Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Catching Up

I'm back on my feet this morning. At least somewhat.

My wife told you the story on her blog, so I'll spare you most of the details.

I spent most of the weekend in a haze. Saturday was fevered dreams, most of which involved discussing or contemplating medical things which were over my head, and which I had to earn the right to talk about. So whenever I woke, I didn't want to go back to sleep because I felt like I didn't have anything I was allowed to dream about. Sleeping just seemed like intensely hard work, not rest.

Fevers produce delirium, and you can reason in any direction in a delirious state.

I can't remember much of the weekend, except that to me the emergency room seemed too busy to give any priority to getting antibiotics for me. Nor did I think they understood what a 0.1 white blood cell count meant. So any time I woke up, I checked on my antibiotics, and I tried to get across to them that I didn't care about medications for headaches or nausea until I was getting antibiotics to treat the cause of the headaches and nausea.

Saturday night, I was so weak that when I stood up in the middle of the night I passed out, pulling down the IV pole with me. That was a fiasco, handled very quickly and very thoroughly by lots of people. I just remember standing up and sitting down and people pulling my pants down because there was blood on them. I just did what everyone said and went back to bed.

I started waking up out of the haze Sunday afternoon, but it doesn't seem like I was back in reality until yesterday morning.

I had a mild heart attack Sunday night. If they hadn't told me what it was, I would never have known. I felt a heaviness on my chest, and it took a little more effort to fill my chest with air. My wife tells me that I asked for nausea medicine right before, I think. Her report of what happened will be more accurate. After about 10 minutes, my chest felt fine, but I broke out in a sweat, mostly on my head. I never considered that something so mild could be something important. If I hadn't been getting blood at the time, I'm pretty certain I would not have reported the chest heaviness.

So, based on a 15-minute discussion with the cardiologist and about 5 minutes of research on the internet, though I did make the effort to skip several ehow, and wiki-answer sites to get to an actual cardiologist-run site, here's what happened.

Your heart doesn't just provide blood to the whole body, it has to provide blood and nutrients to itself, too. I think the first branches off the aorta as it leaves the heart are the left and right coronary arteries. The left coronary artery splits into two more major arteries, and all three have numerous smaller branches that keep getting smaller until they end in capillaries, where the blood cells go through single file, dropping off oxygen and nutrients and picking up waste.

In the arteries of your heart, about 45% of the cells are red blood cells (40% for women). In mine, on Sunday night, about 23% were.

The red blood cells carry nutrients as well. I hadn't eaten more than a few crumbs in 48 hours, so those few red blood cells were not well-supplied.

My heart itself had been running at high-speed for that entire 48 hours, never dropping below 90 beats per minute, and often over 140, about the heart rate of a jogger at a moderately difficult jogging pace.

So somewhere among those coronary arteries, probably in a very small one because my heart attack was very mild, there was enough blockage that between the blockage, the thinness of my blood, the hard work of my heart, and the lack of nutrients and probably water as well, a small section of my heart called it quits.

It's possible for that to happen without damage to the heart. (I'm thinking that would happen only because the blood returned to that part of the heart pretty quickly. Not sure.)

The reason that they know it was a heart attack is because they immediately took blood, and I had elevated cardiac enzymes, indicative of a heart attack, and apparently the symptoms I describe are textbook heart attack symptoms. I didn't know that.

My EKG afterwards was normal. I got an echocardiogram, which is basically a long, careful ultrasound (sonar) reading of the whole heart, using exactly the same technology used for birth ultrasounds (which is how parents can know the sex of a baby). I haven't heard the results back from my echocardiogram. I had one a month ago, and the cardiologist told me yesterday that my October echo was " good; no, better than good."

So, hopefully I'll hear today whether anything has changed.

One thing has changed, which is that the cardiologist got the doctors to raise my minimum hematocrit, the percentage of red blood cells in the blood, to 30%, rather than 25%. I've gotten blood two days in a row. I'll get blood again today to get over 30%.

On the good side, my white blood cell count jumped to 0.3. That's still extremely low, of course, but it is a sign that my body's ready to start producing blood cells on its own again.

I feel great this morning, though I have nothing like my normal strength.

I want to say thank you to all the people who've told me they are praying for me (mostly personally, not through this blog, though I know there are people keeping up through this blog as well). There are so many such people from so many places, including entire churches, that I'm embarrassed to list them. I'm a little awe-struck. It almost doesn't seem right.

But I'll take it.

Thank you to all of you. May such love abound in the earth.

For the record. I still believe that all things work together for good for those who love God and are the called according to his purpose (which is everyone who will heed his call). It's all good!

We're not losing our motto, or our faith.

By the way, I got this blog's motto—It's all good—from a little girl for my birthday. Thanks, Katie!


  1. So grateful you are feeling better and you fever is down. Looking forward to seeing you and Hannah when we run the race this weekend. Love you both lots!!!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I had to remove a post here by someone so offended by the fact that I believe in God that he couldn't say "The whole idea seems ridiculous to me," but had to cuss and type in all caps for half his post.

    Allowing strong dissent has always been an American ideal (though I have no obligation to that on this blog). But antisocial ranting in public is called "disturbing the peace" or "being a public nuisance," and has never wisely been tolerated in any society.

    A quick note here that I am very disappointed in Google's spam system that the comment wasn't deleted automatically. Wordpress would never have missed it. I'm going to go see if there are blogger settings I can adjust.

  4. No settings to adjust. So I removed the option to comment anonymously. That should allow me the option not just to delete the content of a comment, but to ban the user as well.

  5. And hi, Mala! I'm looking forward to seeing you, too.