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February Heart Month – 911 – CK Medics and Me

February is Heart Month…. And I called 911 for help.

I called 911 for myself early morning a couple of Saturdays ago.  I thought I was having a heart attack.  I’d migrated from bed to sit right here in this chair in what is loosely called my ‘office’ next to my computer and a wall phone and waited until the pain in my throat and down into my chest subsided.  Trouble is it got worse and tighter.  The pain exploded in my throat and chest with every cough.  Pursed lip breathing didn’t seem to help.  My airway felt like it was closing.

I dialed 911 and told them how to get where I was.  Afterward, still conscious, I called the Old Guy and told him company was coming.

I remember the relief when the paramedics put a C Pap mask on me and I could breathe easier – most comfortable mask I’ve ever had on… and remember the tough time they had getting me out of here –too many steps – to the unit parked in the driveway.

Thank you CK 911 responders!  You were efficient and lifesaving…same with Harrison when you got me there. I appreciate the professional help, but especially those really special nurses and staff who understood that I have to maintain whatever degree of independence I have.

The Progressive Care Unit was a new area for me with – again – outstanding care.  Without exception, they helped me maintain my independence even though it took longer.  From the cheery “Darlin’” nurse to the incredibly kind assistants who make things work well for patients to the MD’s, Barbora Volovarova, (Attending) and Dr. Irina Case –to the well-done discharge RN, Debra Clough Russell and to the cheery Rhonda who wheeled me on out the front door to await the Old Guy bringing the gas guzzler.

The diagnosis was Bronchitis and the pain was pleurisy – the exact diagnosis the Norwegian doctor gave when I got sick in Norway in 1997.  The prescribed meds in Norway 1997 allowed me to finish a tight schedule there and get me home.

Shortly after getting home in 1997 and running out of the medications,  I was in Harrison and life changed forever.  I stopped a 40 year smoking habit and learned the real meaning of the word “addiction” as I fought against the sudden gut wrenching cravings to smoke that continued over the following two years and occasional cravings to a lesser degree, even beyond.

I was scheduled for a stress test at Harrison, but I opted out after the tech helped me do a perfect first scan and we had several delays.  The cardiologist asked about my throat and I told him the pain was still there and he kindly suggested that it probably wasn’t my heart but that the stress test would give a good base – I already have Right Heart Failure.

What I didn’t think to mention is that with all the sitting my legs, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) began acting up and I doubt I could have held them still for the second scan.  The Mirapex I take for RLS doesn’t work like it used to.  The stress effort would have been wasted without a good second scan.  They planned to do the chemical stress test since it seemed unlikely I could do a treadmill testing.  Too bad they don’t do water stress testing where they can get the heart pumping hard as they want without the external problems popping up – such as RLS.

The bottom line for me about Harrison is that they do not treat their patients all alike – they help each patient maintain what they are able to do and encourage that independence.  For that, they are unique and a special place for patients like me fighting to maintain strength even as we are there for medical help.

I missed that Saturday’s swim session with Coach Marilyn but her lessons stayed with me in that I was able to swing both legs up on the bed and gurneys using my new found core strength and beginning muscle protection for my left hip.  And we were back on track for the following Monday hour session.

I’m including a scan of a great morning tool Harrison gave me on discharge to keep track of such things as heart, weight to catch a heart attack before it happens.  I’ve added a blood/oxygen check (Nonin) column and check the time too.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002347

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002347

I use the following sheet every morning to keep track of what is going on and will take it to my next doctor appointment.

The single one thing I will change on the sheets I see every day is to change the “Heart Failure Log” to Heart HEALTH Log.

As a patient, I do not want to see “Failure” before me every morning.  Heart HEALTH Log is more accurate.

More later…. Sharon O’Hara

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