This week I was teaching a class in Philadelphia - it was supposed to be a three-day class.
But right after the lunch break on Wednesday I reached up to stretch by grabbing the door jamb of the classroom to relieve a small bit of tension in my left shoulder. Then a pain started in my chest and I went to sit down for a little bit. The pain got worse and worse. I started to sweat a little and I couldn't make the pain go away by moving into different positions.
The pain continued to move from the left side of my chest - towards the middle and then finally over to the right side... over about a thirty minute period. I went to my hotel room and laid down for 20 more minutes.
When I returned to class some of the students asked if they could take me to the hospital or call and ambulance. (I guess I was looking pretty white...) Embarrassing as it was, I figured it would be best to go to the hospital and canceled the afternoon's remaining class.
One of the students was nice enough to drive me to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in downtown Philadelphia. I checked myself into the Emergency Room and did the inter-city ER thing... waiting, moving from point to point in their system. I was given an EKG and then a chest x-ray before moving to an exam room back in the actual ER.
Then was more waiting, and finally a nurse came and gave me an IV - but it didn't work too well for drawing blood. (and they took like 12 little test tubes of the stuff for their various tests). So I got a couple more pokes in the arms and hands to get enough blood.
The EKG and all the blood work came back negative for any sort of 'Heart Event' - but they still wanted me to stay the night and do more tests. So again a move to an 'observation' room (just 4-rooms away from where I was...) to be tested with an EKG and Blood work every six hours. But there was also the Blood Pressure, Temp, Pulse, O2 Sat tests every four hours. (they could have timed those to coincide... but no.)
Then in the morning upstairs to Nuclear Medicine for a Stress Test. But they needed an IV to inject a radioactive tracer during the treadmill and the ER's IV still wasn't working. So after three more attempts, they called in the IV specialist from downstairs, and he got one in in under a minute.
On to the run on the treadmill - it's not easy to run with someone injecting into one arm, taking blood pressure in the other, and the treadmill racing and elevating all at the same time. But it did get me to definitely break a sweat - and put stress on my heart to the level it needed.
No worries - all negative results from the treadmill stress test using the EKG. Now on to the next set of tests with the radio active stuff.
You will walk on an exercise machine while the electrical activity of your heart is measured with an electrocardiogram EKG and Blood Pressure readings are taken. This will measure your heart's reaction to your body's increased need for oxygen.The test continues until you reach a target heart rate.
So, after being in the hospital for over 28 hours... here are the results.
Thallium stress test is a nuclear imaging method that shows how well blood flows into the heart muscle, both at rest and during activity.While on the treadmill - at the peak you your activity, a health care provider will inject a radioactive material called technetium into your vein. This substance attaches to red blood cells and passes through the heart. Special cameras or scanners trace the substance as it moves through the heart area. In other words, the red blood cells inside the heart that carry the radioactive material form an image that the camera sees. The images may be combined with an EKG. Using computer software, the images are made to appear as if the heart is moving.
Next, you will be asked to lie down on a table under a special camera that scans the heart. A computer creates pictures of the heart by tracking how the radioactive material moves through the area.
The first pictures are taken shortly after you get off the treadmill. These images show how blood flows to the heart during exercise. This is the part most commonly referred to as the "stress test," because it is the most challenging for your heart.
After lying quietly for a few hours, you'll have more pictures of the heart taken. These images show blood flow through your heart during rest.
EKG #1 - Negative
Heart Enzymes #1 - Negative
Blood Clot Check - Negative
Blood Pressure - Little elevated - ya wonder?
EKG #2 - Negative - 6 hours later
Heart Enzymes #2 - Negative
EKG #3 - Negative - 6 more hours later
Heart Enzymes #3 - Negative
Treadmill EKG Test - Negative
Thallium Stress - Negative
Thallium at Rest - Negative
So the results showed I didn't have anything wrong with my heart or lungs, and they just chocked it up to stress, or muscle spasm, or something else that isn't cardiac related.
The students were great, packed up all the stuff in the classroom for me, one even packed up my hotel room stuff so I could just stop by at the hotel yesterday afternoon and pick it up on the way to the airport. I was able to catch my original flight back home as scheduled. Yea! (It would have been tough to find an 'extra' seat on Memorial Day weekend)
This was, however, a pretty good 'wake up call' to get me to eat better and exercise more!
More later on my 'plan' for addressing my health in a future blog.
By the way - this activity I went through on Wednesday/Thursday - I don't recommend it. ;-)