I've always heard that at different times in our lives things happen to bring us a new perspective. No matter what you're dealing with or going through, the entrance of something bigger than you are sets everything in the right viewpoint so that you have no doubts about what you should or shouldn't be doing. For me, one of those moments happened yesterday morning.
It was just past 4:30 when I was suddenly overcome by an intense pressure like, squeezing chest pain that began in the area of my left breast and radiated to my shoulder. It was accompanied by nausea, difficulty breathing, and a clammy perspiration. Being here alone, I was shaken enough by the experience to call 911. Within half an hour I was in the chest pain center of our local hospital being evaluated for a cardiac event.
What followed was almost twelve hours of blood work, being monitored by telemetry, undergoing a nuclear stress test and having oxygen delivered through a nasal cannula. The results were encouraging. My enzymes were negative for a heart attack. My cholesterol level was within normal limits. My blood pressure was elevated, but I'm already on high blood pressure medication, so that was no shock what with all that was going on, and the nuclear scan was "okay," according to the doctor. I was discharged with some changes to my medication regimen and the news that if the pain recurred I would likely have to undergo a cardiac catheterization to evaluate my coronay arteries for blockages.
I was also diagnosed with a right bundle branch block. This is a defect in the heart's electrical conduction system. Normally, when a heart beats, it does so because of a discharge of electrical impulses along a defined pathway throughout the heart. Once the impulse passes the two atria, it causes the ventricles of one's heart to contract. In the case of a right bundle branch block the right ventricle does not contract because the electrical impulse to it is blocked. Instead, it contracts because the impulses delivered to the left ventricle are conducted through the heart muscle the two chambers share. Why do I have this abnormality? Who knows?
Fortunately I've had no further episodes of chest pain and I've begun the new medication regimen. So perhaps it was only a cardiac spasm, as the doctor suggested. I hope for no repeats of it because, folks, that was scary.
But it gave me a new perspective. I've dealt with a lot of health issues in my life and through them all I've always had the conviction that I'd overcome them because modern medicine is so advanced, and is always getting more so. Yet that heart scare gave me pause, because I was suddenly, shockingly reminded just how tenuous our grip on life actually is, and how suddenly it can end.
I've been given notice that I need to take better care of myself. I'm only 44 years old, but heart disease runs rampant through both sides of my family, and I had two cousins die young from heart attacks, one at age 47 and the other at age 52. I'm not a young man anymore. I'm "pushing on a bit" as the British would say. It's time I took my health more seriously, did what my doctor advises, and get myself on the right path. I want to live to be 100. I'll have to work at it.
I also have to reprioritize some things in my life. What do I want to deal with? What do I have to deal with? What can I do without? What deserves my worry and what doesn't? In the past twenty-four hours I've come to some pretty sharp conclusions in these areas. And I intend to follow through on these convictions as well. Life is too short to live it being anything less than happy.
Keep your fingers crossed for me that I don't have any more episodes of chest pain. I don't want to have a heart cath. I had one several years ago and four hours flat on your back following it is a killer. Not to mention that pinching feeling you get at the site of incision in the groin where they go in with the catheter. That lasts for about a week. I can do without that again as well.
Thanks for all your kind thoughts and loving words.