The Elaboration Pt 1

So…yesterday…to elaborate:

I went to bed the night previously feeling not great, with a lot of pain in my neck and shoulder that painkillers just didn’t seem to be having any effect on. I did manage to get to sleep, and slept soundly till 5 minutes past midnight, at which point I woke, fairly abruptly, to a horrible and pressing and tight pain in my chest.

After walking around the house for 5 minutes and feeling like I wanted to pass out, and as though I could barely take a breath, it occurred to me that perhaps there might be something seriously wrong. The pain didn’t feel like anything I’d felt before; it was a very high, flat and horizontal pain up under the ribcage.

I went back into the bedroom, and said to a now very awake HL, “I feel wrong…I’m not right…there’s something not right. I think I need to go to the hospital.” I took some aspirin and we threw on some clothes and jumped in the car. Once we were driving I felt like I might faint from the pain and the shortness of breath before we even got to the hospital. 

On the way I wasn’t able to decide if I would prefer it if the doctor told me I was fine and that there was nothing really wrong, or if I really was having a heart attack, or something similar (which seems ridiculous, in hindsight). We drove towards the hospital and I tried to direct HL to the Emergency entrance – which is silly, as he’s a taxi-driver and they know everything, and he told me as much: “I know where Emergency is…”.

We pulled in and I got out at the front entrance, while he went to park. Fortunately, there was nobody else in the Emergency waiting room so I went straight up to the window and, breathlessly, tried to explain that “I’m sure I’m fine, but I’m having chest pains, and I can’t breathe, and I just want to make sure that I’m fine.” She then asked me to fill out a form… Well, I could barely pull the Medicare card out of my wallet, let alone figure out what the form was asking me, so I struggled for a second and then she took it from me and indicated that HL could fill it out.

Someone (not sure who, it was a bit blurry) ushered me in to the ER and directed me to a bed. I lay down and then there were two people bustling around, putting a gown on me, wheeling in an ECG machine, sticking monitors all over my chest and on both ankles and wrists. I remember apologising and saying that I knew it was nothing, but it felt different than any other pain and I wanted to be careful, and, sorry for bothering them.

The machine was doin’ its thing for a few minutes and then they unplugged me and the nurse said that the heart functions seemed normal, but she would get the doctor to come and see me. The pain hadn’t subsided at all by this time; it was still very heavy and pushing on my chest, and I still was finding it very hard to breathe, but it was a relief that death didn’t seem to be imminent.

The doctor came in a few minutes later and asked lots of questions about what the pain felt like, what my lifestyle was like, and etc., and confirmed that the results indicated that it wasn’t a heart attack, but they would take another reading in 10 minutes just to be sure.

The 2nd reading was the same as the first, and so they let me go. They offered pain medication, which I declined. They said that they weren’t sure what was wrong with me, but that it definitely wasn’t a heart attack. Towards the end of my visit a man came in who actually did seem to be having a heart attack so it was all very quiet at the front desk as we left, with all the staff focused on the very unwell man.

It was an odd drive home. I was very relieved to be fine, but feeling a bit silly and tired and guilty for dragging HL out in the middle of the night, especially knowing that he had to get up at 6.15 the next morning. I was still very much in pain and breathing was still difficult, but it started to subside on the drive home.

I threw up a few times when we got home, probably more from nervousness than anything, and then fell into bed and had a fitful sleep. I felt much better when I got up in the morning, and haven’t felt that pain since, so the mystery remains. It wasn’t anything like indigestion (I’ve had that, so I know what it feels like), so, who knows?

In the bright sunshinieness of the next day it all seemed/seems faintly foolish and surreal and dream-like. It was a very odd experience. I’m not usually a rush-to-the-hospital-in-the-middle-of-the-night type of person, and I cope with pain pretty stoically, so I know that the pain and the breathlessness and the feeling of ‘not-rightness’ was very real. Even though I felt/feel embarrassed I was/am very grateful that it wasn’t serious.

I’m certainly not afraid of dying but I am afraid of not only feeling grief, but of causing it. I remember standing in the loungeroom feeling awful, and thinking that it would be ridiculous if I died purely because I felt too silly to go to the hospital. I had a vision of HL coming home from the hospital and realising that he was alone and that he would have to pack up our lives and probably move home to the US. It was not a good feeling.

I know that, as Christians, we are not alone, and that, ultimately, eternally, it will ‘be ok’, but sometimes God feels very far away, and our fear and grief and pain feel like the only real thing. Last night though (the night after the early morning/middle of the night ride to the emergency room) God used this to tap me on the shoulder. But more about that soon.

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