Saturday, February 12, 2011

The WORST (and most expensive) Valentine's Date EVER

I've got a beautiful view of the Wasatch mountains and the shimmering lights of the city unfolding in front of them as the sun goes down.  I can see the backside of the mountain that sits behind our house where my family will be sleeping without me tonight: I'm in the hospital.

I've been tossing around a lot of different titles for this post, but finally settled on this simple one that really says it all. I concentrated on all kinds of things just now during the MRI--the last of a battery of tests. Lucky for me I like to make a cave when I sleep, sometimes wear ear plugs, and also turn on white noise. (That's basically an MRI in a nutshell, but the "white noise" is LOUD.) If I were inclined to claustrophobia that would have done me in. The MRI came after three blood tests, a 24 hour urine collection that is still ongoing (I have a nice little portable fridge in my bathroom for this very purpose), an EKG, an echo cardiogram with bubble test, a CT scan of my chest with contrast, and more monitors and tubes hooked up to my body than Kate wanted to see. (My massive IV almost made her gag.)

Ya, it's been pretty romantic. Let me back up a little.

About three days ago I got a funny shimmery v-shaped line in my left eye that grew larger and larger until it left my field of vision. I knew what would come next (a dull ache behind my eyes) because this has now happened four times in less than two years. When it first happened two summers ago I was visiting my family in Iowa and had a full work up done by a family friend who is an ophthalmologist, and he felt sure it was just a variant of a migraine. It happened once again in California, once this past fall, and then again three days ago. But this time was different, because the headache didn't go away after taking some Advil and going to bed. It kept coming and going over the next few days, usually worsening later in the day.

So there we were on our romantic Valentine's dinner date at a lovely new restaurant about a half hour from our home. We had just finished sharing a salad, and were in the middle of some "palate cleansing" blood orange sorbet when my heart started to race like mad!  I grabbed Brandon by the shoulder and told him I was going to pass out.  I was sure of it.  My hands started to tingle, my legs started to shake--I really didn't think I was going to make it.  Brandon told me to calm down and breathe, and I told him to call an ambulance. He said he could take me to the hospital himself rather than wait for an ambulance, but I told him I could NOT walk to the car. I already had my feet up at this point, trying to get as horizontal as possible.

The restaurant called 911, the paramedics came in a firetruck, and I was wheeled away in a stretcher, leaving behind my piping hot mushroom ravioli, and Brandon his rib eye. (I know, it's pathetic I'm even mentioning this, but the only good news in this story is that we didn't have to pay for that delicious food we never got to eat. The other good thing is that this didn't happen a few hours earlier when I was by myself with five young children at an indoor playground. Oh, the thought! I also kept thinking about how glad I was that I didn't live in Haiti or Nairobi.)

In the ambulance they gave me aspirin and nitroglycerin, and I noticed my jaw starting to tighten up. I still don't know what that means but I'm sure it can't be good--I don't want to know. They hooked me up to an IV, did an EKG, asked me a bunch of questions, and stripped me of my cute little outfit while hooking me up to a heart monitor.  (Not exactly what I had in mind after dinner. Wrong people, wrong setting, wrong intent.)

Off to the ER where my legs continued to shake uncontrollably, and my heart continued to race. I won't lie--it was more than a little bit scary. I am a praying person by nature.  I talk to God off and on all day long about all kinds of stuff, and let me tell you, we were talking about serious stuff last night.

Enter physician husband, Brandon.  I know I've mentioned on here before (like a few weeks ago when Will had his weird breathing thing) how grateful I am to be married to a physician when stuff like this happens, because I am certain I would otherwise be dead from panic and anxiety. Well, when your problem is a racing heart and you start to get panicked, what do you get?  More racing heart!  So I have never been more grateful for that man of mine than I was last night when he kept calm and cool, and continuously talked me through everything, explaining to me what it all meant. And while paramedics and nurses are wonderful, Brandon knew a heck of a lot more than they did, even though he was great about letting them do their job without intruding too much. He was also simultaneously taking calls for his own hospital since he was on call--the hospital we WOULD have been going to if we had been eating closer to home. It was all just a little too hairy. His partner ended up covering him once he got a hold of him, but for awhile there he was getting a flurry of calls at all the wrong times.

Even though he was doing a good job of looking like he was in total control, I found out later he was freaked out too when I heard him talking to my mom about how no matter what he sees on a day to day basis, it's just not easy to watch your wife drive away in an ambulance hooked up to an EKG. But I never knew that. I get teary just thinking about it.

Long story short, while Brandon wanted to believe some punk in the kitchen "spiked" my blood orange sorbet (that would explain the symptoms and be the easiest solution--the substance would just run it's course and leave the body), it ended up being something else Brandon was worried about: a PFO.  In lay terms, a hole in the heart.  It's very small, and apparently about 25% of you are all walking around with one too, but some people start to get symptoms like mine that can cause problems further down the line (like stroke), so they are recommending a procedure to "fill in" the hole.  It's done intravenously I believe, is fairly common, and will completely solve the problem. I'll go home tomorrow morning, and then we'll have to make an appointment with a cardiologist and probably wait several weeks until I can get it done. (What do I do in the meantime, have panic attacks every time I leave the house alone with Rachael in the car, worrying that this will happen again!?)  My doctor told me her ex-husband had it done and he's run two triathalons since. (And since I'm such a big triatholon runner, that's a good thing . . .) Interestingly, I did run a couple of miles on our treadmill that day, a form of exercise I don't normally do, so my doctor thinks that might have been what tipped me over the edge.

I'm finally feeling somewhat better (except for this darn headache!) after a long night and semi-restful day (minus the 37 tests), so Brandon knew I would be tired of the Food Network and brought me my beloved laptop. Man, is blogging ever therapeutic!

If the MRI or urine tests come back with different results, I guess I'll be changing my story, but for now--that's all I've got! 

Here's to good neighbors who came to our house in the middle of the night and stayed with our children today, modern medicine, technology (yes, I love technology . . .), doctors and nurses, and the power of prayer.  


  1. Wow that's an incredible story. I'm so glad you were with Brandon and not driving. How scary for you and Brandon watching you. I hope you get your surgery quickly and everything goes very well! Sorry to hear you even went through this.

  2. Been there, done that! Well, mostly, anyway. It wasn't Valentine's Day, but we'd only been married about 5 months. I had played in a softball game, and my heart rate never came back down. Resting (abt 1 hr post-game) heart rate was 168 bpm. Kinda high. But, I didn't get all the cool stuff you did (MRI, urine test, etc.) probably because I was 20, and...not another number, and because I had no insurance. I still don't know the cause, and it still happens, though much more mildly (resting hr=~110-120 bpm.)

    But, yeah, heart things are completely scary. It's horrible to have to watch someone, so I'm also feeling Brandon's pain. Glad you are feeling better. Just be prepared for a long wait for the cardio appt. Drs seem to not notice that some things are more urgent than others.

    Maybe it'll make you feel a little better to know that I won't even get to see my valentine on Monday. I'm on a 6-day shift in Bakersfield this whole week. :(

    Here's a hug for you.

  3. Oh my gosh, I'm so glad your are ok. I wish you would have called me last night. I would have loved to have had a slumber party at your house. You have angels watching over you (and your neighbors too!).

  4. Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry. Yes, that truly is the worst Valentines day ever! I'm glad your husband was with you at the time, and you weren't alone, that would be scary. My thoughts and prayers are with you, I hope the issue is resolved soon.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. It's made me take a closer look at how I've been feeling lately. I'm home from church with a sick little one, and doing some googeling on my palpitations I've been feeling lately. Keep us posted, and you'll be in our prayers.

  6. Goodness gracious! Thankful to know you are ok and that they are finding out more answers for you. I just got little snippets from mom on the phone, so I was happy to get the full story from you. We are praying for you and for Brandon and the kids. Keep us posted. Love you.

  7. Oh my goodness! That's quite a scare! I am glad to hear the cause has been found. I hope you're able to get an appointment soon. :(

  8. Oh my word, what an experience! I know all too well the part about you and God talking about serious stuff that night. Almost 6 years ago I had an experience that I found myself pleading with God for Him not to take me yet.... Scary stuff Allyson!

    Hopefully this won't be anything too serious for you. Take it easy--you'll be in my thoughts and prayers

  9. Best wishes from the Gunsolleys of Mesa, Az. Be well!

    - Chris, Roccena, Carena, Colt, & Jonathan.

  10. You've been in our prayers all day. Love to you and your family.

  11. Very scary! I hope everything turns out okay, and that you are already resting at home. Strangely enough, I've got an MRI in my immediate future too.

  12. Oh my goodness. That is so scary! I'm so grateful you made it to the hospital and are getting the treatment you need. I'll keep you in my prayers. Hope you have a speedy recover.

  13. Allyson oh my goodness! So glad you were with Brandon last night! You are in my thoughts and prayers! :)


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