Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Stress Really Is Killing Me

So, what did I do this weekend? I died. Not completely; let's call it "only mostly dead." It started with an unusually bad case of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) that woke me at about 2:15 a.m. Sunday, not long after I'd fallen asleep. Even a mild case is pretty alarming, with the heart rate suddenly elevating for no reason until it feels as if you've been exercising for half an hour. I got those every day during the early part of my last pregnancy (hence, only 3 children), but I managed to keep them controlled by getting a few hours of rest in the afternoons. (Yes, PHB, I did manage to keep working full-time and being quite productive the whole time. Nyeah.)

But this weekend, it was different. This attack was more like the kind I got when carrying Pirate Boy-- just the one, but that was enough for a lifetime. I hoped. That time, I was 7 months pregnant, our new house was almost finished, and my husband had just gotten fired from his job. I was a complete basket case and totally blamed the stress for short-circuiting my heart, although the cardiologist never bought that explanation. This time, I was sure.

At first, I tried just to wait it out, but I had to go to the bathroom, so I tried to get up... and failed. I made it to sitting, then sank back down to the pillow, thinking furiously. Middle of the night, passel of sleeping kids, tightness in chest, nearing a very ugly loss of consciousness... what to do, what to do...

At last, I poked my darling husband, who was doing his best impression of a comatose crocodile. "Honey? I've got a problem... it's my heart." Words that nightmares are made of, I'm sure. As I struggled for breath and lucidity, I croaked out instructions to my boggled and drowsy sweetheart. "Need to go to the hospital. Call Ana to take the kids..." He stumbled around and finally located the phone and phone book. By this time, it was clear to me that this wouldn't cut it. "Just call 911, sweetheart. I'm not going to make it."

Cue husbandly panic. He managed to punch in the numbers and recite our address and phone number and stutter out that something was wrong with his wife's heart. The operator quizzed him some more, while I helped as much as I could with answers. Afterward, he managed to call some dear friends of ours, whose feet we will kiss every day from now till forever for responding so lovingly at 2-freaking-thirty in the morning to our plea for help. They all got out of bed and were at our door within a minute or two after the paramedics arrived.

Ah yes, the paramedics. I had just been working on my novel that evening and had realized that I could use more realism in the chapter relating to a visit from a paramedic team. Well, hallelujah, I got what I needed. Call me blessed. (Dear God, isn't there a better way to do research for this blasted thing?) Ah well, it's not every woman who ends up with half a dozen men swarming over her bed in the middle of the night. Must keep one's sense of humor...

...because what the paramedics did to treat me that night (after determining that the self-help methods really were ineffective, as I claimed) was the same as they'd done the first time: namely, to stop my heart. Can I repeat that? 'Cause it's one of those mind-blowing, wish-it-was-once-in-a-lifetime experiences. They

Meanwhile the cardio monitor was beeping away, which was a whole new experience in terror. One minute, it's going like a telegraph: beepity beepity beepity beepity, 210 bpm. The next minute, it slows to normal: beep... beep... beep... And finally, as that "cold lead slab" feeling creeps over you, stills to nothingness: beep.............. beep.........................
beep.............................................................. (no beep, no pulse, no warmth, no light)................. And back again: beep...beep...beep... The lights come up and you can breathe again.

(Strangely enough, it's
this stuff that does the trick; it's even safe to use on extremely pregnant women, although I do not recommend it. Also strangely, my cardiologist doesn't find my SVTs to be a cause for alarm; just "one of those things." Yes, well, Doc, you can have this "thing"; it's more than just an inconvenience.)

Once normality was restored, the medics carried me out on a gurney, smashing my bedroom doorframe on the way out. They hauled me off in an ambulance, hubby close behind, leaving the kids in the capable care of our friends' teenage daughter. The ER doc looked me over, did some tests, and scratched his head. Usually, you need to have some kind of health-related vice (alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, etc.) to trigger this kind of reaction, but I turned out to be depressingly boring in that regard. My theory is that it's hormone-related (no, I am NOT pregnant again) and triggered by an abundance of stress. Doc seemed to buy it. Now if I could just get that in writing for the boss...


lchan said...

So glad you are alright. That. is. scary. So, take it easy and put yourself a low-stress diet. Scones are on that menu, right?

Scone said...

Absolutely they are-- the kind you get in Utah, not the British kind, though. With piles of honey butter.

purpleelephant said...

Oh my! That sounds so scary! Looks like you are going to have to be taking care of yourself..
Glad you are feeling better..