Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Heart Attack Waiting to Happen

CAUTION: I use some strong and possibly offensive language in this post. 

On Friday morning, I woke up in pain.

A hot blanket of diffuse pain wrapped itself around my neck.

It was not a kink in the neck or spinal pain. Moving made no difference to it.

It was not a sore throat; I could swallow, no problem. I could breathe with no difficulty.

It was nothing like anxiety attacks I'd experienced before, the tightening of the throat muscles, that "lump in the throat" feeling.

I practiced relaxation breathing, deeply, slowly in, then slowly and fully out.

The pain did not leave, may have intensified.

Then I remembered an e-mail a friend recently sent me, pointing out that cardiac pain is experienced differently by women than by men. Often they feel it in their neck or jaw rather than in the chest.

"Fuck," I thought. "Fuck fuck fuck."

Then I remembered another tidbit: a cough can be used as self-CPR. [Note: this is anecdotal and Snopes debunks it. If you think you are having a heart attack, stop reading this and get your ass to the emergency room! I was an idiot.]

I coughed lightly. The pain eased.

"Fuck," I thought.

The pain returned, stronger. I coughed harder, several times. The pain went away almost immediately, and I got out of bed.

It did not come back, but as I started googling my symptoms, the telltale signs of migraine aura blotted my vision. I had just enough time to find Prinzmetal's angina, an unusual form of angina that occurs when resting, unlike usual heart symptoms that are triggered by exertion.

I lay in bed with my eyes shut, watching the sparkles and growing blind spot, thinking about death.

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, the doctor told me that I was at increased risk for heart attack. "As much as if you've already had one heart attack," he said. So here I was.

It wasn't a heart attack, but it was cardiovascular. I was scared and sad, and those feelings stuck with me all day. No, I didn't see a doctor, though it is treatable. ("My" doctor is only at the walk-in clinic on Thursdays and does not make appointments.)

I'll tell you more in tomorrow's post.

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