Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Saga of the Golden Years

After some dental surgery and catching shingles and the pain of that—truly as all say the horrible pain like nothing else—and with her history of atrial fibrillation, Dee got so weak yesterday and her pulse was so thready that we decided to call 9-1-1 and have the paramedics take her to the hospital. I was impressed with the fast response. First the shorter firetruck came screaming down Lobdell and turned on to Sevenoaks, followed by the paramedics in their van, followed a bit later by a supervisor (or two, women) in their SUV. All the emergency personnel around the bed, Dee’s 145 heartbeats and then 80 and then 135 and then 150 was cause for real concern. Did an EKG and started an IV and finally lifted her from the bed to the gurney bottom bedsheet and all. She was scared, naturally, and not even necessary to say that. While I was changing shirts and getting my wallet and such so I could go in my car so I would have a ride home, I didn't realize they worked in the driveway in the paramedic van for a half hour to stabilize her heart before they ever started for the hospital. The paramedics and the supervisors in the SUV and me in Pearl Honda all left at the same time. 

From one in the afternoon and for the next eight hours, and since BR General is now a teaching hospital, we saw a total of nine doctors in various stages of being a doctor, from a whip-smart Chinese woman (Lin Wang) studying at Tulane to a supervising doctor of several other doctors. Throughout the day we began to realize how smart our dumbasses finally were since each told us how dangerous things were for a while with her heart. They even had a second IV in her arm in case , as one said, "things went south." Blood work, saline drip for hydration, potassium chloride drip, and finally after all the doctors had listened to the chain of events, dental surgery, shingles, heart I-got-ya-irregular-rhythm, one said with low sodium (strange) and extremely and dangerously low potassium it seemed to be the perfect storm of events. They couldn’t get her heart back in rhythm even after a dosage of her regular heart meds until they gave her a shot of something else that finally did the trick. I mean in five minutes her heart went from the 100's to 60 and the mid-50's, end of the marathon, you can stop running. Naturally with the slower pulse and the drips her color really improved quickly. We had great service until the late afternoon before the evening shift change. Heard they were three nurses short and it took until 9 p.m. for her to be taken to her room. Even as improved as she was she was still hurting from her bad back and the shingles pain and everything else, so when the ice pack leaked and wet her sheets and blankets, we tried not to complain too much since we were in the ER and surely some people were as troubled as Dee had been earlier and maybe some others also fighting to live.

For once we did the smart thing and didn't worry about calling the paramedics. Dee couldn't even get to the bathroom a few steps away without her heart racing and coming close to passing out. Both of us felt like we dodged a very large bullet. They kept her overnight for observation. Since she was stable and I had not eaten and the cats had been out all day and I had not had my heart meds yet, I came on home, exhausted from the emotion of it all.

Even though I have thousands of adventure stories that turned out badly and could advise what to avoid in life, I have limited my advice to three things: better save for your children’s education, better save as much as you can for retirement, and as imperfect as the people and procedures in health care may still be, don’t hesitate to seek care from someone who knows more than you do. My father died of a heart attack at age 58. At age 69, just some discomfort, I merrily drove myself to the hospital when I was having one. I was lucky. Despite hesitating for a few days with all the potentially deadly signs so visible, Dee was also lucky yesterday. And by loving extension, me also.

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