“You are not having a heart attack”

“Mrs. Podollan, you are not having a heart attack”, true storey – the words of the ER doctor last night.

What the hell?  I was doing dishes with tears running down my face, I knew something was wrong ~ in fact I had known something was wrong for at least 24 hours at this point. But given the fact that I had just been diagnosed with viral induced asthma 6 weeks ago, I merely thought that “this” was something to do with my lungs.  “This”, being the severe chest pain; the intermittent sharp blows to my upper left back, and periodic shortness of breathe.

For those of you who don’t know me well, my Twitter profile sums me up best “a ‘tiger’ and a ‘peach’” ~ I am fiercely determined, confident and protective of my young ~ with a twist of being uber sensitive.  When it comes to strains, sniffles and trivial things liked stubbed toes, pulled muscles and hangnails I can easily be a peach and use adjectives to embellish my temporary “ouch”. But when it comes to a serious pain threshold, I like to think that the tiger side of me typically prevails; I always compare everything I experience to delivering a 10.5lb baby, with no stitches and no drugs. And the pain I was experiencing when I was doing dishes was inching it’s way up to a 7 on that baby delivery scale.

So upon having my vital tested by the triage nurse, she said to me “ we will let them finish your registration, I need you to come with me for an ECG”.  Good grief!? I am still thinking I am here for something to do with my lungs.  My vitals, both blood pressure and heart rate had raised some flags and before I knew it I was taking my shirt and bra off in an ECG room with a nurse who was standing there with all of the little stickies ready to decorate my chest, breast and legs.  By this time, I had been in ER a total of 10 minutes.  My mind was racing ~ what is going on?  I/my spa is an annual sponsor of a “Heart & Stroke Foundation” fundraising event.  I’ve seen the videos played during those evenings, I’ve watched a few advocate ‘youtube’ clips that have been passed to raise awareness, “but seriously”, I am thinking – this is me:  I’m just 41, eat healthy,  lead a healthy and active  lifestyle, weight is not a problem, stress is manageable  and I don’t smoke?! What the hell is going on with me?


Within minutes, the ECG graph was given to the doctor and that’s when, much to my shock, he indicated I was not having a heart attack! I was dumfounded. I gave him a blank look and said “thank you” – not realizing that they even suspected and were testing for a heart attack.

Within short order thereafter , the process of elimination in trying to diagnose my condition continued.  A round of blood work and an x-ray.  At this point, he needed to rule out that I did not have a blood clot in my lung.

The waiting began, the tears were streaming; my mind was running wild with hypotheticals and the damn pain was intense.  The ‘peach’ was starting to feel sorry for herself!  At 28 I had a massive benign tumor removed from my stomach, a few years later I had a benign lump from my breast removed and now…….now what?

Fortunately the wait was short and the doctor came back with relatively good news: the high blood pressure and elevated heart rate were likely from pain (and the heightened anxiety/worry), and more importantly, no blood clot in the lungs, however the pleural lining of the lungs is inflamed.  It’s pleurisy, and even better news, of the two types of pleurisy; it’s the “dry”, not the “wet”.  Dry is merely pain and inflammation treated by pain meds inflammation med whereas the “wet” variety is fluid on the lungs, which could require drainage and antibiotics.  The likely cause was a virus, or strenuous exercise ~ in my case, I had tipped the doc off by telling him I had done a 5km run at high altitudes followed by an 8km brisk skate ski.  He mimicked a marching soldier and demonstrated how the brisk movement of the arms could have caused this ~ regardless, the prognosis a couple days to a couple weeks of discomfort.

Well, I can certainly live with that!  The reason for me writing this blog post is to illustrate how a situation like that unfolds on a seemingly ‘ordinary’ day.  Earlier in the day I was tending to business as usual and normal life routine as usual as a wife and a mom. I made a delicious new corn chowder recipe for my son and had invited my father over for a family dinner.  Those moments in ER, alone (I insisted my hubby stayed home with our 8 year old son) were moments of clarity. It’s funny ~ or maybe not so funny, how you start having mini negotiating discussions with yourself – “if this, then I will do that”, if this, then I need to change that – give up that – do that – say that – make amends – look beyond that”. The small stuff disappears and the big stuff has a renewed sense of urgency and clarity.  They were moments of clarity; moments orchestrated by the grace of a higher power that compels one to take swift meaningful measures to ensure your life in on track for whatever time you have left. They were moments that remind you (as my grandfather used to say) “your health is your wealth”.

This morning I am grateful to be comforted by the knowledge that this condition is relatively speaking, inconsequential.  I am happily popping the advils and getting on with another ordinary day that has extra special meaning.  The priority list is once again being adjusted and I’m packing our bags to enjoy the remainder of Spring Break on the ski hill (albeit, maybe not as much skiing as I would like, but with family & friends, beautiful surroundings and fresh mountain air).