Saturday, September 13, 2008

For the Record (A Short Novel)

While most people have heard some of the story, and some people have heard most of the story, very few have heard it all. So, for the sake of accurate information being passed about as well as helping us to remember all that happened these past few days, here goes...

It all started Sunday evening around 10 or 10:30. No, wait, actually it began that morning. I was kind enough to pass some sort of stomach virus on to Jim, and he was having really bad stomach pain. We figured it was related to the virus, but I looked up his symptoms on Web MD just to be safe.

One of the paragraphs mentioned that people sometimes dismiss pain on their left side as gas pain when it can, in fact, be heart-related. At that point, the pain was low enough that we didn't really think much about it, but I was thankful later that we had read that information.

Fast forward to Sunday evening: Jim and I had just watched a movie together, and he had been having some tightness in his chest on the left side (but had not told me). I fell asleep on the couch with Josiah, and Jim went to bed. When I woke up and came to bed around midnight, he seemed uncomfortable and was kind of groaning a little, but I just assumed his stomach was hurting again (he still did not say anything to me).

After a trip to the restroom, which further confirmed my suspicions, he tried to sleep. When he was still in pain at about 1 am, he (finally) said that he was having pain and numbness on the left side of his chest, down his left arm, and even radiating up into his jaw. We debated about what to do: call a local friend of ours who is a PA, head straight to the ER, or check out symptoms on Web MD. We decided to check online just to see what we were dealing with. His description of the pain and the location of it seemed to suggest that it was heart-related, so we got ready to go to the ER just to be safe.

After convincing Jim that there was no way I was going to let him drive himself to the hospital, we asked my grandmother to stay with our two oldest children who were asleep, loaded up Josiah, and headed out.

They checked Jim in quickly, and got his vitals, an EKG, and blood work. They also hooked him up to an IV and (at various points) gave him nitroglycerin, pain meds, and heparin, I believe. The doctor met with him and thought that it was not likely to be a heart attack based on his age, health, and family history. However, when his blood work came back and showed elevated levels of cardiac troponin (a marker of heart muscle damage which often indicates a heart attack), the doctor said that we needed to take this seriously and made arrangements to transfer Jim via ambulance to Ball Memorial in Muncie.

I was not able to accompany Jim on the ambulance ride to Ball, so he will have to fill in that portion of the story. I dropped off Josiah at home, took a quick shower, and had a good friend drive me down to Ball. We arrived about 6 am.

Over the course of the morning, Jim was seen by several doctors and medical students, including a cardiologist, Dr. Ali. He decided the best thing was to do a heart cath to see if Jim had any blockage in his heart. If not, he would do a CAT scan to rule out a pulmonary embolism, another potential cause of Jim's pain and abnormal blood test.

Jim actually felt decent for awhile that morning, posting on his Facebook account and resting. Mid-morning they did an echo cardiogram, and he began experiencing some chest pain again. They prepped him for the heart cath and sent him down for a chest x-ray. On the way back up really began feeling pretty bad, rating his pain as even worse than it was in the ER. They gave him nitro again, but he was still in pain. A nurse came in to do another EKG, and after reading the results and observing a drop in Jim's heart rate (it was down to 32), the doctor decided to the the heart cath right away. He had been scheduled for noon, but they had changed it to 2 pm. The doctor actually ended up ordering general anesthisia because he didn't want to wait for the other drugs (valium and Benedryl, I believe) to take effect as planned.

This was probably the scariest point of the ordeal. Seeing Jim in pain again and watching the calm, yet concerned reaction of the medical staff made me worried. By the time they were taking him down for the procedure, I was scared. Fortunately, we only had to wait around 45 minutes before the doctor paged us and let us know that he had found no blockages or damage to Jim's heart.

The took him right down for a CAT scan to rule out the pulmonary embolism, and that came back clear as well. His enzymes were still elevated (and rising, if I understand correctly) which continued to point to some type of heart issue. So, by a sort of process of elimination, they diagnosed it as pericarditis.

Because his heart rate had dropped so low, Jim stayed overnight in the Coronary Care unit. He had no more chest pain and was released Tuesday afternoon around 2:30 pm. He was prescribed some medication for his heart and is also taking Tylonel to manage headache pain that is a side effect from one of his meds.

Since then, Jim has spent a lot of time resting. He feels pretty good most of the time except for headaches and some nausea. He had some restrictions from the heart cath (no lifting over 10 pounds for several days) but, as far as we know, does not have any from the pericarditis.

We have scheduled follow up appointments with our family doctor as well as with the cardiologist at Ball. They do not expect it to happen again, but they do not really know why it happened in the first place. That is a little disconcerting to both of us but, like so many things in our lives, is out of our control. We trust God's sovereignty. That's all we can do.

Thank you for praying for our family. It was such an encouragement to read your comments and posts on Facebook. We also appreciate those of you who brought us delicious, wonderful, amazing meals. Our children will be missing them as they are thrust back into reality this week. :)

We will keep everyone posted as (or maybe I should say *if*) we know more.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Coming Home

They are planning to discharge Jim sometime this afternoon. He is on a two-week prescription of meds for the condition and they will continue to monitor him.

I asked what caused it and if it could happen again, and they don't know. It seems that most 30 year-old lean runners do not typically have pericarditis. :) So, hopefully, this was a one time anomaly instead of a chronic problem.

Thanks again for praying for Jim and our family. We will update when we get him home and settled if we know more.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fixed Link

Thanks for all of your prayers. I know they are sustaining us.

I fixed the link to Jim's diagnosis for your reading pleasure.

Update on Jim

I'm hoping most of you who can keep up on Jim updates this way. The hospital will not let me get on Facebook.

Jim was admitted to the ER early this morning with chest pain and weakness/numbness in his left arm. After some bloodwork showed elevated levels of enzymes that are heart-related, they transferred him to Ball Memorial and have been running tests and trying to determine what is wrong.

Jim's heart cath came back good - no blockage.
The CAT scan showed no pulmonary *whatever*.
They have changed his diagnosis (from a heart attack) to pericarditis.

Jim will be staying the night so they can see if the meds for this are effective and so they can ensure that he is not having more chest pain or drops in heart rate (his rate was down to 32 at one point and they rushed him out for the heart cath - pretty tense).

Thanks for praying. I will try to let you know more as we do.