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...