Settling into the hotel room, I anticipated traveling to Indianapolis the next day with my son through snow and ice. So maybe it was anxiety. By 4:45, the pain in my chest was intense enough for me to check the time. It felt heavier and tighter than my usual acid reflux. My right arm didn’t feel right, but then I’d just driven five hours.
I kept thinking about the articles I’d read lately, about how heart attacks can feel like indigestion, especially in women. And that women often overlook the signs and shouldn’t.
I waited an hour and tried to relax. I stopped watching the Weather Channel. I tried to check the weather on my computer, but that didn’t help, so I put on a relaxing you tube video and used my breathing techniques. I prayed for clarification.
After an hour, the tight heaviness still sat in my chest. My face felt tingly. But it was the mild tingling in the hinges of my jaw that worried me most. Hadn’t I read about jaw pain being a sign. But that could be low blood sugar. Or that herbal supplement I took without enough food on my stomach.
I was 5 hours from home. If I called my husband he would tell me to call 911. That’s what you’re supposed to do. But I still wasn’t sure. The pain wasn’t that bad.
My son was just getting off work. I called him and asked how far the hospital was. He said it wasn’t far, about a mile. I told him what I was feeling and that I wanted him to drive me to the hospital.
In the ER, they did a 30 second EKG, checked my BP and hooked me up to a heart monitor. They gave me a chest X ray, put in an IV in case they needed to give me something quick, and drew blood. After about twenty minutes my symptoms started to ease off. I felt guilty and embarrassed for taking ER time. I made sure to thank them for each task and service they did on my behalf. Since I hadn’t eaten dinner, I ordered a pizza at around 9PM and got my doctor and nurses to share it with me to ease my embarrassment.
My doctor was the nicest doctor I’ve ever met. His voice and demeanor were gentle and caring. He spent a lot of time explaining why we needed to do two blood tests three hours apart and about how blood tests can detect a heart attack happened even when a person had mild symptoms. He said his wife had a heart attack recently with mild symptoms and it was the second blood test that revealed the markers. He said that for women, physical weakness alone could be the only symptom.
The good doctor came back a little before midnight. The EKG was normal. Both blood tests were normal. He showed me the X Ray because he likes showing people their X rays and explaining stuff. The X Ray was normal. I could be discharged.
Now, the whole thing seems surreal, liked I dreamed it. I know I’m going to get a whopper of bill, even with a little help from my insurance. I’m trying to forgive myself for incurring these expenses and inconveniencing people. I know I’m not supposed to think that way, but it’s been my default for so long. Here are the better thoughts I’m cultivating to help me know this was NOT a waste of anybody’s time.
- It’s not like I do this all the time. I’ve probably gone to the ER maybe three times in my 62 years. One time I had a miscarriage. Another time, I got 8 stitches. It’s been years since I’ve been to the ER. (Why do I feel the need to justify this, anyway?)
- Compassion. After an hour of chest pain plus my jaw tingling, I was afraid. Truly afraid. So I have compassion for that fear.
- Gratitude that I’m okay and safe, that the test results were normal and my lungs were clear, and that I can be here writing about it.
- My life is valuable. I am valuable to family and friends. I am valuable to me. I have more to create, more to do. More to learn. More to love.
- I’m worth it. No matter how big the bill is, a trip to the ER is not extravagant if I have unusual chest pain. The same goes for you. We are all worth it.