Friday, April 22, 2011

A Cardiac Crisis and the Monster Mash

The latest prompt from Chronic Babe blog carnival asks: How do you handle a crisis? No matter how hard we try to take care of ourselves, there are times when things go horribly wrong, either with our health or some other personal issue. How do you prepare for such a turn of events? How do you cope in the middle of it all? And how do you recover?

Well, a crisis has to be handled on a situation by situation basis. There are two major crisis that come to mind in my life and I believe I already wrote on one, so I'll talk about the other, more recent crisis I had.

The worst situation, in my head, was to have a major episode of tachycardia around my friends. Though I am not embarrassed by my health and I am happy to talk about it anytime, I knew I would be just mortified if anything occurred while my friends were around. I think it was the idea of appearing weak and sick around my friends that scared me most. I like being the loud-mouthed funny one; not the sickly mousy girl.


So, back up to October of 2007. I decided to throw a Halloween party for my girlfriends. Not just a simple dinner and scary movies party, either. Oh, no. I went ALL out ~ glowsticks, homemade and store-bought decorations, a YouTube channel to loop videos of Halloween cartoons from our youth, a ShoutCAST radio station to play retro spooky tunes as we ate spaghetti topped with my signature homemade spaghetti sauce. I had a variety of movies on hand, ranging on the fright meter from so bad it's scary to mildly gross to downright nightmare-worthy. I even created a few spooktacular games including a horror movie version of WHO AM I? and a full fledged Halloween theme JEOPARDY! complete with final Jeopardy question and prizes.
It was a crowning achievement in my parties, and I was extra pleased that nearly all of my guests were able to come. As we are getting older, lives are changes, careers are blossoming and it's becoming more and more difficult to get together.

Earlier that day I felt a little palpitation at work. No worries; I popped my back-up pill and alerted my supervisor just in case it turned into something bigger. Fortunately, it didn't...while I was at work, anyway!

That evening, my party was in full spooky swing - we had played one game, watched the Garfield Halloween special and were sitting around the dining room table enjoy dinner with Halloween-y tunes in the background when all of a sudden--! WHAM! My heart takes off like a bat out of hell, going into full-blown tachycardia. Remaining calm and quiet about it, I do not let on what's going on. I drink copious amounts of water and take deep breaths, then slowly get up and take my evening pills. Nothing. My heart doesn't even slow down or pause.
I excused myself and go visit my mother in her room, collapsing on her bed and confessing what has been going on. I want to keep it a secret if I could, try and get my heart down on its own. My mom tries to listen and record it with her stethoscope but it was going too fast.

She goes to get another emergency pill I use for rapid heart rate - trying not to meet the eyes of my friends in case they ask where I wandered off to. She gives me the pill, but I am suddenly nauseous and...well, I get sick. Sicker than I've ever been. I have never, ever, once upchucked during a tachycardia episode. This does not bode well. It was time to call it quits, throw in my towel and get my ass to the ER.


My mom went out to my friends and told them - I was too embarrassed (not to mention sick) to do it myself. They were totally shocked, having no clue I what I was dealing with. They tried to clean up a little, just enough to make sure my kittens (only 6 months old at this time) wouldn't get into anything. I changed into my pajamas (the only way to be admitted to any hospital!) and took my electric razor and quickly buzzed off my arm hair.

PROTIP: If you're going to the hospital, shave your arms! You will thank me when the hospital tape doesn't hurt as much.

I tried to crack jokes for my friends, but they were clearly freaked. I was pale, sickly and probably a little blue around my eyes and lips. Perfect look for a Halloween party, but not under these circumstances!
I apologized profusely, lamenting about my ruined decorations, games, prizes, etc. but my friends were of course more concerned about me than getting to dessert and Jeopardy.

They gathered their things and left, and my mom and I left. In front of my friends, I remained collected, calm and even jokey. As soon as they were out of sight, though, and I was in the backseat of my mom's Toyota, I was crying, stressed and utterly freaked out.
This was one out of two situations where I honestly thought to myself, Oh my god, this it. This is freakin' it. It's all over, age 25. Well, at least I traveled...

So it's 40 minutes of these kind of thoughts that I am trying NOT to have. Now, you may be thinking OMG WHY WOULD YOU DRIVE SO FAR? Frankly, I don't trust my local hospitals, especially in an emergency. They're not specialty hospitals, they don't know how to handle me and they've already proven to be incompetent twice over by this point.

When my tachycardia first began, it would send me to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia ER at least once a month in a four year span. This night blew those episodes out of the water!
It was the actual act of being physically ill that made kept my internal panic button flashing, but I did my best to not think this was curtains for me. When I was finally at the ER and surrounded by doctors that I knew, however, I felt better and was able to calm down. I trust TEAM RACHAEL! and TR! affiliates like Dr. Catwoman with my life. These are the people I knew would save me and make it better. As much grief as I give them, it's moments like these that make them worth every single pill they prescribe, blood test they order and obnoxious stress test they administer.

How did that night end? Well, I'm here, aren't I? They knocked me out and decided to electrically cardiovert me (that's when they get out the paddles and yell, "CLEAR!" on TV) which shocked my heart back into submission. I woke up immediately afterward, feeling surprisingly rested (amazing what 100-400 watts of electricity can do for the body, huh?) and asked how long I'd been knocked out. 30 seconds!

Thank goodness, they found the source for my tachycardia: hypothyroid (crazy what that little sucker thyroid gland can control!) and while I've had a couple of arrhythmia issues here and there, I have, thankfully, not been to the UCLA emergency room since October of 2007.

So, long story short: How do I handle a crisis? Get my butt to TEAM RACHAEL!, stat!

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