I know that I had another post up here, and at least one of you left a comment on it. I promise I will re-post it later, but recent events have come to pass that I thought you all might be more interested in, than a five-year-old re-post about my youthful parenting skills (or lack thereof). . .
I usually ride my bike on Saturdays. But this past Saturday was rainy, and besides, we had a family reunion to go to, so I put my ride off until Sunday. Which worked out just fine, actually, since Jen had to go to a baby shower for one of our neices, and a ride would keep me suitably out of trouble in her absence. Sunday was a delightfully sunny day, and I planned a 42-mile ride on one of my favorite routes.
As I began my ride, around 4PM, I felt absolutely great. Sometimes, at the start of a ride, I feel a little sluggish, and it might take 4 or 5 miles to get into my groove; but on Sunday, I just felt great, right from the start of my ride.
After 10 miles or so, I noticed that my mouth was feeling a bit dry, and I was going through my water a little quicker than normal. It occurred to me that I hadn't had much to eat since just after church, and that I'd forgotten to have glass of water before I left, like I usually do. No problem, though - there's a little party store at about the 15-mile mark, and I just figured that I could grab a bottle of Gatorade, and maybe a bag of trail mix, to tide me over through the rest of the ride, and easily stretch my water supply through the end of the ride. So I stopped at the party store, and bought a bottle of Gatorade, and drank it down over a 10-minute break.
When I got back on the bike, though, I instantly felt like utter crap. It was the damnedest thing. Minutes before, I'd felt absolutely great, and then after taking a 10-minute break and a pint of fluids (and replenishing my electrolytes in the process), I felt utterly terrible. I had no energy anymore, and I was laboring twice as hard as normal to go half as fast.
At first, I thought that I'd guzzled the Gatorade too quickly, and was feeling the effects of an overfull stomach. But if that were the case, the bloated, lethargic feeling would go away in a few miles, and this wasn't going away. I was starting to get concerned.
There is a gas-station/party-store at about the 25-mile mark, and I stopped there for another break, and the trail mix that I didn't get at the previous stop. While I rested, I thought maybe I should check my pulse, so I put my two right fingers against my left wrist. I didn't have a stopwatch, but I was instantly alarmed that, even resting, my pulse was extremely rapid and irregular. A quick self-inventory revealed no pain or tightness in my chest, but something was obviously not right.
I was still 17 miles from home, though, and Jen was out town at the baby shower, so she wasn't available to come get me, so I thought I could just cut the power, and limp home at a reduced speed. As I recommenced my ride, my cell phone rang. Jen was stuck in traffic an hour from home, and wanted me to give her an alternate route home. So I stopped for five minutes, and worked out an alternate plan for her, and then I continued riding. Ten minutes later, she called again, having gotten confused with some of the directions I'd given her, so I had to help her undo her mistake, and get her re-oriented in the right direction. And when we hung up, I got back on the bike and rode some more.
And I still felt like crap. In fact, I had started the ride going around the loop in the opposite direction from what I usually do, because the hills are more challenging that way, and I was feeling good. But now that I felt lousy, it was a really unfortunate choice. Every time I climbed a hill, I had to slow to a virtual snail's pace just to get up it at all, and then it took three times as long just to recover back to the level of 'feeling like shit'.
And Jen continued to call every ten minutes or so - seven times in all - asking for directional assistance (we often joke between us that I'm her own personal GPS). And I was getting increasingly frustrated - that Jen was interrupting my ride every ten minutes, yes, but even moreso because of my own all-too-obvious health problems. And the fact that, between my own reduced physical capacity, and all the time I spent on the side of the road talking to my wife, I was starting to move into the realms of 'will I get home before sunset?'
I continued taking periodic stock of my physical status. On the flat-and-level parts, I wasn't doing too badly, if I didn't push myself too hard. And I wasn't having any chest pain, or anything like that. But, somewhere around the 31-mile mark, in moment of lucidity, I thought to myself that a heart attack isn't required to send up a warning flare, and there were plenty of stories of guys who had heart attacks with virtually no warning whatsoever. So I stopped, and called 1F to come and pick me up. She didn't answer. I called 4M, and he didn't answer, either. 3M was at work. So I called my friend Richard (who just made an appearance in my last post), and he said he would come out and pick me up.
I continued limping along in the mode I had been, until, at the 35-mile mark of my ride, Richard pulled up, and I gratefully got off my bike and threw it into the back of his van. As we rode home, I told him what was happening. By the time we got home, Jen had just arrived, and I filled her in on the situation. I had Richard check my pulse, and he gave me a concerned look - it wasn't rapid, now that I'd had a chance to rest, but it was still wildly irregular. We all went into the house, and tried to sort through a reasonable plan of action. With rest, I no longer felt so bad, so I was wondering if a trip to the hospital was warranted or not (and besides, on Sunday night, none of the 'urgent-care' places are open, and ER visits are not treated happily by my health-care insurance; so if I could avoid a trip to the ER, I viewed that as a good thing). Jen called our family doc, and he thought it would be good just to get an EKG, so why don't we just go on in. Then Jen called a friend of hers who is a nurse, and the nurse-friend urged us even more strongly to go to the ER; and besides, she said, if we told the triage-nurse at the ER that 'my doctor wants me to have an EKG', that was pretty much a ticket to the front of the line. So I said, OK, let's go.
And I just got home this afternoon, to tell you all about it. Without going into stultifying detail, we still don't completely know what happened to me out on the bike Sunday afternoon. As of now, we're just calling it a 'Cardiac Event'. Of the various indicators of a heart-attack, all of them were negative, except one, which was, in the ER cardiologist's words, "slightly elevated, not at all what we'd see if you'd had a heart attack." And I generated several odd-looking EKGs, "but that might just be you, and the way your heart works."
I had an Echocardiogram done, and that showed my heart working pretty doggone well, for what it's worth, Then I had a Heart Catheterization (which is just more fun than a human being ought to be allowed to have), which showed one of my coronary arteries less-than-40% blocked; they don't even think about putting in a stent until the blockage is more than 70%. So the diagnostics, while not quite sunshine and light, just don't seem to correspond to what I was feeling on the bike.
But now, at any rate, I have a cardiologist, with whom I will be becoming friends over the next few weeks. So at least I'll be in touch with people who know how to figure out what's happening.
If any of you are moved to pray for me/us, I would be grateful. . .
And just because the Universe is a bastard. . .
While we were sitting in the hospital room, waiting for the final discharge papers, my sister-in-law called, informing us that my dad had had a stroke. They'd just found him in his room just this morning, an hour before her call, conscious, but unable to talk or move his right side. As I write this, that's all I know.
And he can certainly use your prayers even more than I can. . .