Monday, February 18, 2013

Another eventful day at cardiac rehab

The EMTs hauled away S on a stretcher.

Fifteen minutes earlier, she was walking on the treadmill next to mine. She felt a chest pain and reported it to the nurses. One of them told S to step off the treadmill and sit. Nurse 1 took her blood pressure. It was sky high. Nurse 2 nurse arrived with a nitro glycerin tablet for S.

I kept walking the treadmill.

S said she might throw up. Nurse 2 moved over a big trashcan. "How you feeling?"

"Still hurts," S said.

The three nurses conferred. Nurse 3 went to the phone and called 911.

"I can drive to the ER," said S.

"No you can't," said Nurse 1. "Protocol says that the ambulance has to take you, just like you were at home."

I remembered the day that my wife Chris has to call 911. I was hauled away on a stretcher and boosted into the ambulance. The EMTs worked on me as the ambulance hauled my sick self to the ER. Two days later, I was on the catheterizing table and a cardiologist was inserting a stent into my Lower Anterior Descending artery (aka "The Widowmaker").

Three EMT's arrived for S. A young woman with two men. The woman had this on the back of her T-shirt: "EMT Student." She watched as one of the others hooked up S to oxygen and the other took her vitals. Another EMT team arrived with a stretcher. S was surrounded. I'd moved over to the rowing machine and could barely see her. Finally, one of the EMTs raised the stretcher and I could see her. She was smiling, which was good. The nurses waved to her and she waved back. I waved too but I don't think she saw me.

S and I started cardiac rehab on the same cold January day. She's only 49 but a whopper of a heart attack forced her to the ER. The docs did a bypass on her. She returned to work last week, which may have been a bit premature. I returned to work two weeks ago and it's been wearing me out.

S on a stretcher on the way to the ER. Made me wonder if I could get hauled off to the ER while striding on a treadmill or playing the stupid dart game on the rowing machine. It's all good, I tell myself. The exercise and meds and special diet are healing me. No more Big Macs, which seems l;ike a small price to pay for a longer and possibly healthier life.

But last Friday, after only a few strides on the treadmill, I was having trouble breathing. Nurse 1 saw my distress and asked what was wrong. I told her. She took my blood pressure, which was almost normal at 110/65. I told her that the docs had changed my medications. She called the docs. "They're changing them again," she said when she got off the phone. I was taken off diuretics but now I'm going back on them at a smaller dose. Diuretics help rid the body of excess fluid so a guy can breathe. You pee a lot. That doesn't worry me, especially now that we have indoor plumbing.

But that was Friday. Today, S was in distress. I wish her well. I'm hoping for the quick return of my treadmill buddy.

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