Last week I spent 12 hours in the hospital for heart palpitations and chest heaviness. Upon arriving in the ER at 2:00am, I was whisked into a room, placed on a monitor and had blood drawn. I was given baby aspirin as a precaution, a chest x-ray and warm blankets to cover my feet. I was cared for, asked questions of, and did my best to be the patient patient. I soon learned that my potassium and magnesium levels were extremely low, and this was most likely the reason for feeling the way I was. There was no indication of a heart attack. However, when you are a woman in your late 40's, and you go to the ER in the middle of night with these type of complaints, they put you on lock down so to speak.
Aside from giving birth, being the one in a hospital bed was a new experience for me. I spent weeks at the bedside of my father, after his stroke, then heart attack. I sat next to my mom as she recovered from a compound ankle fracture. I can do the bedside, I can be the advocate, ask the questions, grab magazines, make phone calls, update friends. I have become quite good at that caregiver role. But being on the other end was difficult for me. Resting in the bed was the easy part actually, and once I inadvertently called it my hotel room instead of my hospital room. The emotional strength was the hard part. Throughout the years after his stroke my dad didn't do anything by the book. It was never "just" a seizure, or "just" a cold, or "just" an infected toe. My dad threw curve balls. It was never just as it appeared. So the majority of hospital experiences tended to have a urgent, anxious feel to them.
I reclined in my dark room in the Critical Decision Unit and couldn't help but wonder (fear?!) will I throw curve balls too? I mean, I just ran a marathon in November and am in the midst of training again, yet here I am, hooked up to a heart monitor and waiting out more tests. It's hard not to go to that place, so I prayed and kept bringing myself back to the moment. To the warm blankets covering my feet.
After a second round of labs and EKG, and a stress test with the cardiologist, I was cleared to go. However, they were sending me home wearing a heart monitor for 48 hours. Leads taped to my chest, and a small pouch to carry the device, I left the hospital on my own two feet, cold glass of water in hand, into the passenger seat of my husbands car. We drove together to pick our son up from summer camp and I breathed in the fresh air and breeze on my face.
Once we were home my son looked at me and with wild surprise said, "what the? what is that on you Mom?" (the tank top I was wearing did little to cover the leads and tapes). Without too much detail I explained that the doctor was keeping an eye on my heart, that he was getting a really clear picture of how my heart worked. He stared, curious and then in all seriousness asked "are you a Robot Mom?!" It felt good to finally laugh and play along to his perspective. (Domo Arigato was on repeat in my head!)
The next day I found myself releasing all the tears that I'd unknowingly been holding in. They were tears of praise, sadness, relief, fear, and hope.
At the end of my 48 hour heart watch, my son AB and I went back to the hospital to return the monitor and daily log. It was a Friday, it was the last day of summer camp and AB was full of excitement and enthusiasm and ideas. We can all remember the camp high experience and he was still basking in it. I too was feeling a bit of a high, no longer hooked up, tape removed, no bulky belt around my waist. It was refreshing. He asked questions as we maneuvered through the parking garage and found the right building. Monitor turned in, we began to retrace our steps, this time taking notice of a vending machine in the hall. AB stopped, looked at me and asked if he could please get something. Sure, anything you want. He took survey of all the items and I wondered to myself, is it a Cheetos or M&M's afternoon? I began to gather up a dollar bill and some coins and he said, "Ok, I'm ready. I want the Red Vines." Tears filled my eyes, "are you sure?" "Yep, Red Vines." He fed the machine the money, pushed the proper buttons and happily grabbed them from the tray. He continued on with his re-cap of the day, not yet pausing to have a treat. We got outside into the sunshine and he opened up the package. "Here Mom, you can have the first one." I looked down at his sweet face, the hospital further and further behind me and I accepted it. I took a bite and smiled my thanks. "Good aren't they?" as he devoured his in nearly one bite.
Indeed son, good for a fresh start and a different ending.