Jack Bauer has nothing on me. I can top any of his 24 hours. 48, for that matter. The past few days, I’ve been a little under the weather, nothing serious, somethin’ I et. I was feeling better on Thursday when suddenly Xavier took ill. X is a guy’s guy. A regular guy, never hysterical. He leaves that to the experts (me). So when he came down the stairs at 10:30pm Thursday night with his shoes in his hand, complaining of chest pains and extreme shortness of breath… well, you take it pretty frickin’ seriously. When he actually said the words, "I need to go to the emergency room," I wake the boys, tell them where we’re going, and get in the car.
I drive. He said the trip to the emergency room almost made his heart stop. Haha.
Although our doctor is at Clinica Biblica in downtown San Jose, we are five minutes from CIMA, the other big fine hospital here. In CIMA’s emergency room, they gave him a shot of pain reliever, hooked him up to an IV with more drugs, took two blood tests an hour apart, took his blood pressure a million times, took a chest x-ray and three EKGs over the course of three hours. Apparently if you are having a heart attack, there is some enzyme that shows up in your blood and he had none of that. X-ray and EKGs were normal.
An odd thing: the minute he got the shot of pain reliever, his
blood pressure dropped dramatically, he broke into a cold sweat, all
the blood left the top of his body and he started to faint. Faint? X? The ER staff went into ER mode: they hooked the get-your-blood-pressure-up IV bag to his tube, the doctor is holding
this up in the air and squeezing it to get the stuff into him faster, they put his feet
above his head which makes the chest thing significantly worse… but
he doesn’t faint and his blood pressure returns to normal after about a minute. Which, of course, felt like an hour. The doctor explains that sometimes the pain from the shot makes people faint. This sounds lame to me, but it’s the best she has.
The drugs (non-narcotic so no "feel good" stuff) relieved the pain
and he can breathe. The ER doctor suggested a stress test the next day, but
determined he was not having a heart attack and there is nothing else she can do. At 2am, we pay our bill ($480) and go home to bed.
It’s really really nice to find out you’re not having a heart attack. But what are you having???? Here are the symptoms: the pain starts at the top of his windpipe and, with every breath, spreads across his chest, up his neck and across his shoulders, including the back of his shoulders. He feels like he wants to hunch over. He has to take shallow breaths because of the pain – he can’t breathe deeply, too painful. And it’s connected to his blood pressure somehow: when he lies down or bends over to put on his shoes, blood pressure increases sharply and he says every heartbeat feels like a hammer pounding on his chest.
Friday morning, around 9am, after being up for an hour or so, the pain starts again and rapidly gets as bad as the night before. Scary. We hop in the car to see our doctor at Clinica Biblica. I do not tailgate this time. We stop to fill the prescription for painkiller (Lisalgil); X takes one. By the time we get in to see the doctor, the pain has subsided to a 1 from an 8. The doctor is mystified. He looks at all our stuff from the night before and suggests a double-check of everything. We’ll be there all day.
X has another round of blood tests, a chest x-ray, several EKGs, a stress test, an echo-cardiogram, a sonogram, every test available and all of which I witnessed. After the stress test, we are in the waiting room. I notice that X’s head, which is now bald, is going chalky white. I ask him if he feels ok, he says yes. Then his head gets bright white. The cold sweat starts. I ask if he feels ok, he says no, he’s about to pass out. They take him back and do another EKG. The episode passes and he does not faint. The doctor explains that sometimes after a stress test, the arteries are open further… I don’t know. It sounds lame to me, but what do I know? Aren’t these two fainting spells related? They think not.
By 4pm, we have spent another $500* and are certain of only one thing: X’s heart is going to last forever. It is so good, it will probably out live him. No one could have a better heart. Still otherwise mystified, we go home. I Google chest pain. After heart-related causes, there’s only anxiety, diabetes and shingles left. He will have a fasting blood test to rule out diabetes, but none in his family and previous blood test said not. Could someone who is rarely concerned, always pragmatic ("everybody dies" is in the top ten Xavier expressions) suddenly experience debilitating chest-crushing anxiety? I guess if he breaks out in a rash, we’ll know it was shingles. But where did he contract the chicken pox virus? Does shingles cause this degree of chest pain?
The cardiologist gave him a stronger painkiller, an NSAID, and this stuff knocks out the pain completely. It’s now Saturday afternoon and he can feel the pain lurking back there. He has plenty of drugs to keep it at bay. BUT WHAT IS IT? Someone today suggested a parasite. At the hospital, a virus was mentioned, as in "Maybe he’s coming down with something." Uh, yeah. I’m afraid to ask about the parasite thing. Does a virus/parasite present like this? I don’t know. I sure as hell wish I did.
Here’s my confession. When X was laying in the ER bed Thursday night, his life insurance policy flashes before me. I can’t help it. If he dies, I get 500 big ones. (He’s safe because it has that selfish clause about how murder voids the policy.) So while he’s laying in the ER hooked up to a bunch of stuff, fainting, I’m thinking about how I will spend the $500k. I tell him this. He says, "I know." I find that endearing and decide I’d rather have him. I just have to figure out what he’s got so we can keep him.
*The last 48 hours of medical attention cost just under $1,000 paying full price. Our health insurance policy in the states had a $5,000 deductible and cost $670/month for the four of us. The last chest x-ray I paid for cost $400 and that was years ago. My mom had an EKG four years ago in Key West that cost $800. For ONE. X has had at least 10 so far along with everything else. We’ve gotten our money’s worth.