blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Mein Herz! Mein Herz!"

That's a line from Schubert's song, Die Post (No.13 of the Winterreise cycle). I performed it once for my A-level music exam. and now my husband sings it sometimes.
Was hat es, dass es so hoch aufspringt, mein Herz?... Was drängst du denn so wunderlich, mein Herz?
I've thought of that this week, while I've not been feeling well, suffering from a virus I must have picked up on the flight home from California, coughing a lot, and my heart pulsing like the accompaniment to that song where it modulates into the minor key (... dum-da-dum-da-dum ...) which is not its normal beat. On Sunday morning I was so alarmed by this erratic rhythm that I told Chris I thought I'd better go to a walk-in clinic to see a doctor––he promptly drove me to the Emergency Services Unit at our nearest hospital. It turned out to be an Interesting Experience, paid for by OHIP, of course, not me.

The triage nurse took a look at me (she wrote "colour, good" on the admission form), took my temperature and blood pressure and decided that I wasn't a particularly worrisome case. That was good, but it meant I had to wait my turn. Anticipated waiting time, 4-5 hours, so it said on the notice board. In a corner of the waiting room was a TV showing the beach volleyball games at the Olympics. This was a quiet day; we were lucky. Recently, so one of the hospital orderlies told me, the Emergency Unit had been so packed that at one point 40 people had been lying on gurneys in the corridors, waiting to be seen, and only two doctors on duty.

While waiting to be seen myself, I had four phials of blood taken to test my iodine, sodium, potassium levels, etc., a preliminary ECG test, and a cream cheese bagel from Tim Hortons. I thought I'd better avoid the coffee. Then a doctor took me briefly aside to go through my admission notes and tell me to wait a little longer before another doctor could examine me. After a couple of hours I was assigned a bed with privacy curtains around it (not that the curtains conceal any sounds!) where I could wear a hospital gown and be hooked up to the combined heart-, blood pressure- and oxygen-monitor. Luckily again, I'd made a point of asking whether Chris could come with me to this area, and he could––the nurse even brought him a chair, which was just as well, since we stayed there for another six hours. I'm also glad we'd both had the presence of mind to bring some books and such with us. The lady in the next bed along, also being tested for heart problems, had nothing to read (as we could hear her complain through the curtains) so in the end Chris took pity on her and gave her our copy of a recent London Review of Books; she accepted it gratefully! Other emergency patients on my row were in no fit state to read. One was groaning piteously, hardly conscious, and another was being interviewed by a psychiatrist. Quite comfortable on my raised bed with the two big pillows, except for the fact that the sensors with their cables and the sticky pads all over my skin were a bit irritating, I began to feel like a fraud for being there at all. Chris was fascinated by the machinery, though, especially as he analyses the operating systems of heart monitors, these days. This experience has brought the task to life for him!

Eventually an "intern" came to talk to us. He seemed very young but had a nice bedside manner; I'm glad they teach them that, these days. Going through the details and giving me the results of my blood tests (all clear) he gave the impression that I didn't have much to worry about, but he would return soon with his supervisor ... also young and courteous, who said much the same. The trouble was, neither of them seemed to know what was wrong with me. The intern student had drawn me a picture of the electrical pulses in my heart and the second doctor gave the abnormality a name that sounded like "By Gemini!" (Bigeminy). To Chris, it looked like bigamy. To rule out the possibility of a blood clot, heart attack or defect in the lungs, the doctor recommended I have a second blood test six hours after the previous one and a chest x-ray, which reminds me of the book I'm currently (re)reading, Thomas Mann's Der Zauberberg: in which the hero is overawed by the chest x-ray pictures he sees––new to the world in the first decade of the 20th century when that story takes place. I was quite impressed with my own lungs, too, which I could clearly see on the computer screen in the doctors' room opposite my bed. I could recognise my shoulders, even though just bones. Those extra tests also turned out to give reassuring results (clear, normal).

I was finally released from my cable attachments and sticky pads and the hospital itself at around 9:30 p.m. and we thankfully drove back home.

My heart is still skipping. In a couple of weeks I'll have a Holter monitor fitted for a 24-hour assessment and shall see a cardiologist in mid-September. We still haven't a clue what has caused the problem.

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