I would lie down and feel a bit better after a while, but I would toss and turn all night or be aware, even in my dreams, that my heart was leaping.Usually, after I got up in the morning, sometimes after breakfast, I would begin to feel normal again and wonder, I also noticed around that time that I had a chronic pain in my chest, a kind of dull ache. They tell you, “You have atrial fibrillation.” Atrial fibwhat?I did ask my doctor about it and he hooked me up to an ECG (electrocardiograph) machine, examined the paper as the graphs sputtered out, and said everything looked normal. If it really bothered me I could go to the emergency room when it was happening and they should be able to tell me more.I give Meg a little nudge and tell her my heart is at it again. They have to move me from the emergency room, though, and most of the hospital is booked. As I’m undergoing an echocardiogram, the cardiologist arrives.I get an upgrade to a private room in Intensive Care. They hook me up to the ECG and the blood pressure cuff and tuck me in. They have trouble getting a clear picture of my heart from every angle—something about my rib cage getting in the way—but one thing is clear: I have pericarditis, inflammation of the pericardium, the thin membrane that surrounds the heart.He prescribes Cardizem CD 180 mg once a day, plus an aspirin (81 mg once a day). Robert would battle afib on and off over the years and would eventually have an ablation in 2016.
I’m instructed to take one 120 mg tablet “if rapid palpitations recur”, wait and hour, then take another one. I half expect the neighbors to be out, standing on their lawns in their pajamas and bathrobes, but it’s probably about two in the morning and the cul-de-sac is quiet.
I finally saw the nurse and told him about my symptoms. The hospital is only about five minutes away; no need for an ambulance. When the heart beats too fast it does not pump blood very well.
He took copious notes and said he’d fix me up with a treadmill test, whatever that was, to rule out cardiovascular disease. This can cause other symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness or fainting.
At least, not to the test the nurse practitioner scheduled for me. I’m given a drip of Cardizem and “convert” (my heart returns to normal) a short time after. Within a few minutes, the doorbell rings and five athletic guys walk in with a stretcher.
The evening after my appointment, I begin feeling anxious. It’s almost bedtime, so I think I’ll just go to bed and sleep it off as I have so many times in the past. I feel slightly better for a few minutes—and then it gets worse again. They keep me awhile to make sure I’m okay, then send me home with a prescription for Diltiazem (Cardizem) and the number of a cardiologist. I’m not sure why it takes five guys, but they’re young and buff and Meg isn’t complaining, and they hook me up the ECG and begin quizzing me about my symptoms.