Monday, December 04, 2006

Heart Attack HomeValley - and Happy Birthday, J!

Last Monday night, J and I flew into Philadelphia and stopped off at my other grandfather’s house to have a quick bite with my mother and brother, Mike. Over leftover lasagna, I entertained my family with tales from our trip, even telling Mom, “I swear, if I hear one more thing about hyper or hypoactive thyroids, I’m gonna kill myself!”

Oh man, talk about imminent karmic retribution.

On Tuesday night, my heart rate started soaring again. This happens from time to time, most recently on Friday night at the movies, watching (and loving) Stranger Than Fiction. I had been drinking a giant diet coke, and eating whoppers, and I sat there, unnerved, as my heart thumped loudly and swiftly in my chest. I went out for air and came back, but the heart racing persisted. J asked if we should go to the hospital. “No,” I said. “I’m fine.” And in ten minutes or so, I was.

But during A Charlie Brown Christmas on Tuesday (*sniff), it started again, just as J called. It seemed to lull, then began again in earnest. My heart felt fluttery within my throat. WebMd instructed to call a health professional if my heart rate was higher than 100 beats per minute. I checked my pulse, and became a bit alarmed. “It’s definitely over 100 beats,” I tell J. “I think I’ll just pop in the ER across the street, see what they can tell me.” No big deal.

I am immediately taken back to see an ER nurse when I explain my ailment. She takes my pulse, listens to my chest. “That’s a fast heart rate,” she says amiably. “160. Now come with me.” She leads me through a door where a gurney waits for me. “Sit here,” she says. She wheels me back to the bustling emergency room, where at once I am surrounded by a million nurses and orderlies. I am given oxygen, an IV in my arm, and am attached to several heart monitors.

This is not the way to soothe HomeValley’s racing heart. Once I am properly situated, orderlies begin walking by and gaping wide-eyed at the heart monitor. “What is it?” I ask, alarmed. “I shouldn’t tell you,” one young man says. “It’s high.”


I am inundated with questions from various people, all very kind. One man comes over and takes my information (name, address, emergency contact), and then asks, “Any religion?”

“For last rites?!? Jesus!”

I call J. He is on his way.

And oh my God. The hospital is frightening, and lonely, despite a million people walking around gaping at you, or waking you abruptly and sticking a large needle in your arm to draw blood yet neglecting to tell you what the hell they think they're doing?? One Queens woman insisted upon discussing with me the explosive diarrhea that brought her to the hospital that evening. Another elderly man with a BOOMING voice was placed next to me after Trots left; he’d just been attacked by his Rottweiler. And he did not. Shut. Up. All night. At three in the morning, he and his wife were still loudly discussing that damn dog and the events as they unfolded. (“I was just putting the spaghetti on my plate when he jumped at me!”)

After many, many hours and many different tests, it appears my heart is healthy and strong. I’ve been diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia (, or, in layman’s terms, “rapid heart beat.” Don’t worry: my cardiologist assured me, “I don’t think this is the lethal kind.” I need to take meds when I feel like it could happen or when it starts happening, and eventually I may need an invasive procedure to correct the electrical misfiring in the old ticker. But here’s the rub: the whole thing could be caused by… wait for it… a hyperactive thyroid! That’s what I get for tuning out during Grandma’s diatribes on her own mysterious thyroid issues. Lesson learned.

But, more important than Heart Attack HomeValley: J celebrated his 30th birthday on December 1st! It was a momentous weekend, as I cooked dinner for him on Friday night, and even rented him Harry Potter, and even tried to stay awake during the film (for the record, we both failed). On Saturday night we celebrated with friends and family at our favorite Thai restaurant in Manayunk, then had everyone back to J’s. Grace drank wine like it was apple juice and danced around for hours in her pink velour sweats. Success!

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