It’s been an interesting couple of days. A highlight was being reunited with my family. A lowlight was dealing with symptoms that led to me undergoing an EKG test last night.
The past few days I’ve felt tightness and pressure on the right side of my chest. This is not a normal thing with me. At first I just chalked it up to worry about providing for Jana and the boys once we return from Ohio. There was one night, last week, where my mind was racing thinking through everything imagineable. How to do all the meals, who can help watch the boys, syncing up doctor appointments with my work schedule. The next day, I believe it was Thursday, I chatted with Steve Walters (coworker and friend) about it. It was nice to just talk about it with someone. So, when the pressure started in my chest I figured it was all due to stress.
I normally am relaxed. I’ve been in plenty of situations overseas where situations were stressful, and have had my share of work experiences that are stressful, but I never thought they affected my health. Granted, none of those things had my wife and boys as a factor. A completely different thing, which I’m sure many of you can understand and relate to.
The thing is, the pressure and tightness didn’t go away. It was building and being more consistent. I started my drive to Ohio this past Saturday morning. I felt the right side of my chest for most of the drive. I spent Saturday night in South Bend, IN. When I woke up the next day I didn’t feel the pressure at first, but then it started to come. The pressure seemed to be more central in my chest, but still on the right. As I drove I tried to not think about it, but that was next to impossible.
I thought when I would arrive in Kidron, OH that everything would be good. The boys were on cloud nine when I pulled up. They were clamoring for me and both of them wanted to be held at the same time. I was holding one or both, it seemed, for the next two hours. It was overwhelming in a good way, but also I had a moment where I had to catch my breath. It’s hard to describe, but I needed a moment to get my bearings while making sure I was breathing well.
I was starting to be concerned for my well being. I didn’t want to overreact, but I also knew something wasn’t right and it seemed more than just stress. I talked with Jana’s mom that night. She’s a nurse and thought rest would be helpful.
I slept well and woke up Monday without the pressure in my chest. However, my left arm was tingling all throughout it. I had the feeling all through the day. I know very little about the heart, but I do know that when you start getting strange sensations in your left arm that it is a warning sign.
I thought the sensations could be from holding the boys non-stop the previous night, especially since I hadn’t held them in two weeks. I use my left arm as my primary support when holding them.
I was out yesterday afternoon, getting something at the grocery store, when I had a weird feeling again. Another moment where I needed to make sure I had my bearings and that I was breathing. I realized I couldn’t wait to see a doctor back in Omaha. I needed to see one that week. This was fine since Jana’s mom is a nurse at a family clinic in the area.
When I came home I was talking with Jana about it. Her cousin, Denaye, came by to visit. Denaye is an ER nurse in Phoenix. We started telling her what was going on, and it was easy to see the worry register on her face. This was the first moment I seriously considered I could have a heart attack. The left arm tingling sensations was the tipping point that had us all decide to go see the doctor at that moment.
Denaye also speculated that it could be a blood clot. I’d been sitting a lot for extended periods the past few weeks, especially when you factor in all the driving. This led to one of the more unexpected prayers I’ve ever prayed. “God, let it be a blood clot and not a heart attack.”
Jana joked that we were off to the Mount Eaton ER. (Yeah, it’s the ER for the Amish in the community.) Denaye drove us there. The boys had just woken up from their naps so we decided to take them. While Jana and Denaye got the boys ready, I moved their car seats into the Suburban. And, it was about this point where the potential of the situation was hitting me. There were a few moments where I could have lost it, but I didn’t want the boys to be worried. Just prayed simple prayers about not wanting to die, that my boys would have a father and Jana wouldn’t be alone. And then the fun prayers of if I were to die that there (Jana and the boys) needs would be met.
(This sounds a bit ridiculous now, but at the moment it was real. One of those moments where you are acutely aware of everything that is happening.)
I didn’t have any thoughts or feelings of regret on the drive to the doctor’s office. I didn’t have any great spiritual awakenings either. I just prayed for my health, Jana and the boys. I also did my best to be composed since the boys were with us. I didn’t want them worried. They were fine, but Liam was asking if I was okay since we told him we were taking me to the doctor. I told him I was fine.
Your fairly sure it is nothing, but then you hear of random stories of young people dying. CCC has had its own dose of this when our twenty-six year old coworker, Drew Billings, died in his sleep in September. You just never know.
We got there and I waited in a room. I just tried to breathe normally. Dr. Brent Lehman came in and started checking me out. I told him what had been going on the past few days while he was running through his tests.
What was definitive was I had something in my right lung. He asked if I had been sick lately, and I told him about the flu I had near the end of September. He asked a few more questions about it, but nothing major. Either I never completely got over what I had, or I had something new develop in recent days. The thing is, I hadn’t been coughing or showing the signs I usually have when I’m sick with a respiratory issue. It did explain the chest pressure on the right side, and the moments where I’d have to take a minute to breath and get my bearings. I was prescribed Prednisone to combat the issue in my lung.
The stress added to the respiratory issues, so I was also prescribed some medication to help with that. It can be taken when needed.
After doing his basic checkup he was thinking through everything and decided it would be best to get an EKG done. I was wired up all over so they could test the electrical activity. I was hoping for the results to be definitive either way. Then I just stared at the ceiling. I was tested and Dr. Lehman looked it over. Everything looked normal. My heart was normal for someone with my age, height and weight.
What could not be ruled out, though, was that I may have had a minor blood clot. If I did have one, it passed, but I still needed to take precaution against it. So, the third medication I’m taking is aspirin. One of the other precautions is we will be breaking up our return trip to Omaha into a two day trip. (From now on it probably will be a two day trip for us when going to and from Ohio.) And, I just need to get up and around from sitting in my chair at work throughout the day.
The checkup was done and I was laying there on the bed in the room. I continued to stare at the ceiling, thinking about everything. And then I heard “clop-clop-clop-clop“. I laughed. An Amish buggy had gone by and here I am in the Amish ER.
Since then I’m trying to relax. I still have a pressure in the right side of my chest, but it is diminished. The tingling sensation is still there in my left arm and fingers, but not as strong as yesterday. I try not to overanalyze every ache and pain. Just trying to rest. The good thing is I’m surrounded by nurses.
Jana is telling me not to worry about her and the boys. (Yeah right.) She’s starting to line up people to help out while I work.
The important thing is I’m fine, well, I don’t appear to have an issue with my heart. I didn’t contact anyone until after the checkup. I knew people would be worried regardless, so I wanted them to worry less. I called my mom and dad and told them the news. I then sent an email to a few people. Of course, my sister replies back with “Thanks for scaring me to death with this email!” You are welcome! Better that email than the phone call that says I’m on my way to the hospital for heart surgery.
Liam asked me today how my arm was doing, because that was one of the few things we told him when going to get checked out last night. I said my arm still hurt a bit, but was feeling better. Liam said, “Here, give it to me!” He took my left arm. “I will give it lots of kisses so it will feel better.”
I felt better.