I sometimes wish for a night away from it all and last Friday that wish was granted. But I didn’t get a Spa get-away for an early birthday present, and that night wasn’t the least bit relaxing. Friday started like any school day – up at 5 AM, at school by 6:30, in the trenches at 7:30. First period sped by as the 8th graders discussed inherited traits and how they could possibly be the only person in their family with curly hair, and I was still on a roll when I switched gears to go over body systems with the 7th graders in second period.
I lost ground suddenly without warning, my vision blurred, I felt a constriction in my chest and had the urge to vomit. I thought I would pass out and I completely lost my train of thought and ability to communicate instructions for the prepared activity. Luckily I had an Aide in my classroom and I asked her to watch over things while I ducked down the hall to see the school nurse. I told her I needed her to take my blood pressure and she did, all the while telling me about a stomach virus that had taken out another teacher, “That could be what’s ailing you,” she said. Then she saw my blood pressure reading – 180/110. By the time I arrived at the emergency room it was 213/125.
So I spent the rest of Friday in the ER bay hooked up to an IV drip and oxygen, electrodes measuring my heart rhythm, a blood pressure cuff strapped around my arm, enduring multiple blood draws and scheming to leave as soon as possible. “If you cause a distraction, I’m sure I can disable the alarm on this thing,” I told the school secretary who’d drawn the short straw and had driven me to the hospital. Unfortunately as bored as she was sitting there and answering email while she watched the nurses torture me, she refused to help me break out! Hours went by. I was bored. The nurse told me to be patient. The secretary told me to be patient. I told them as a single mom to four kids and a middle school teacher I never had time to be patient – I always had more things to do than time to do them!
Finally the doctor reappeared but instead of releasing me she insisted I stay the night – my blood pressure hadn’t stabilized and they needed additional blood samples to monitor for heart damage. If I left it would be against medical advice and I’d have to pay for the entire bill out of pocket. With that terse and frightening (the bill part) explanation she disappeared, the school secretary gave me a rueful shrug and the nurses trundled me off to the second floor to intensive care. I was quite the novelty in the ICU – a patient who swung herself off the gurney and walked over to the bed instead of being heaved there by orderlies, cracking jokes as they hooked me back up to the numerous tubes and wires in the new room. I’m pretty sure I only ended up in the ICU due to a lack of beds in the regular ward.
Truthfully I wasn’t feeling much like joking around by that time. The blood pressure medicine was a vasodilator – it opens the blood vessels and it triggered a massive migraine. I was in pain and feeling a little anxious. I had to scramble to arrange for the kids to be picked up after school and to be told I was having some tests in the hospital. They were on their own for the night (and probably slept better than I did as they expected me home in the morning). I passed a dreary night with the lack of privacy and all the attendant indignities and discomfort one might expect in the ICU and Saturday didn’t bring much relief. Mid-day on Saturday, my blood pressure lower but not ‘normal’ I was wheeled downstairs for a ultrasound stress test.
The results of the test were inconclusive as my blood pressure spiked again during the test, but at last, with an appointment for additional tests, sheaves of paper – instructions and prescriptions – and admonitions to get a primary care physician as soon as possible, they released me late Saturday afternoon. I went home and slept for about 16 hours. My blood pressure isn’t where it should be yet, even with three different medications (and me leaping on board the natural diet approach to hypertension). I have an appointment next Tuesday for a 4 hour long ‘nuclear medicine stress test’ which will hopefully provide some answers.
In the meantime I’m to try to have less stress in my life (so I hope they don’t send the bill anytime soon). That’s not a prescription I’ll find easy to fill.