Thursday, February 21, 2013

Adventures in the Heart Land

Dear Friends,

A belated Valentine's greeting to you all. Some people receive cards, candy, and/or flowers for Valentine's day; some go out for a romantic dinner or something else entertaining, and sometimes I do, too, but not this year!

But let us go back in time a few weeks to 1/23 when I went to the clinic to see if they could think up something new to help with the tendonitis in my thumb. No, nothing new, but the doctor said my blood pressure was too high. "Of course it is," I reply, "every time I come here I am upset and in pain."

"Well, she says, "This is the third time you've been here and it's been too high each time, so I'm going to put you on HCTZ and lisinopril, and please return in two weeks to have your BP checked."

I dutifully took my pills every morning for two weeks, but felt just awful. I was tired, dizzy, had a mottled rash on my forearms, was short of breath from carrying a bag of groceries inside, and had no energy.

On 2/6 I returned for my check-up and complained of my reactions, and thought maybe I was allergic to one of the meds, but the nurse just told me to take one in the morning and one in the evening and see what happens. What about written prescriptions so I can get this refilled? Well, you'll have to make an appt. for that and come back next week. Great, I thought, but was too tired to argue with her.

On Sunday, 2/10, I'm out in the backyard mowing the grass which is usually a 15-20 minute job, but I had to stop and sit down every five minutes because I was sooo exhausted.

On 2/13 I called for an appointment with a doctor for the scrip, but they wouldn't give me one, and told me to just come in at 5 for a BP check, and the nurse could write me a scrip! I was flabbergasted, but went to the clinic, and when they finally saw me I bitterly complained about the runaround, and repeated my concerns about being allergic or something, and in addition to relating the lawn mowing incident, added that I used to substitute teach the exercise class at the center, and now could barely make it through it. OK, she says, but your BP is good now at 127/74, and I'll go talk to someone about refilling your meds. Well, she comes back, and says it's a slow night at the clinic, and it is, since I'm the only one in the waiting room, and even though I don't have an appointment, one of the doctors will see me. So I go through my tales of woe with her, and she says, this doesn't sound like an allergy, I want to run an EKG. So, two nurses come in with a machine and test me, and about 10 minutes later, the doctor comes in and tells me she doesn't like the results and she's sending me to the emergency room at the county hospital. "Do you have anyone to drive you or should we call and ambulance?"

Aaaaahhhhhhhh! My brain starts thinking that since I don't have insurance, that this ride is going to cost me $2-3K, so I politely decline, and being the true child of my father that I am, I drove myself to the emergency room in Martinez about 15 miles away. I still have no idea what's wrong, and I'm a little shocked, but I get there about a half hour later, and even find parking!

I walk in, there's no line at reception either, and I check in and before I can sit down, they call my name, and start shuffling me around. They put me on a gurney in the ER and wheel me into one of their curtained examination rooms, and the tech looks at my EKG, and says he doesn't think it looks that bad, but he's going to run his own. He doesn't like the looks of his though, and says they're going to admit me and keep me overnight for tests and observations. I'm going to move ahead past all the gory details of being hooked up to all kinds of monitors and having blood drawn every 4 hours, and proceed to finally being transferred from the ER to a room after 6 hours. For those of you familiar with my travelogues, I must mention that having not been allowed to eat or drink anything for over 9 hours, then at one in the morning I was treated to a can of ginger ale and a box of "lean cuisine" macaroni & cheese which I devoured as best I could with one arm in a BP cuff and the other with a clip on the end of a finger. After my gourmet repast, I was so exhausted I fell asleep almost immediately.

On Thursday at 7 am, I received my "cardiac" breakfast of coffee, pancakes and oatmeal, and a valentine card from one of the staff. I wasn't hungry and fell back asleep, but ate it all around 8 when they checked my vitals. At 9 the bloodsucker was upset that I'd eaten, and went away without any of my blood.

After that, it was one information seeker after another, filling out forms and going for tests. At one point, they asked for a contact person and number, and I gave them Greg and Rachael's info, and they asked me to call them to confirm. I did, and Rachael sent Greg straight to the hospital even though they were half way to San Jose for PantheaCon. I was off having my first treadmill test, and I only lasted 2 ½ minutes before I had an angina attack. It felt like someone had punched me in the jaw. They gave me nitroglycerin and kept taking pictures. They determined I had an 88% blockage in my artery and said they were transferring me to John Muir for heart surgery. Greg was there by then and followed the ambulance from Martinez to Concord. John Muir is in the top 2% of cardiac units in the country so I was in excellent hands, and even their hospital food was pretty good.

I was prepped for surgery and had an angioplasty and a stent inserted. I was sedated, and the operation only took about an hour. I was released from the hospital the next day around 11 am. Greg drove me to the pharmacy for my scrips and then home to pack and take off for P'con. They were running the hospitality suite for 3 groups and offered me one of the beds in the suite for the weekend. (They didn't want me to be alone and brood all weekend - and I'm so glad I went - thanks, gang!) Greg called ahead a few minutes before we arrived and asked for some people to be sent down to help with my things since I'm not allowed to lift more than 10 pounds nor strain my groin, and one of the volunteers was Ed Fitch. Even though I was only presenting one workshop on Saturday, Glenn & Joy gave me a full pass so I could come and go as needed. Friday night I finally had a shower.

They were having a Covenant of the Goddess meeting in the suite, and I put in a 5 minute appearance and said hi to many friends and well-wishers including Dan from Eclectia. I spent an hour sorting out seven new prescriptions and taking pills and went to sleep. On Saturday I awoke around 9 and made some notes for my lecture, and in walked Dodie from Winnepeg. She was there to present a documentary funded by the CBC about the "Winnepagans." We've become friends over the years from attending Gaia Gathering in Canada.

I visited the Druid suite down the hall and said hi to some friends, and Allen from NWC helped me down to my lecture room, and he worked with the tech guy to set up the pc with the projector, and my friend Angel from DC was there, and she and her boyfriend helped put out all my Lithuanian books and CD's and brought over a chair so I could sit when needed next to the screen. The talk went very well, and I received a round of applause when I informed the crowd that Jonas had made me an "Ambassador of Romuva." I always wanted to be Madeleine Albright when I grew up; she always seemed to have such a good time. I guess I'm still working on that growing up part.

I had a great weekend relaxing and recovering and want to thank every one who looked out for me. I did stay Saturday night for the scotch tasting in the Asatru suite, took Rachael and Greg out for breakfast on Sunday and then drove myself back to Antioch where Pasha had just pulled up to help me unload, and then we went to the Antioch Lapidary Club's annual show and had a late lunch at my current favorite Chinese place.

Rhoda came by to see me on Monday, and Nicole stayed for two nights, so I have plenty of wonderful friends checking up on me.