Not long ago--just April 26, though it seems like an age ago--I wrote about the persistent wooziness/dizziness I'd been experiencing. I'd actually passed out in the health club shower room (suffering no more than indignity and a boo-boo on my left knee).
Then ... things got darker.
During the subsequent week (the shower-fall had occurred on Monday, April 24) my symptoms worsened. I couldn't drive. Couldn't stand for long--or even sit for long--without becoming disoriented. Reading was nearly impossible--though I struggled to meet a book-review deadline. Which I met. Barely.
My family physician set up an appointment for me--a week hence--to have some cardiac tests. During the week I worsened. Was spending most of my time flat on my back on the couch or in bed. I slept a lot, thank goodness. Going to my beloved Open Door Coffee Co. here in Hudson was impossible.
Then, on Sunday, April 30, after supper, I convinced Joyce to take me on a little drive to mail a couple of letters I'd managed to write to my mom and to a friend. I'd not been outside in days.
We drove over to Stow--only a few miles away--then stopped for gas on the way back. By the time we got home, only a few minutes later, I was in distress. In a full, soaking sweat. Barely conscious.
Joyce pulled into the driveway and asked me if we should call 911. I thought I could tough it out. Get inside. Lie down. Rest. I started to climb out of the passenger seat. But felt waves--yes, waves--of nausea. I slumped back.
"Call them," I said.
They were there in moments, got me on a gurney, wheeled me into the vehicle, and off we roared,--lights, sirens, the whole thing--up to University Hospitals in Chagrin--Ahuja. It was odd, looking out the rear door, seeing Hudson flee from me. I resisted thinking too much about the metaphorical significance of that (valedictory?) view.
I saw Joyce back our car out of the driveway, then lost her. I would not see her again until I'd been in the ER awhile.
Meanwhile, inside the vehicle, a young EMT was sticking my arm with needles, asking questions, doing what those folks do so well.
We arrived in only about twenty minutes, and then ... I flowed into the system, one leaf on a busy, busy, busy stream.
I'm a little unclear about all that was done to me initially. I was out of it. But they decided to admit me, would run many tests to see what was going on.
Joyce was finally able to come in to see me--and that, my friends, is a sight of wonder that will go with me to the grave.
Lakes of blood they drew from my arm (where an EMT had installed a port). I got a chest X-ray (a mobile machine!). I spent the night in the Observation area--not the most pleasant night I ever spent. Before I settled in for the night, though, our son, Steve, arrived ... and that was a grand sight, as well.
I did not sleep much. It's a busy place, the Observation area. People coming and going. Full-voice conversations all around. Phones ringing. I was out maybe an hour all night? Maybe a little more?
In the morning (last Monday) the many tests commenced, among them an echo cardiogram, a stress test (!). I had to wait, of course, for hours for the results--but I must say (with gratitude) that they worked me in to the necessary locations with speed and compassion.
I saw three different MDs during the course of my 24-hour stay (approximately), and the final one, a cardiologist, told me that my heart was fine. That I was probably having a severe reaction to the new blood-pressure med I'd been on. He took me off that med and told me I should be better in a few days.
Relieved, we drove home, and I settled in to recuperate ... and wait for the Return of the Normal.
Which didn't come.
I remained woozy. My eyesight blurring when I tried to read.
Still, I did slowly get stronger, a little more sure of myself. And Joyce began driving me here and there, just to get out of the house. I got home without passing out!
I had an appointment last week with my PCP, and she set me up for an MRI of the brain.
On Friday morning, off to the Twinsburg UH facility, where--in a trailer outside!--they did the MRI. I lay on my back reciting poems I've memorized--my wonted way to pass the time in huge medical devices that make me feel as if I'm in an episode of Star Trek.
I joked to the technician as she escorted me into the trailer that this was getting a little creepy. A trailer! I think I've seen the movie ...
The results came back later in the day: Unremarkable. That's not really a word, in one sense, that I'd like to hear about my brain, you know? Unremarkable. But in the medical sense, well, it's the precise word I did want to hear.
Symptoms persisted. Wooziness. Blurry vision now and then. But my strength was increasing--I wasn't sleeping all the time--and I actually started walking back to the coffee shop, morning and after lunch, at first with Joyce's company--for security!
Sunday morning--yesterday--I made bread. Though very slowly so.
I had pretty much been unable to read anything more than the daily quota I have for book-reviewing. Sometimes I could read a little at night in bed.
But now I'm able to read a little more. In fact, this afternoon, I should actually finish the novel by Dan Chaon (Ill Will) that I was reading when all of this falling-on-my-ass stuff started.
I haven't been to the health club since I passed out in the shower two weeks ago. But I am thinking of going out this afternoon, just to walk some laps and get back into the habit. Nothing more strenuous, not at first.
I see my PCP tomorrow, and she is moving on to the next potential solution--via an ophthalmologist. Perhaps he/she will be able to find the source of all of this.
Meanwhile, I am not "myself"--a concept that keeps changing, of course, throughout our lives. But since that Monday fall-in-the-shower, I have been someone else. Weaker. More vulnerable. More dependent. Less sure of myself. Less able to do the things I love. I don't like it. Not a bit.
A COUPLE OF MILDLY POLITICAL OBSERVATIONS:
- UH Ahuja was packed with in-coming every hour. Every age. Ethnicity. Status. Our medical professionals are under continuous pressure to perform. We are lucky to have them.
- And speaking of "lucky": I have health insurance. Medicare + a supplemental. Everyone should have the same sort of thing.
- I have several "pre-existing conditions." Including metastatic cancer. A loss of coverage would bankrupt us.
- The medical professionals who dealt with me at Ahuja--and there were many--featured virtually no WASPs, including all three MDs, all the nurses, most of the aides. A virtual United Nations of people treated me. Saved me. Why---when they speak of immigrants--do many allude only to the most egregious among them? What about those myriads of others--the vast, vast, vast majority of them--whose very presence, skills, hearts improve life in this country in so many ways? For everyone. Condemning all because of the worst would leave no area of life unstained--teaching, medicine, religion, politics, business, the law, parenthood, etc.