Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Heart Scare

I went to visit my heart doctor today.  I wish it was just a social call.  No, it was a follow-up appointment to my recent stress test, the second one I've had in the past two years.  I've been battling high blood pressure during that time.  HBP is not something you want to play around with.  I was sitting in the doctor's office and I looked around the packed waiting room.  Everyone appeared to be significantly older than me.  I thought to myself, "Wow, he must cater to an older crowd."  Then it hit me.  Heart issues tend to affect folks who ARE older.  I was the one out of place.  But before allowing that to stress me out, I considered the fact that there are many people my age who may not even know they have a heart problem or HBP, and I was content with the thought that at least I was getting mine treated.  And I began to reflect on how I got to this place....

About two years ago (my third year in my upper management position), I was sitting in a meeting at work.  I was not happy in my job.  It was very stressful.  I had a demanding boss, 45 employees, and a huge amount of responsibility.  I had allowed myself to get out of shape.  I wasn't exercising.  I simply just didn't have time.  As a single parent, my life revolved around work during the day, and my daughter when I came home.  I didn't have time to take care of myself.  So I was sitting in a meeting with a bunch of colleagues, several of which were on the video conference connected in Oklahoma City, when I was hit with about the worst headache I've ever had.  It hurt so much, I couldn't pay attention to the discussion anymore, and my eyes were watering to the point that I couldn't focus on anyone in the room.  It was an afternoon meeting, and as soon as it ended, I was able to leave for the day.  I was able to drive home, but I had to lay down after arriving home.  Unfortunately, the headache didn't subside, and I took some Tylenol.  My parents had come by to take my daughter, Melody, to their house, since there was no school the next day.  I told them my predicament with the headache.  I was convinced it was related to allergies.  The pollen had been particularly bad recently, and I figured there must be a connection.  My mother urged me to make an appointment with my doctor as soon as possible.  Then they left.

I called my doctor, Dr. Kurylas, and the receptionist got me an early morning appointment.  I had made it through the night and got some fairly sound sleep, and made arrangements to be off from work.  The headache was still there, though, and it was hurting.  When I arrived at the doctor's office, the nurse took my blood pressure, which is routine.  I don't recall what the reading was, but it was extremely high.  In fact, it was so high, the nurse took it again to make sure it was accurate.  When my doctor came in, he didn't even want to hear about my headache.  He knew what was causing it.  HBP.  I could see the controlled panic in his eyes.  I like my doctor, and have discovered over the years that he is more apt to take action rather than sit back and react.  He immediately sent me to a heart specialist nearby, a Dr. Dakak.  In addition, he gave me a prescription for nitroglycerin.  He was really worried about me.

I drove ten minutes down the road to the heart specialist's office.  Dr. Dakak took me in immediately.  My headache had reached the point where I felt like my head was going to burst, and I was sick to my stomach. I was sweating profusely.  I laid back on the table and closed my eyes.  Dr. Dakak had started asking me a bunch of questions, but I couldn't focus on them.  He actually exited the room to find some nurses to help.  All of a sudden, I felt like I was going to pass out and throw up at the same time.  I jumped up and vomited into the trash can, just as the nurses rushed into the room.  They helped me back to the table and I laid down again.  I felt better, and the headache began to subside.  My shirt was soaked with sweat.  One of the nurses told me later that I was as pale as a ghost.  They wanted to call a relative to come and get me and take me to the hospital.  I gave them Dad's number.  One of the nurses called him and said he was on his way.

I was told to just relax.  I was okay.  I hadn't had a heart attack or heart episode of any kind, but they didn't want to take any chances and were sending me to the hospital to get a heart sonogram, just to check and make sure I had no blockages or anything.  Dad arrived and they explained to him what had happened.  I was exhausted and apparently looked like it.  I left my car there and Dad took me to the hospital.  It was about ten minutes away.  They were expecting me.

The procedure lasted about 30 minutes and, fortunately, there were no blockages.  Everything looked normal.  My BP was still high, but seemed to be under control.  I was able to go back, get my car, and head for home.  But not before making appointments for my first ever stress test and a bunch of other tests.  I was in new territory.  But I wasn't alone.  I had a couple of very good doctors treating me; my family was supporting me; and the Good Lord above had been guiding me throughout this experience, putting the doctors in the right place at the right time to treat me and help me.  Oh, how great is HE!

Since that day, I have been taking several medications for HBP, and I had my second stress test a few weeks ago.  My EKG still show an abnormality of some kind, but I had passed the stress test (he told me I was in good shape, not great, and my heart was strong, lungs were good, and there were no blockages anywhere.  Blood circulation was good in my arms and legs.  All of this was very encouraging.  My BP was in the normal range, thanks to the meds I was taking.  I was good for another six months, at least.  Dr. Dakak actually commented that I looked good and relaxed.  I told him I was, that I had just come back from vacation, one that included a LOT of walking around Manhattan.  He emphasized that I needed to keep exercising, and he stressed how important it was to be stress-free.  He told me that studies have shown that stress really is one of the significant causes of HBP.

Dr. Dakak and I chatted a bit after the formalities.  He asked about my vacation plans, and I told him we were going to Chicago this summer, then to several amusement parks, including Cedar Point, on the way back.  I told him how much my daughter and I loved roller coasters, and I wanted to continue to ride them.  However, I was concerned about the warnings regarding individuals with heart conditions being able to ride roller coasters.  He then gave me the best news all day:  he gave me his blessing to ride them as much as I wanted!

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