My mind became woozy as the blood drained from my arm, and I swear I heard the woman responsible tell me she was from Transylvania. How did I even get here?
How did I get from rum drinks in Panama to a hospital three days away? And that was only the beginning.
Clichés abound about the road of life having a plethora of potholes, teeth jarring speed bumps, unintended detours, and other assorted diversions and misdirection.
I’m not talking about the perennial story of some bonehead who blindly follows their GPS onto clearly untraveled winter roads, questionable shortcuts across barren lands, and yes…even into a lake. Darwinian selection at its finest.
In the last two years, I found my own share of the above, sans the GPS misadventures. As I have oft repeated, I have never been lost. Like Daniel Boone, I have been a might confused for a spell. But never lost.
My maladies were more of a medical nature, as in nature reminded me that planned obsolescence is not limited to home appliances, cell phones, and that tuna sandwich in your fridge.
The accounting of my adventures through the halls of multiple medical facilities will be presented a la Dave Berry’s Year in Review (times two).
In January of 2015,
The story began in a previous episode, set in a faraway harbor on the remote coast of Panama where I traveled for a planned two-week sailing and snorkeling sojourn.
On my morning stroll down the dock on only Day Two, my heart started beating as if I had just met and was propositioned by a scantly attired Olivia Munn. Whatever the cause, I knew that I could either find somewhere to sit, or risk being swoon into the sea.
After a few hours of my pulse racing like a little VW Golf navigating the Autobahn while trying to avoid be run over by the Porsches, BMWs, and Mercedes (been there, done that), I spent the next three days getting home, while my internal tachometer registered in the neighborhood of 150+. I wondered how long before I would blow a piston.
I decided it was preferable to take the requisite water taxi, multiple flights with a hotel stay in one country and a long layover in another, to get home after I was told by the locals that they would think twice before going to the little clinic in town for anything more than a Band-Aid, and that the nearest hospital ER was an hour trek across the open ocean by panga.
I made it home and was reminded that if you approach the Emergency Room registration window with a complaint of chest pain, they quickly find you a bed and have you hooked up to various machines and tubes before—well almost before—you can whip out your health insurance card.
Once my cardiologist arrived, I learned of a cardiac version of a re-boot, innocently called a cardio-version. What the name does not necessarily illustrate is the means by which that is accomplished.
Let’s just say, the wife-person could have—and probably would’ve been more than willingly to have—accomplished the same result by applying jumper cable leads to my nipples and the other to my backside, connected to a car battery, and then yelling, “CLEAR,” followed by a ZAPPPZZ!
“Dear, you can stop doing that now..my heartrate is back to…”
ZAPPPZZ! ZAPPPZZ! ZAPPPZZ!
Mercifully, the procedure was done under the care of the cardiologist, and by under the care, I mean under the influence of really good drugs.
A funny thing happened while I was laying around waiting for those really good drugs to wear off, all the while repeating myself to the poor nurse (as is not uncommon when “coming off” anesthesia).
“Did I tell you I was just on the beach in Panama drinking rum?”
“Did I tell you I was just on the beach in Panama drinking rum?”
The doc wanted to talk to me, I assumed to tell me that I was back to normal (well, what accounted as normal for me), but rather she had other news.
During the course of all the probing and poking they were doing in the ER when I first arrived, they took some pictures of me, in which they noticed what looked like a golf ball perched on my right kidney.
My first reaction was,
“But, I don’t even play golf!”
In March of 2015,
It was back to the hospital for more probing and poking.
This time, I was to be under the care of a different doc, and by under the care, I mean under the influence of more really good drugs.
Another funny thing happened while I was laying around waiting for those really good drugs when the doc came in and said (and a la Dave Berry, I am not making this up) they could not find the clamps necessary to proceed with slicing me open and spreading me out like a fillet, to which I asked for clarification,
“Can I get those really good drugs NOW?!?”
About an hour later, they “found” the needed clamps, which I swore were in a box labeled Amazon Prime.
Then in March, April, and May, of 2015,
With only one kidney, came limitations on blood pressure meds, which meant I got to work with yet another doc on numerous prescription changes.
Let’s just say that some didn’t work enough and some worked too well. You might wonder what constitutes, “too well,” but walking woozily or driving in a serpentine path sometimes generates unintended attention of law enforcement types.
In late 2015 and early 2016,
Things settle down, as my pill bottles of various prescriptions grow to a pharmacy-sized collection.
By this point, I am committed to one of those old-person pill organizers, with separate little compartments for each day and night of the week.
(Laugh now, Bunkie…some day. Some day.)
Once a week, the kitchen table looks like a Columbian drug distribution site with all of the pill bottles lined up.
This takes us to July 2016 when,
I began to experience some severe heartburn, and assumed it was gastrointestinal (G.I.) related. Medically, the fact that we equate something with “heart” in the name to having consumed too many spicy burritos the night before, just sets us up for some of the misdirection I alluded to earlier.
I spent the next few months with a thorough G.I. evaluation from stem to stern, which started with numerous blood tests. Then came the poo tests, which they later told me they did NOT want delivered in a brown grocery bag; I explained it was a much bigger target than those little plastic cups they gave me.
Continuing, I got not one, but two, sonograms, as if a misplaced pregnancy was the cause of my discomfort.
Finally, I got to experience the depths of their thoroughness when in one visit they wanted to take a close look from top to bottom. Thankfully it was while unconscious from yet more of those really good drugs, as they ran a camera down my gullet, followed immediately by ramming it up from the other end…hopefully it was in that order!
The result of all that: nothing found, except for all the massive medical charges.
By now, it’s October 2016 when,
It was back to the cardiologist where she decided to put the “heart” back in heartburn I was still experiencing.
The next test was one where they inject you with radioactive dye, and then take pictures as your body glows internally as if you just visited Chernobyl.
This time they did not find nothing. They found that nothing was flowing past an almost total blockage of a major cardiac artery, which they euphemistically called a “widow maker.”
They literally told me that this condition does not result in a heart attack, but rather you just fall over dead. Charming description.
On Halloween, 2016,
Trick or treat. Another ambulance ride to another hospital and, oh boy, more really good drugs, while they threaded a wire up inside of me from my leg, pushing a little spring-loaded doohickey that they SPRUNG! open when they ran into the end of the path. This was like unkinking a water hose up in there, which is a good thing as it got blood flowing back throughout the body, thus allowing me to walk from the recliner to the refrigerator without stopping en route to catch my breath.
In November and December of 2016,
There were a few more potholes, speed bumps, and detours that took me through another emergency room visit, more drug changes, and finally a couple more applications of a ZAPPPZZ!, but at least I’m back on the O.K. to travel list again.
The docs are still sending me to an occasional visit with my local neighborhood phlebotomist to check on things, the latest being yesterday, where I discovered that (and I am not making this up) the woman sucking the blood out of my arm really is from Transylvania.
While her nametag did not say her name was Elvira, she did have the most interesting teeth.