This is a guest post by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. Stepto currently works at HBO and is the former banhammer at XBox. He is an author, comedian, and leader of The Steptos.
Try to imagine this conversation:
Brain: Man. I am getting kinda worried about the fact I’ve had this incredible cold and have not slept but 10 hours over the past 5 days.
Heart: Roger that Brain, engaging the engine at 110%
Brain: No wait I…
Chest: Heart? This is the Chest we’re gonna need to tigthen up a bit here to handle the new load.
Brain: No guys that’s going to make it worse because…
Heart: Make it worse? Roger that! Upping to 120%
Chest: Chest copies! cranking up pressure.
Lungs: Engaging gasping.
Brain: no guys this is going to make this bad because he’s going to think he’s having a heart attack–
Skin: Hey guys, we have the go ahead to go flush and get all clammy just FYI that’s what we’re seeing across the board here.
Lungs: Uh Heart, we’re pushing up respiration to 130% to help move this racing oxygen around. This triggers shortness of breath mode just FYI.
Heart: Brain we can’t keep this pace up how long were you needing this?
Brain: I never asked for–
Eyes: Guy’s I’m seeing some crazy stuff on Webmd regarding heart attacks and I know we have a family history so…
Brain: All right I’m getting angry here, let’s calm down immediately and–
Heart: Angry? Got it, crank it up another 30%.
Chest: Roger that cranking up the tightness.
And this is how I ended up calling 911 with racing heart, intermittent chest pressure, rapid breathing, anxiety etc. All of which had lasted off and on for a couple of hours.
My father’s side has had heart issues, most of my paternal grandfather’s siblings as well as himself died from heart related issues. So when, late Friday night, I began to feel what I thought were ever increasing and clear symptoms of a mild heart attack, I called 911. 911 sent a dispatch team out to the house while I laid down and Rochelle penned up the dogs and got me ready to travel if needs be. My anxiety level began to skyrocket when I realized I had just called an ambulance, sirens and lights blazing, into my “so quiet you can hear someone drop a coke can in another house” neighborhood at 4am on a Saturday morning.
Brain: Jeez I hope they don’t use the siren…
Heart: Aye sir cranking up to—
Brain: SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUTUP
They arrived (sans siren) and hooked me up to all manner of bitchin’ equipment to scan my heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and a field EKG. while they shouted scary numbers to each other (“210 over 120” “96!” “6.0221413e+23”) I got to become increasing agitated while I answered a ton of questions about where did it start, how did I feel etc. All while wearing enough leads and wires that I felt like one of the trees in Avatar.
After a scary few minutes the tech calmed me down. Started asking the “have you been getting sleep? Under stress lately etc.” They reassured me I was in no immediate danger looking over all my vitals and my EKG’s were normal. My heart rate was through the roof so they wanted to go to the ER.
The view through an ambulance was surreal and I guess an experience I have the good fortune to scratch off my bucket list without kicking the bucket. The techs told me all about the various gadgetry and we all geeked out over my iPad mini retina which they allowed me bring. In the interests of their privacy I didn’t want to tweet photos from there since it would be hard in the cramped quarters to remove any distinguishing characteristics but they did a great job in calming me down.
Once at the ER, a crack team of people informed me they would not need to crack open my chest. They ran a blood panel, took X-rays, and ran several EKG’s. About the only disappointment was the X-ray, where the technician put a lead cloth down to “shield my privates from being irradiated” and I complained it was OK, I wanted Hulk privates.
Everything came up Milhouse. I was given an IV of Lorazopram and that niftily settled my brain down. They explained my blood panel was fine, my heart was ok, the EKG’s were fine and that I did not, in fact have a heart attack. Instead I had a very sustained panic attack brought on by a variety of factors, not the least of which was an extreme case of sleep deprivation.
Now, I told you all that to tell you this.
My family on my father’s side as I mentioned has a huge history of sudden heart related death experience, an experience you only get to have once. I quibbled for a few minutes over bothering to call 911 until I remembered that. On the heels of Wil’s post about getting healthy, I wanted to throw out that assuming the presence of insurance (or even not), DO NOT SCREW AROUND with symptoms like the ones I had. It’s always better to know it’s not a heart event than it is to drop dead being so very thankful you didn’t wake your neighbors with the ambulance siren.