That was a shocker...



I didn't expect to spend Thanksgiving in the Emergency Room, but that's what happened. And, thanks to the Packers dismal performance later in the evening, I almost ended-up back there. Oye. :-)

All kidding aside, here's the story. Figured posting it here was the easiest way to share the info without having to retell the story a bunch of times. I'm truly grateful for the questions and concerns, but all is 100% ok, and I am feeling totally normal again.

On Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), I woke-up at around 5:00am with an incredibly anxious and uncomfortable feeling. My heart would pound for a bit, then stop, then beat very slowly, and then repeat that process. Even though I was in bed, not moving, I felt really out of breath.

I figured I had a bad dream or something, and tried to calm myself and return to sleep. But, after lying in bed for 30+ minutes not feeling any differently, I figured something was amiss. I decided to get up and lie down in the living room for a bit.

As soon as I stood-up, the room started to spin and I felt a rush of pressure in my neck. Hmm. Not cool. Alas, I'm a guy, and figured a few glasses of water and some relaxing would probably make everything ok.

So, I downed a bunch of water and sat on the couch. And then I got hit with some *massive* GI (stomach) fun. Off to the bathroom, posthaste! Ugh.

I spent the morning taking it easy on the couch, surfing the web (a lot of WebMD and my health care provider's website). I figured that if I didn't get better by mid-morning, I'd go to the Urgent Care Center.

My thinking was that I was probably having some type of an anxiety attack, and was becoming fixated on it, which was perpetuating the problem. I thought that if I went into the Urgent Care Center, they'd check me over and say, "You're just having some anxiety, take it easy and rest up." Again, because I'm a guy, at around 10am, I decided that despite not feeling any better, I'd do some light housework.

I couldn't walk up the stairs without my heart racing - my pulse was nearly 170bpm. When I tried to move a few boxes around in the spare room, I felt very woozy. Something really was amiss. But, I decided to stay home and not go see anyone (hint: that's not smart). I thought that maybe my electrolytes were low, so I drank several glasses of water mixed with Nuun electrolyte tablets.

An hour later, I saw no improvement, and in fact, things were worse, as it now felt like there was a heavy weight sitting directly on my sternum, and my breathing was even more labored. Each breath felt like less than 50% of the air was getting into my lungs.

At around 1:30pm, my friends, Wendy and Tamara texted to say they were in need of some food as they had spent the day cutting down a Christmas tree. They wanted to venture into Madison and were curious if I would join them. I explained that I wasn't feeling good and was going to stay home. They pressed a bit, and I soon found myself sitting next to them at Woody & Anne's, eating some delicious roasted turkey and trying to sip on a PBR.

Tamara is a firefighter/EMT/first-responder for the city of Madison. She took my pulse and said that things were definitely "off." She didn't really insist, but rather, suggested that I visit the emergency room. She asked me about 2-dozen questions, and felt I should have things checked-out. I begged differently.

At about the same time, Jenny called to see what my plans were for the evening. I told her what was happening, and she was more persuasive than Wendy and Tamara... Jenny is not only my girlfriend, but a veteran Registered Nurse who does in-patient, post-operative care for the UW Hospital.

Next thing I knew, Wendy and Tamara were driving me to the UW Emergency Room. I walked-in to the ER, which was silent - not another person in the place - and told them my symptoms.

Within 3-minutes, I was in a gown, lying on a bed, with 4 people poking needles into me, attaching leads, running oxygen, and asking me a million questions. Crikey... what did I get myself into?

The initial EKG showed an irregular heartbeat. Duh. They thought it was likely Atrial Fibrillation, but ordered several tests, just to be safe.

I had: chest x-rays, a heart sonogram, another EKG, a complete blood panel workup; the guy who drew my blood for the ABG, CBC, and TSH was a butcher. Whatever he did to draw that blood made my entire arm get hot and go numb. I later looked at the puncture wounds, and they were *huge* and I have a bunch of nice deep bruises. Not fun.

Jenny came down to the ER (she was just finishing her shift) and sat in the room with me. I'm so glad she knew what was going on - she noticed certain things and would ask questions and would tell me what to expect. She also fixed several of the wires and other hoses/tubes so that they were more comfortable. The IV they ran was done in such a way that it was very uncomfortable and almost pulling itself out. She corrected it and whew - what a relief.


The ER doctors returned after a while and said that I was indeed experiencing Atrial Fibrillation. They explained that the electrical impulses that control your heart were somehow out of sync, and needed to be reset. I had two options for this: they could do it with medicine, but that would require an overnight stay, and may or may not have corrected the issue.

Option number two: an electrical shock to the heart, which should immediately reset the impulses and allow me to go home. They said they'd give me a mild sedative to help ease the pain of the shock, but that I would be fully conscious during the event.

I opted for the shock.

They brought out a small blue cart and applied two huge adhesive pads to me - one on the front of my chest, and one on my back. Those pads were connected to leads that went to the cart. Here's a super unflattering picture of me with the pads in place (the shocker pad is the one with the "+" on it).


(Sorry in advance, ladies but, I'm taken...)

They then gave me two shots of blood thinner (to my stomach - ouch!!) and waited for about 15 minutes before giving me 25mg of Propofol (the same stuff Michael Jackson OD'd on) via my IV.

I have never done or tried a drug of any type (other than the sedative for my colonoscopy), nor have I ever tried a cigarette or anything other than alcohol. Propofol was weird - I could literally feel it make my head feel light and then it immediately went away. The effect of it lasted maybe 10 seconds at the most.

So, they gave me another dose. Same thing.

A third dose. Same thing.

A final fourth dose. Same thing. And then ******WHAAAAAAMMMMO*******

They hit the shock after that fourth dose, and wowser. It lit me up something fierce. 100 joules of electrical energy straight to the heart. I think my arms and legs lifted straight off the bed. It felt like someone slammed me with a baseball bat in the chest (I would later learn that 1 joule is the amount of energy required to lift 1 pound 9-feet in the air in 1-second... so, that's quite a wallop). I made some type of crazy noise. My vision went white and starry. It only lasted a millisecond, but crikey - what a jolt.

And then I felt normal. My heart rate went from 150+ to 80 to 70 to 60 within a minute or two. It was so crazy. The chest pain was gone, and I felt an immediate calm and sense of normalcy. The doctors said that things looked like they went well, but they wanted to do a final EKG to validate.

That last EKG took nearly 1.5 hours to happen... they must have gotten busier as the night went on. The EKG looked good, the doctor requested that I visit a cardiologist next week for a full echocardiogram with dye just to make sure all valves are ok, and I was unceremoniously released from the ER by 9:00pm.

Jenny drove me home and we hung out with Flea for a little before Jenny headed back to her house (she had to work the next day at 6:00am). What a trooper... worked all day at the hospital, and then spent all night at it with me. I owe her one, for sure.

Flea knew something was up... she jumped up on the couch and wouldn't stop smelling me. When she smelled one of the holes in my arm from the blood draw, she started squealing and whining. I've never seen her do that before. She tried to lick it, but I didn't let her. So, she started licking my face like crazy. I can't imagine what she was thinking, but she was obviously upset. She spent the rest of the night pressed against me like never before... she had no interest in her Packers blanket or burrowing. When I got up, she would follow me, right on my heels.

So odd.

So, there you have it. Today is Friday, 11/27, and I feel 100% fine and normal. Like nothing ever happened. I hope I don't have to repeat that process again... the doctors said there are any number of things that can cause "AFib" and if it were to happen again, they'd look into some type of medication. I've got my fingers crossed that it doesn't happen again. :-)

Massive thanks go out to Wendy, Tamara, and Jenny for strongly suggesting that I seek care. AFib, if left untreated, can cause serious heart damage and/or stroke, so I'm glad they talked sense into me. Thank you, all!


PS: I cannot say enough good things about the doctors and staff at the UW Emergency Room. They were really incredible and so talented (well, except for the blood guy). They had such a calm, professional, decisive manner about them - it was really a good overall experience.

PPS: Just had a follow-up phone call with UW Health, and they said all of my bloodwork looks great, and that things look 100% fine. I do have to go in for a final echocardiogram just so that they can look at all of the valves, but otherwise this should be a one-time experience.

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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on November 27, 2015 10:45 AM.

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