Friday, August 19, 2005

My Heart Attack

Let’s just say that August has not been my month.

It started a few blogs back about my nipple ring being yanked out of my chest while doing, for all intents and purposes, a nice deed for someone – buying a porch swing for my parents.

The night that happened, I never really fully felt right again. I kept thinking it was possibly the shock of having something ripped out of my body. That same Saturday night, I attended a birthday party for my niece, and played a pretty active game of Frisbee with three of my nephews. I think that is where the problem all started.

On Sunday I returned home and went about my life as usual – even writing a blog on the 10th about a cab ride that restored my faith in man. What I DID NOT write about was that same day as the cab ride, I developed this severe – and I mean SEVERE – pain in my very center of my chest that lasted about 10 minutes. I was at work when it happened and I joked to my colleagues that I was having a heart attack. Never having one before – how would I really know what one feels like? The pain went away – even long enough for me to attend a birthday party for my friend Kelly. Two days later, I traveled with some friends on our annual sissy sojourn to Provincetown. From the time I arrived, things just didn’t go well.

A simple walk down Commercial Street left me winded with chest pains and dull ache under my right armpit. Had it been my left arm, I might have reacted differently. But the doctors had given me Keflex when the nipple ring came out and I just figured I was having an allergic reaction. After two days, I realized that this was not going to be a very good vacation, so I returned home early and decided to have things checked out.

I went to George Washington University Hospital in DC, complaining of chest tightness, a sore arm and lack of breath (hello, could I be any MORE clueless?) After a few tests, they told me that I had a heart attack and that I may need surgery. Tough words to hear when you are laying on a gurney in a hospital all alone. GWU admitted me and I underwent a stress test (which I failed miserably) and a heart catheterization, which is when a small camera is inserted into an artery in your groin and fished up through your body to take pictures of your heart. Amazingly, you are awake for the whole process, and you can even watch it on a monitor (I am actually looking into getting a copy of the CD that went to my heart surgeon … you know, to show at parties and stuff)

When the “cath” was completed, I was told that I had 100% blockage in the main artery to my heart, 90% blockage in two other arteries, and 65% blockage in two others. In short, I was a time bomb. And a good game of Frisbee lit the fuse.

I decided not to have the surgery at GWU, but to be transferred to a smaller hospital in Cumberland, MD – a few miles from my family. It would end up being easier on them, and Sacred Heart has one of the top cardio vascular units in the country. And the sixth-ranked national cardiac surgeon in the US is my cousin, Dr. Mark Nelson. I figured with all that going for me, back home was the place to be. I think I bruised a few egos at GWU, who could not understand why I was leaving their facility to go to a small hospital in a town they had never heard of.

I will write about my surgery in a later blog, once I fully understand everything that happened. So check back . . .