So, the paperwork I got from the hospital when I was released today said it was okay to resume normal activities, and so I thought...
I know, I know. It's just that there's no way to write the words, "I spent the last two days in the hospital," without it sounding unbearably melodramatic. And it wasn't; it was everything from silly to boring with some nausea and headache thrown in for good measure, but it never did get melodramatic. Which is too bad, because some good melodrama might have been a nice change of pace.
It started when some odd chest pains I started having Friday refused to disappear altogether Saturday, and instead seemed to be migrating along the sort of path that makes you think "heart attack," even if you don't really want to think that. So I did something a little uncharacteristic for me--I gave into those fears, and decided to see a "doc in the box" to get the medical equivalent of a pat on the head.
Only I didn't. See, when you go in with chest pains, and your first EKG doesn't look completely normal (the box doc started talking about "old damage" and wanting to know if I'd had a previous heart attack--not conducive to calm rationality, believe me) and when your blood pressure takes off to a completely uncivilized number, you don't get that pat on the head. You get to learn a few things:
1. Riding in an ambulance is a uncannily like being on an airplane. There's the same cold institutional ambiance, the same feeling of being out of control, the same aroma of fuel and fear. When they don't need the lights and sirens (thank goodness!) and the drivers are simply obeying normal traffic laws (double thank goodness!) you feel like you're endlessly taxiing down a runway toward a destination you aren't particularly thrilled about reaching. And having one too many doses of nitroglycerin (communication error) is going to give you such a headache you're going to swat wearily, though unsuccessfully, at the ubiquitous literary gnat in your brain that is trying to get you to record all such details just in case you ever write a novel in which the protagonist is being whisked away in similar fashion.
2. Even if the hospital ER confirms that you are not and have not had a heart attack, you still don't get to go home. Not, that is, if your blood pressure continues to be completely uncivilized and the pains in the chest continue to occur, though heaven knows by now they're probably just panic-related. Because by this time they've started those sorts of blood tests that have to be repeated every so many hours, and since you'll have to be there for those anyway, you might as well stay...
3. A redheaded rational female ER doc will smile and confirm your guess that the detailed instructions she's just given the nurse usually get called an "IV push" on TV. Then she'll go back and try to get you to give "yes" or "no" answers to what you think of as "maybe" questions. And when you say you're a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, but the ER doc asks about all that typing for which you're blaming the numbness in your left hand, and you admit to a little freelance writing, you'll discover later that she has listed "writer" as your occupation on your admittance forms--and you're not sure whether to be annoyed or flattered, especially when one of the nurses is clearly thrilled to be taking care of a "writer" even though you explain how little of it is paid or published.
4. Semi-private ER rooms aren't even remotely private. But that's okay, because it gives you a chance to pray for the other people, and to be rather interested when your neighbor gets an x-ray from a portable x-ray machine, which you thought were still only the product of futuristic writers' imaginations (clearly, I don't see all that many medical dramas).
5. Speaking of x-rays, you have to have the slightly more old fashioned "stand up in front of the machine" kind. But it's funny when the young x-ray tech, obviously a big sports fan, sheepishly admits to a momentary excitement at seeing the name "E. Manning" on his patient list. :)
6. You will reach a point, in the freezing ER, when you think you can't take another minute of it. You then go on to take another hour or so of it, because you've been promised a much warmer patient room with an actual bed and extra blankets and maybe even some food. Which is the difference between Hell and Purgatory.
7. When the food turns out to be a single pack of graham crackers, and you haven't eaten all day, you'll smile. Because of a childhood memory involving an overnight hospital stay, a tonsillectomy scheduled for the next morning, a mendacious nurse who didn't have the heart to tell you you weren't allowed to eat anything after midnight and some graham crackers you thought you'd be getting. It's complicated--but let's just say those graham crackers were about thirty-three years late.
8. The next day, when one doctor says you could possibly go home later that day and the other wants you to wait for a test result that won't be back till Monday morning, you will find out whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. You will also find out that you are wrong, but that being an optimist you are happy to find the bright side of the situation. In this case, the bright side involved drug-induced nausea, an anti-nausea medicine, and a really heavy sleep from that medicine that would have made going home pretty difficult to manage.
9. When you finally do get to go home, with just a few follow-up appointments mainly centered around confirming the heart health and dealing with the blood pressure, you won't mind this so much, or that you now have to take blood pressure medicine for the foreseeable future, perhaps forever. Because you'll be too busy counting your blessings: a husband and daughters who put up with all of this like the real troopers they are, family who stepped in to help and took care of the girls for the weekend, other family who offered prayers and sent love and made plans to drive from two states over if needed, friends who shared their concern and some who even set out to visit you before calling the hospital and finding out you'd been discharged, and so much more. My gratitude to all of you (and you know who you are!), and to God for all of you, isn't capable of being expressed in words.