My heart now beats at 68 times a minute.
I’m 24 years old and now, very aware of my heart.Yesterday afternoon bronchitis, dehydration, over the counter medication, stress, and life all combined into the perfect storm and my heart began to beat too fast.
But I didn’t know that at the time.
What I did know, was that I couldn’t breathe.
I’d been sick for a few days, shrugged it off as a cold, then the flu, then maybe I’d caught bronchitis during my Thanksgiving vacation. For once I’d been taking care of myself, lots of sleep, lots of soup, tea, water… until yesterday. I woke up feeling better, worn out and weak but my health felt better. But then, eating was too much of an effort and drinking was painful.
No big deal, I finished my chapter in my review book, turned on the tv to watch some Mythbusters. As the moments ticked on my breathing became less of an unconscious fact of life, and more of a very conscious struggle.
Remember when you were a kid and you glued your fingers together with super glue and couldn’t pull them apart?
That was how my lungs felt.
Cue the freak out. And text to my Mom.
Mom said when she came home and saw me, I looked like my Grandfather looked on his death bed. (Thankfully she didn’t share this detail until today.)
Needless to say I went to urgent care.
Where they couldn’t do a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia. And when the breathing treatment didn’t help the doctor feared a pulmonary embolism and called the ER and sent me out.
I’m 24 years old. Having the ER triage you as the PE case and being brought back to the cardiac unit? Absolutely terrifying. My heart was already racing from the breathing treatment and now? It was beating out of my chest.
Thankfully Kurt arrived before they took me back so he and my Mom were there for me while they hooked me up to the heart monitors and began searching for veins to run an IV.
I am a hard stick. When dehydrated, I become even more difficult.
My heart rate? 169. It remained well above 100 for hours. (This is bad.)
The first IV on the underside of my wrist, failed.
The IV placed in my neck? Infiltrated. (Failed)
So then, they placed a central line.
It was the worst experience of my life. I cried. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run from the room. Kurt held my hand for comfort, and my leg for the flailing.
When the doctor went to stitch it, he said it would just be a little pinch, I snarked or laughed and he said “okay just a little stab” and that was much better. I’m sorry, but central lines? NOT A LITTLE POKE.
Logically I knew it was needed, I knew they were helping, I knew I needed it to get the medicine. But with my face trapped beneath a blue sterile field tarp, with the pain and pressure of a stranger stabbing my neck only to skewer me and then stitch it into place… I was terrified. At least on their first attempt I could see Kurt’s face. I could see him there and know that I was okay.
The sweetness of the man I love? He washed my face, all the tears…after the central line was placed.
Finally once the line was in they were able to run fluids, pain meds, and other meds to deal with my still tachycardicheart.
Thankfully I was discharged and I was able to come home to my loving Belle and my snuggly cat.
Today, I’m tired, sore in all the areas they drew blood (ABGs, blood draws, and IV sites) but my neck… it feels like I was stabbed. I took the pain meds they prescribed to be able to eat and drink comfortably. I also still feel a little shaken from the whole thing. That was not … I was not prepared for the central line. I gained a great deal of perspective and I will have a whole new level of empathy for my future patients.
In the end, I didn’t have a pulmonary embolism. I did leave with the diagnosis of SVT and bronchitis. So today I am taking it easy and drinking glass after glass of water and juice. And I am thankful for my friends who reached out to support me last night and today, thankful for my wonderful boyfriend who stayed by my bedside until I was discharged in the middle of the night. Thankful for my parents who spent their night by my side despite my Mom’s squeamish nature for all things needle related… I am thankful for life.
Here’s my stickers: The one on the left Kurt stuck on me after they discharged me. The one on the right? One of many they stuck on me for me heart monitoring. Turns out diaphoretic patients are more difficult to get them to stick to.