Yesterday morning, I got up, took a shower, brushed my teeth, and out of nowhere started having throbbing pain at the back of my neck, in my left shoulder, deep into the left side of my chest, and down to my left elbow, and also started having trouble breathing. The pain was so intense I was immediately nauseous and started blacking out. Needless to say, my husband took me to the emergency room – this was not even a case of me having to ask him. He got dressed as soon as he saw me crumple up. In the cab and the waiting area at the emergency room, I asked him several times to make sure they ran an EKG on me. You see, I have read way too many stories such as this one where women in their 30s end up in the emergency room with a heart attack and get told they are having a panic attack and to go home. While I was not coherent enough to say EKG (the pain was coming in fast waves, with barely any breaks between the waves, though I did still remember some vague outline of these statistics) he understood, as well as me asking him about what test to ask for for blood clots.
Kudos to the GW emergency room, because those were the first two test they ran on me, along with doing a chest xray, bloodwork, and some other tests. They also gave me a bronchial dilator to see if that would help my breathing, which I eventually realized was problematic because it hurt to breathe (as opposed to being unable to breathe). By then the test results had come back as all negative, my blood pressure and heart rate were fine, and the nurse gave me a shot of non-steroid inflammation-reducing painkillers. After five hours there and the shot, my pain had gone from an 8 to a 4 (out of 10), meaning I was semi-functional, so the doctor said it was likely a cervical radiculopathy (aka pinched nerve) or maybe an inflammation around the heart or my left lung. Either way, prescription ibuprofen, rest and follow-up with my general practitioner was what I was left with. Seeing as I was not in any immediate danger, I figured the best course of action was to go home and re-evaluate after a couple of days.
We walked home, at my insistence. I needed to feel like I was alive, and a walk seemed as good a way to do that as any, despite the pain, especially because I wanted to pick up a coconut water shake at Java Green. Incidentally, I have found coconut water shakes to be a great pick-me-up after bloodwork. As we were walking I reflected that I was grateful for health insurance and for the fact that my symptoms were taken seriously. And since I know the majority of my readers are women, I did want to mention this story to you – while I was lucky and no one, at any point, discounted my symptoms, I felt prepared if that had happened, and I hope you do too.
As for me – it is Saturday morning and I am working on finding a comfortable position to sleep in, though I was able to sleep. I had been scheduled for follow-up with both my doctor and my naturopath (they are in the same practice) Thursday next week since this past April, so at least I have that in place, even if I can’t get an earlier appointment. And in the meantime, I am thinking anti-inflammatory foods. I have chana dal soaking, as well as adzuki beans – and you know I will be cooking them in the rice cooker. Incidentally neither need to be soaked, but I find that all beans and lentils benefit from soaking. I am also thinking that my love for raw cacao (pretty much the only chocolate I eat) is going to have to be shelved for a little while. Raw cacao has many health benefits, but it does contain some caffeine, which can be inflammatory, so until the pain goes away, I am focusing on carob and chocolate-flavored stevia. And while there are lots of eggplant and tomatoes at the farmer’s market right now, I am going to abstain on those too. Otherwise, my diet is already pretty anti-inflammatory, though this episode is a good reminder that I need to rest more. And with that, I am off for another nap.
Image credit here.
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