned around the corner. She saw my IV already out and had a serious look on her face. "If there is any possibility of you having a clotting disorder and you are not on blood thinners other than Aspirin, I am concerned about sending you home without first doing a CT Scan for Pulmonary Embolism" she described. I agreed to stay, better safe than sorry, and another IV had to be placed in my right arm. This time the testing took longer as we waited for someone to come in to perform the procedure, and then waited for the results. In a CT Scan, the radiologist directs the bed into a tube which takes pictures of the fluids in the body and can see things like the lung tissues better than an X-Ray would. It doesn't take long, but Iodine based dye is injected through IV to help the scan pick up on any possible problems. The feeling you get as the dye runs through you is that as if you wet yourself, a warm overwhelming wave from your shoulders that radiates to your legs before disappearing. When the test was all over they wheeled me back to the ER exam room and I waited. I could hear the other patients being pushed to and from, the two across the hall coughing up a lung, and the one next to me recounting his story of the car crash. Eventually I was discharged with no explanation to the symptoms and told to keep an eye on them closely and call my surgeon with any new, worsening, or persistent symptoms. I ventured into the cool dark of the parking lot and felt relieved that this time I was not being rolled into the back of the helicopter for my departure from this building. Crawling into my bed that night was what I needed most, and remembering to pace myself in the days ahead as well.

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