Welcome to the fortieth issue of CEE News!
“There are two kinds of people who come into the E.R.,” my friend Jenny who worked in hospital patient logistics once told me. “There are the people we see regularly who feel that every little ache or pain is a medical emergency. They call for an ambulance to bring them in as if it’s an extension of Uber. Then there are those on the other end of the spectrum (like you),” Jenny implied. “People who come in with a piece of wood duct taped to an arm they broke weeks ago that they tried to reset themselves,” she says while holding her arm at a freakish angle.
My friend Jenny is very funny. She’s also wise. Like any wise friend, Jenny was not giving me unsolicited advice. She was using humor to suggest that not addressing my heart condition was bordering on the absurd. She was right, of course.
About ten years ago (maybe more), my heart would go into spontaneous overdrive. It would beat so fast and hard that I could see my chest jerk in and out toward the left side of my body like that chestburster scene in the movie Alien. A normal adult would have taken immediate action, such as tell the people around her or find the nearest medical facility, or maybe even dial 9-1-1. Instead, I waited quietly for my heart to self-correct. After a minute or two, it did. I went on with whatever I was doing and let the event fade. This happened again many, many times over the years.
Heart raced. I sat quietly. Heart returned to normal after a minute or two. I ignored it.
Two years ago, this routine started in the middle of the week at about 9:00 at night. I was home alone. My husband was out of town. This time, however, my heart would not self-correct. Not after a minute or two. Not after an hour. Not after going to bed and waking up at midnight with a still-racing heart.
What did I do? I decided that I needed to call my husband to tell him what was happening, then go to the emergency room. Before I called him though, I made the bed, straightened the house (there may have been some vacuuming involved), and took a shower. I did everything I could think of before making the call to my husband. I told him that my heart had been beating rapidly for a while and that I was going to drive myself to the E.R.
He immediately went into awesome husband mode. He knew me well enough not to insist that I make a safer decision such as call a family member, a friend, or 9-1-1. Instead, he asked me to call him as soon as I checked in and that he would be on the next flight home.
On the 5-mile drive to the hospital, I started feeling nauseous. So much, in fact, that I pulled over and threw up on the side of the road. When I got back into the car, I realized that my heartbeat had just returned to normal.
Hmm. What to do? I could see lights from the hospital complex just a half a mile ahead of me. It would be so easy to turn around, go back home and go to bed. I seriously thought of doing that. Instead, I had pulled the lever that put my husband into action and I owed it to him make the sensible choice and subject myself to becoming a patient.
My hospital stay lasted four days and three nights. I found out that I had SVT, or supraventricular tachycardia. The words I remember from the cardiologist were “not a precursor for a heart attack,” “very common,” “will get worse with age,” “can treat with medication or ablation.”
I’m having the ablation procedure on Tuesday of this week and will be home on Wednesday. I have no leadership advice to wrap this message up. Just taking an opportunity to be vulnerable and trust that some wisdom will spring from years spent in willful ignorance.
Sheri Nasim | President & CEO