Is That a Heart Attack You Are Having or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

It was 1:30 am and I was sound asleep.

Suddenly, I was rudely and abruptly awakened by a piercing pain in my chest.    I gasped for air and shrieked.  Was there an intruder in the house and had he stabbed me?  Thinking we had been attacked by aliens, Mr. brickhouse jumped out of bed alert and wide-eyed, ready to defend his domain.

Oh my God, it ****ing hurts!  When I breathe in and out it’s worse.  Help me, please.

Mr. B (still technically asleep) was frantically circling the bedroom asking me if he should call an ambulance.  I signaled for him to hold off and I began to relax my body and to breathe slowly.  The pain was gone.  No need to call the ambulance, it was probably just gas.

During the next couple of weeks I became increasingly weak.  Walking to the kitchen felt like I had climbed Mount Annapurna (Mount Everest is so overused.) I was short of breath all the time and continued to have chest pains, particularly at night.

After seeing a cardiologist and discussing my long-term use of steroids for my Rheumatoid Arthritis, he was concerned that them “roids” had done a number on my heart.  A stress test was ordered.

Gulp.  I failed the stress test.

I am used to things being wrong with my body but this time, I was really scared.  I was only 44 at the time and was not ready to die of heart failure.  I had visions of living a long life (with deformed joints and all, nevertheless, a life) and was NOT prepared to die.

That evening my chest pains intensified.  So much so that we should have called an ambulance but stupidly decided to wait it out at home.  After propping myself up with pillows, the pain vanished once again but not before I promised Mr. B that I would call the doctor first thing in the morning.

What happened next made me seriously doubt all my parenting skills and wonder where Mr. B and I had gone wrong.  The next morning I put a call into my cardiologist and left him a message alerting him of the continued pains.  In trying to maintain some sort of normalcy with my children, I took my daughter and her friend to their scheduled manicure appointments.  Just stay calm, brickhouse and don’t scare the kids.  While waiting at the salon, my cardiologist called me back and told me to do exactly as he instructed.

“I want you to go home right now, pack an overnight bag and get yourself to the hospital ASAP.  Enter through the ER, and I will be waiting for you there.”

Oh My God, try to stay calm brickhouse and find a way to tell your daughter.

After calling Mr. B and telling him to meet me at home and calling a friend to ask her to pick up my daughter and her friend, I decided to tell my daughter what was going on.

Sweetie, mom is ok.  Everything is fine.  I just have some pain in my chest and the doctor wants to check it out.  I have to stay overnight at the hospital , but I am sure it will be nothing.  To which my daughter responded, “But MOM, who’s going to take me to get my haircut later?”  Okay… I must have done a really good job of hiding my fear, so much so that all she cared about was her haircut.

To make matters worse, as we were arriving at the ER, my son (knowing what was happening) called my cell phone and said, “MOM, where did you put the Dunkin Donut munchkins? I can’t find them anywhere!”  Really?  I may be dying and you want to know where the munchkins are.  What kind of evil children had we raised?

Ok, I’ll get to the important stuff now.

After getting hooked up to all types of monitors and EKG’s, the pain came back.  We are talking, GIVE ME SOME DAMN MORPHINE NOW OR I WILL KILL YOU ALL – type of pain.  Handfuls of Nitroglycerin tablets were forced into my mouth by the nurse while other nurses ran around the room checking my vitals and monitors.  It hurt so bad.

Next thing I know, I am riding in back of an ambulance in pain but this time, the pain was not coming from my chest.  The pain I felt was in my whole body – as the ambulance hit every single pot hole on every road as it sped to a bigger hospital, 20 miles away. OUCH

I was wheeled to a room on the cardiac ICU floor.  I looked around and noticed that the average age of the patients on this floor was...95.  Why was I here?  I didn’t belong.  My roommate was waiting for me in our room.   A very nice elderly woman who for her own protection, was placed on “bed-arrest”.  Meaning, a bed alarm would go off if she tried to escape.  Yea, It was not a good night.

The next morning, they performed a Coronary Angiogram (a cath) via my groin, to check my arteries and my heart.  I was given the good news once I awoke, that my heart looked perfect and that there was no sign of damage or disease.  You mean, I’m not going to die? AYA CARAMBA!!!  But, what is wrong with me?

After the procedure, I was to lay still and flat on my back on the hospital bed for several hours to avoid any bleeding or other side effects of the cath going through my groin.  Ugh.  I looked over at my roommate’s bed but she wasn’t there!  Oh Shit.  Did she…perish?  I was afraid to ask.

The next several hours were by far the most humiliating hours of my life.  Having to lay flat without moving my legs or body meant I could not get up for any reason, including to use the bathroom.  The instructions were to ring for a nurse and she would help me, using a bed pan.

I don’t know if they were short-staffed or what but after ringing the damn bell for 20 whole minutes, no nurse came to my rescue.  I was wishing my roommate was still with me so that she could help call a nurse.  I really had to pee.   I kept hearing the beeping out in the hallway but it was as if the entire floor had been deserted.  Finally, not being able to hold it any longer, the flood gates opened and I was soon laying in a pool of my own urine, completely drenched.

The nurse finally showed up and saw that I was crying.   She apologized and began complaining about staffing and how it was someone else’s fault.  Are you kidding me?  I am in a cardiac ICU floor and it took 20 minutes for a nurse to show up?  I could have been having a heart attack!  Maybe that’s why my roommate was “gone”!  

After filing a formal complaint the next morning and listening to the head nurse profusely apologize, I was released from the hospital.

In the end, we found out that the pain in my chest was caused by inflammation and  fluid around the lining of my heart and lungs (pericarditis),  which would get worse when laying down.  Just another lovely symptom of RA.  The abnormal stress test?  That was a fluke.

I learned a few important lessons after that whole traumatizing  experience;

* Never use my poker face with my kids during an emergency

* Never buy Dunkin Donut munchkins again

*  Write my city council to request more funds be allocated to fixing all the damn pot holes on our roads

*  Though warm, never lay in urine again – be it mine or anyone else’s.

33 thoughts on “Is That a Heart Attack You Are Having or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

  1. No. No no no. I can’t believe that you waited that long to go to the bathroom and then lost it, that makes me so upset. I’m glad you lodged a formal complaint, that is horrible.
    I’m glad you’re okay though you were freakin’ me out there in the beginning! You definitely need to not use your poker face with your kids and instead use this to guilt them into things. When they disobey, just grab your chest and say “Oh, you’re hurting my heart…”


  2. Are you kidding me?!?! That is horrible on SO many levels, and also absolutely frightening.

    It’s a good thing you have your kids around to keep you focused on what is really important in life — good hair and readily available baked goods.


  3. Oh!!!! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this, Maria. I’m so glad your heart is fine. What an experience. (I do have to laugh that your son wanted to know where the Munchkins were.) Will be thinking of you this week. Take good care of yourself! And your family should definitely take care of you.
    Weirdly enough, I had to go with my Mom to the cardiologist, due to chest pain she was having. ‘Tis the season I guess. Glad you’re okay. I’m sorry about your horrendous experience though. Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than laying in a pool of your own urine.


  4. What idiots!!! And we keep saying we have the best healthcare on earth. I’m so glad you survived that, Maria, and that nothing more than that was wrong. It is so scary to know something is wrong but to not know what, and to be told it could be anything from nothing to something that could kill you.


  5. So glad it wasn’t a heart attack. But is the pericarditis permanent? Or can they give you some magical pills to make that better? I can imagine your relief, embarrassment and anger over the whole ‘needing to pee’ situation. That’s awful. Hope you don’t see the inside of the hospital for a long long time!


  6. You scared me, chica. I was relieved to read this incident happened six years ago. Although steroids have been helpful with my Crohn’s in the past, they are nasty long term. I hope you’re feeling good today. I hear red wine is great for the heart. 🙂 xo


    1. Yes, those damn steroids. I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are wonder drugs but as with everything…there is a price to pay. Feeling pretty good today and ready to watch the Golden Globes! I hope you had a nice weekend, Jill. 🙂


      1. I agree, when I’ve been at my worst, steroids have been a life saver. I guess you get into trouble when used long term. One thing I love about them is I feel like Wonder Woman…my house is never cleaner. 🙂 I’m glad you’re feeling good today. I’ve been watching the Playoffs today, the Carolina Panthers lost, but I didn’t really expect them to win and I’m a Redskin fan anyway, so all is good. I hope the upcoming week is pain free for you, Maria. xo


        1. Ha! My husband loves it when I’m on a high dose because I also am Wonder Woman and the house sparkles! But I also feel ravenous and eat everything in sight. You have yourself a nice week! 🙂


  7. And I forget! Lack of responsibility and accountability is a thing I despise. You know I always write that in my blog. It is absolutely humiliating to go through what you doped and there is never an excuse. It just represents a great example of the lax work ethic over the last few years that goes along with nothing is urgent anymore, I’ll get to it when I get to it attitude. Disgraceful!


    1. I hear you. I’m tolerant and understanding of errors that occur, we are all human but I would expect a higher level of vigilance and care on a floor that deals with trauma and intensive care!


  8. I can’t imagine how scary this must have been at the time. I imagine the day could have gone similarly for myself as well. I have overactive bladder as it is now AND I have raised my kids to believe their needs always trump my own. Thank goodness this ended well. Great post! I was hanging in every word!


    1. Why have we parented this way? It was not the way my parents did it. Their needs came first most of the time and we were to stay quiet, not complain and accept it. There’s something to be said for that, isn’t there? Thanks for reading! 🙂


    1. I have this strange ability to remain calm – always. I think it would be fun to one day lose it hysterically and behave completely irrational! I think I’ll try it. Nice to see you Margaret!


  9. Good Jesus woman. And, if you are having a heart episode. Lie down. Less work for the ticker. How to stay calm. And well played in front of the kids. 🙂


    1. It was too well played in front of the kids! They don’t know how to react appropriately now! I remember being extremely calm after my son’s friend threw a hockey puck at his head and it split open. Of course, Mr. B wasn’t home and I had to remain calm and stay in control when I wanted to vomit and die! 🙂


  10. Not gonna lie…the beginning of this post was scaring me. My sister just happens to be a nurse with a Cardiac Intensive/Trauma specialty and my brother-in-law is an ER doc. Having also worked in the ER, myself, my mind went to the worst possible scenario.

    But hey, at least my heart rate is up and I’m definitely wide awake, now.

    Seriously, though…I’m so glad it turned out not to be as serious as it could’ve been. I can only imagine the kind of pain you were feeling. The closest I get was the feeling of being stabbed through my lungs every time I tried to breathe when I got pleurisy (fluid in the lungs).

    Take care of yourself, woman! I really enjoy you. This world would lose a bit of color if you were no longer a part of it.


    1. Ay, sorry to scare you and get your heart rate up! I wonder what your sister would think of waiting 20 minutes for help! I have suffered from pleurisy as well – very painful! You are so sweet about the world losing a bit of color, I know they would lose a bit of crazy but I guess color is another way to put it. 🙂


  11. E-effin-gad! So glad it turned out to not be a big deal.
    In the way too much time I’ve spent at hospitals, the only way I’ve found to deal with the staff is for you or a family member to be a constant thorn in their side, asking again again when requests aren’t answered.
    And there’s always a request for a catheter…


  12. OH my gosh, thank God you are ok!! I had to laugh at the comments about your kids though. NO MORE MUNCHKINS! I’m also glad you filed a complaint..that shit is whack that no one came to help you.


    1. I’m glad there was something to laugh at while going through this crazy experience. The nurse not coming was definitely not funny and crazy that it happened, it really could have been a fatal mistake made by her.


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