The day of the NOT heart attack. NOT.

Here’s how having a heart attack messes up your mind.

As chronicled in “The Day of the Heart Attack” nearly six years ago, back in May of 2011, I had awakened in the 3:00 a.m. hour of the morning, not feeling right, and it turned out I was having a heart attack, and a few hours and an $8,000 (rounded up) stent and $60,000 (rounded down, but including stent) treatment later, including two shocks (I mean electrical shocks applied to the body), I was quite well taken care of and, thanks to modern medicine, without the need to crack open my chest.

In fact, I had the MI (myocardial infarction)(heart attack) on Monday, was released Tuesday, and was working on Wednesday.

Here’s the first way that thing messed up my mind. I’ve had transient chest pains all my life. Really, as long as I can remember. A pain will pass through my chest. No big deal. Like a hangnail, like a zit, it’s just part of life…

until you’ve had a heart attack. Then that transient pain starts, and you’re going, “Oh, crap, is it THAT again?” It’s not, at least not so far, but you can’t help but wonder while you try to remember where those little nitro pills are.

And here’s the second way it messed me up.

A couple days ago, Grandma and I went to bed on the eve of her birthday. “Birthday!” It may seem like a big deal to some, but at our ages, with many decades of birthdays behind us, the occasion is a casual-sweet one rather than a consuming one.

But I had a nightmare that night. It wasn’t gory or anything, just ugly, frustrating, angry, depressing. I jerked awake from it. It was about 3:15 a.m.

I had a tight, painful spot in my chest, on the right side. Really? I lay still for a while, wishing it away, but my mood was still unhappy and sour from the nightmare, and now with a little added spice of déjà vu from the heart attack.

Hopeless. However much I wanted it to not happen, I wasn’t going back to sleep. Twenty minutes later, I got up and busied myself.

The tightness/pain in my chest slowly faded, but I had tingling/sensitivity/numbness down the back of my left arm. Okay, now’s the time to start taking internal inventory. And I can’t quantify this, but pervasive through my awareness was the thought that

This Isn’t Right. Something Is Wrong.

Back from the cardiac nurse in 2011, comes the whispered memory, “Listen to your body.”

Okay.  I’m listening, but I had, really, very little of the reoccurence of May of 2011. Not the “heartburn,” not the pain/tingling down the arms (except down the left)(which was Not Reassuring), not the clamminess/sweatiness that happened on my way to, and in, the hospital.

But I do also know that heart attacks are not universal in their symptoms. I do know that what I was feeling in my body, whether real or psychologically projected, were potential symptoms of a cardiac events.

After phutzing around with going to the bathroom, drinking some water ‘n’ stuff, killing time including searching for my nitro which I couldn’t find because it’s been nearly six years, I had to come to a decision: Is this Real, or is it a Scare? ‘

Deep within my heart of hearts, with the different symptoms, I felt I was not having a heart attack. Was Not. Give it a 98% probability that I Was Not.

Well… that means that there’s a 2% probability that I’m experiencing something that can kill me. Is that very low 2% something that will keep me in the house, trusting that it’s not happening and that I’ll survive the night? What exactly are the right odds for trying to ensure that I stay alive?

And it does occur to me that if I’m dead wrong (pun intended) about my odds and if I do die today, it will probably wreck up Grandma’s birthday celebration and all her other birthdays in the years to come.

Well, if I’m going to the ER, I don’t want to look like I’m crawling out of bed to get there. I take a quick shower, get dressed, softly tell the mostly-sleeping Grandma that I woke up and can’t get back to sleep and am going for a drive, she asks if she needs to set her alarm for her patient that day, I set it for her, and we kiss, and I bid her adieu.

Here’s the let-down, Dear Readers:

Nothing suspenseful after that. Nothing. I drive to the ER, explain my angst, they keep me for a couple hours while they run an EKG and blood panels, all telling me that I’m perfectly normal for a schlup my age. They assure me that I’ve done the right thing, that any uncertainty should be addressed, and in the background I’m thinking, “Yeah, we should be cautious, but that cautiousness is costing me $3,000 just to tell me nothing’s wrong.”

I haven’t gotten the bill yet, but I just know it’s more than that. Yes, I have coverage. Deductibles. Eye of newt. Whatever. I’m gonna get hosed for being careful. This I know.

I go back home, everything’s fine. I don’t want to break the news and disrupt any birthdays. But with the birthdays and their celebrations behind us, I’ve fessed up, and she’s unhappy (but understanding) that I didn’t tell her at the time, she’s distressed about the upcoming bill as am I, and supremely happy that I’m okay.

Heart attacks. They mess with your mind. I strongly advise not having one.

— Grandpa

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