Usually they pass within a few minutes and I forget about them. But this one didn't pass. As time went on, it became more uncomfortable, leaving me feeling like I had bad chest congestion and a vaguely light-headed feeling. I didn't think it was a heart attack, but I could tell that something was definitely wrong.
Given how many friends and loved ones I've had keel over dead lately, especially from preventable things, I was determined not to be one of them. So as much as I didn't like the idea, I asked laurie_robey to drive me to Reston Hospital ER instead of just taking us home.
Turns out, that was the right call. After a bit of jiggery-pokery with EKG machines and blood tests and etc., I was quickly diagnosed with a case of atrial fibrillation, which basically boils down to, the top half of my heart was acting like a spaz. Instead of going "lub dub, lub dub," my heart was going "lub-lu-lub-lubbity dub lub lub lublub... ... ... dublublub." I had a heart rate of 160 beats per minute-- which is way, way too high.
Atrial fibrillation by itself is not dangerous, just damned uncomfortable. However, it has a secondary problem-- because your heart is not moving blood through it properly, the stuff just swirls around in there. And when blood stops moving, it clots. Thus, when your heart starts pumping correctly again, the clots come shooting out and head straight for your brain, causing stroke.
Not good. :P
So they admitted me overnight, pumped me full of blood thinners and a drug that reduces your heart rate (digoxin), and then yesterday, gave me a "cardioversion." Basically, they knocked me out and defibrillated me to reboot my heart. (I was tempted, but did make the obvious "Taze me, bro!" joke.)
It worked like a charm and right on the first zap, so I'm told. I woke up a few minutes later and, other than being tired from lack of sleep, felt better than I had for twenty hours or so. My head was clear, I could breathe easily, etc. Within a couple of hours I was up, dressed, and headed home like nothing had happened.
As for what caused this and what to do about it, the jury's still out. I have a ton of "risk factors," ranging from recurring high blood pressure to five years of nonstop angst and stress. My sleep apnea was a recurring theme and while I use the CPAP machine regularly, it could stand to be tuned again. Caffeine is a known factor, and I actually have been working on reducing my intake of that because it has crept up over time. (My deep and abiding love affair with Starbucks notwithstanding, I do need to throttle back on that.)
I also had a very interesting discussion with the doctor re: weight loss. In the words of John Goodman in True Stories, I maintain a very consistent panda bear shape. I have jogged, knocked myself out with kung fu, and so forth, but never been able to go below 285, so whenever the subject of weight loss comes up I just sorta sigh and wait for the storm to pass. However, in this case, the doctor told me that he was also in that boat and that he had decided to live with it until he adopted the "ideal protein" model of weight loss, on which he lost 150 lbs. So I will look into that. I would certainly rather be 200 lbs instead of 300, if I have the option.
In any case, I am alive and well and very grateful for all the support and good wishes from everyone. :) I shall do my best to stay alive, to honor all those folks who have requested it. ^.^