Because course maintenance was taking place on the Front Nine, the pro shop started us on No. 10, which is an elevated tee crossing Amon Creek at the bottom of the hill. After that, the course regains altitude at a steep rate. By the time I'd negotiated the first six holes, I was having trouble catching my breath. At the No. 16 tee I had a pressing feeling in my chest. Did I quit? No, I struggled on. That was my third mistake. You know what they say about three strikes.
I finished the round, joined my friend for lunch, which I couldn't finish, and went home. I lay down for an hour, took a shower, and joined my wife on the couch. This was about 5 pm. By this time I was experiencing a severe throbbing pain radiating up my left carotid artery into my neck. I went back and lay down.
My wife came in and asked me what was happening. She said I should go to the emergency room. I said I'd take an aspirin and wait it out. Another mistake.
I couldn't sleep. I tried elevating my head and back, something I'd done when I had pericardial pain. It didn't help much. I continued to have the throbbing pain up my left carotid artery, into my neck, and over to my shoulder. I was sweating. I took 3 more aspire @ 325 mg ea over the next 8 hours.
The next morning, a Friday, March 29th, I called my primary care physician and speaking to the receptionist asked to have an appointment ASAP. She said she could get me in Monday. I said okay. She asked me why I needed the appointment. I said, "I'm having chest pain." She said just a minute. Then she came back on the line and said, "Go to the emergency room." This time I followed instructions.
Before I knew it, a lab tech had taken blood, I had an IV in my right arm near the wrist, and had been wired for an ECG. After the ECG a technician wheeled in an X-Ray machine and did a chest X-Ray. At some point, a nitroglycerin patch was placed on my chest. The IV contained a blood thinner, easing the blood pumping burden on my heart.
The attending physician came in to see me about 20 minutes into this process. He told me indications were that I'd had a heart attack. KGH didn't have a cardiac specialist available to do a catheterization, so they were transferring me to Kadlec. He asked me who my primary doctor was, I told him, and he said he'd notify him.
Someone from the hospital business office came by and finally collected my insurance cards (Medicare and TriCare), and then I was visited by a social worker. Before the social worker could finish his interview, the EMTs showed up to load me into the ambulance.
I was transferred to Kadlec by ambulance. One of the EMTs sat in the back with me and monitored my vital signs. It took 18 minutes to get from KGH to Kadlec. On the way I learned the EMT liked to read and promised him a signed copy of my soon-to-be-published novel, The Lion and the Sun. I was assuming I'd be alive to sign the book when it was published. I'm an optimist.
At Kadlec I was taken directly to the cardio ward, where ECG sensors were attached to my chest and connected to a transmitter that sent signals wirelessly to a display at the side of the bed.
Aside: Even after my 1965 pericardectomy I experienced fairly regular chest pain, reminiscent of the pain I experienced with pericarditis. This has continued with reduced severity all my life. Given this heart attack and the results of tests associated with it, I am curious as to whether the "thickening" noted might be due to recurrent inflammation.
My hospital stay was uneventful -- no "Code Blue" -- and as is generally the case -- little sleep. Hospitals are noisy, and lab techs wake you at all hours. In addition, this hospital had a system of alerts that when initiated, sounded in all rooms, just in case needed staff were away from station. This is a really annoying system -- haven't they heard of pagers? In addition, the bed was programmed to change angles and slopes in order to prevent bed sores for bedridden patients. The movements occurred every 40 seconds (I timed them) and were accompanied by a low 'growl." Eventually, I got used to the bed growling at me and growled back. My second night in the hospital I asked for Ambien (zolpidem), and that helped significantly (I took half at 10 pm, and the other half at 3:30 am, after the lab tech woke me for blood work).
My instructions from my cardiologist were to go home and take it easy. He put me on Coreg to slow my heart, which would aid healing, and Ibuprofen twice a day for pain. He said my recovery might take 6 to 8 weeks. I am scheduled to see him again on May 10th.
One week after my release from the hospital, I'm essentially free of pain, I have no shortness of breath, or dizziness, and I'm going stir crazy.