Red Carpet Treatment and Then Some for ‘Chest Pain’
by Kelvin Wade
It started with numbness in my left hand. Suddenly, pain in my back slingshotted around to my chest and throat. My left bicep burned. I sat at the dining room table early in the morning reeling from this sudden discomfort. I found myself calling out for my girlfriend and soon we were on the way to the ER to find out what was wrong.
When you mention “chest pain” at the ER, they roll out the red carpet for you. No slouching in uncomfortable seats for hours watching Telemundo on an old TV and reading magazines from the ‘90s with a crowd usually seen in a late night bus station. They march you right back and go to work like you’re a guest star on “House.”
After an EKG came back normal, the doctor asked me if I wanted to stay for a battery of tests that would take about six hours to complete. Not wanting to risk vapor-locking on the way home, I thought, “Why not? Let’s find out what’s going haywire in my 44 year old body.”
After a phlebotomist drew about four or five quarts of blood and an X-ray tech gave me the full Fukushima, I was lying on a gurney in the ER with my girlfriend Cathi by my side when we were treated to a real life episode of COPS. Police had a man handcuffed on a gurney who was complaining that his wrist hurt. The guy was cussing and fussing and issuing all kinds of threats. (I’ll upload the video to YouTube later.)
The ER fairies whisked me away for an ultrasound of my legs in search of blood clots. This is a test where they put what appears to be bacon fat on the end of an electric razor and proceed to try to shove the device through your skin while rubbing it up and down your leg.
Next up was a CT scan. I’d never had one before and was freaked out by it. It’s like laying on a long mechanical tongue and being fed into a robot’s mouth. I laid on the table and two guys in lab coats wrapped me up tight like a big burrito. (See, I knew I was robot food!) They told me to follow the machine’s instructions and I’d be fine. So, up and into the robot’s mouth I went. A female robotic voice said, “Stop breathing.” Wow, they wanted me to assist in my own demise!
After that, they wheeled me down to nuclear medicine. I thought they were going to set off a mini-atomic bomb in my heart. Instead they wheeled me under this huge device. It was like a giant washing machine with this arm that held a big metal contraption that resembled either a junkyard magnet or the foot of an Imperial Walker from Star Wars. Either I was going to have my heart magnetically ripped out of my chest or I was about to be smashed into a million pieces!
I came back to the ER in time for the doctor to tell me they were keeping me overnight for observation. Observation? Was someone going to watch me all night? I kissed Cathi goodbye for the evening.
Then another ultrasound lady showed up and performed an ultrasound of my heart. Another EKG followed that.
After eight hours of nothing to eat, I was given a sandwich. I was NPO because of all the tests I had to do. NPO is hospitalspeak for Do Not Feed The Bears. Nine hours since I set foot in the ER, I was shown to my room.
The next day I was NPO once again. No food or drink. At 1 p.m., I was hauled down to nuclear medicine for a heart stress test. They hooked me up to an EKG machine. The med tech told me I’d be given a drug that would make me feel like I was running. Wow. I couldn’t wait to experience what running felt like for the first time. It wasn’t too bad. Then they shoved me back under the Imperial Walker’s foot for a half an hour.
The next day, the cardiologist stopped by my room and gave me the results. For the most part, my tests came back normal. He didn’t know what I’d experienced Friday morning but he didn’t think it was cardiac-related.
After being poked, prodded, fed to a robot, stepped on by an AT-AT and jogging via pharmaceutical injection, I feel like a brand new man. I don’t recommend the experience, though.