Tuesday, February 26, 2013
I had the very unusual thought / question cross my mind. When was the first time I ate peanut butter like that? How did it start?
Well, I didn't come up with the very first time, BUT it did take me back to some interesting food memories.
My last paddling.
My father was a believer in "spare the rod, spoil the child". When we were smaller, he used a wooden spoon. But they weren't quite durable enough and at some point (after I was 12, because the step-mother was around), he brought home a small board -- 1x2x12 and cut/carved a handle and painted it dark brown.
Some years later, I think I was 15 or 16, came the day of my last paddling. I was sitting in the living room watching TV. I had the peanut butter jar and a spoon. My father's voice came from the kitchen "Has anyone seen the peanut butter?"
Promptly I hid the jar off to the side of the couch, gave a quick wipe to my lips, and continued watching TV. Why? I don't remember it being thought of as wrong, exactly, but there were all sorts of food rules, so I don't really know. I just had the idea it would be better to sneak it back into the cupboard later rather than say directly that I had it.
He poked his head around into the dining area from which the living room could be seen and asked each of us kids he spotted if we knew where it was.
And here's what I really got in trouble for. I looked him dead in the eye and answered in the negative ... and did it well enough he believed me. When he found out later, he was livid. Not over the peanut butter. That meant nothing. I had lied. Not just lied, but lied to his face about something so petty.
So I got paddled.
And learned my lesson. Hide the evidence better, dummie.
Yes, that really and truly was what went through my head in that moment. And I did. I learned to lie to him so well he never caught me out in another.
Looking back on that time, I realize there were a number of weird food habits. None of this had to do with weight. I was skinny to average.
The step-mother came into a family of 5 kids, my father not being particularly nutrition-minded, and tried to make huge changes all at once. (My mother used to joke that he would buy two bags of cookies rather than a can of tuna to feed us because it was cheaper. How much of that was divorced spouse talking and how much was literal, I don't know. I do know we had lots of bags of cookies around the house pre-step-mother.)
At varying points milk was replaced with some sort of soy powder mixed with water, cheese with soy cheese, chocolate chips with carob chips, sugar with fructose and brown sugar and honey (considered healthier at the time), and so on. We had vitamin containers with handfuls of pills to make up for all our nutritional lacks.
One thing I remember doing at one point was being hungry for something sweet, something not in her style of nutritious. I went into the kitchen and somehow decided to roll a chunk of margarine in the oats and then in the brown sugar. It was all done quite sneakily, knowing it wasn't "acceptable" behavior.
Another thing was the jar of carob chips, meant to be used for making cookies. Sometimes I would make cookies just to eat batter and extra chips. Other times I snuck into the kitchen late at night and poured a handful of chips to eat. It got to the point that the step-mother stuck a piece of paper in the jar warning that she could tell they were being eaten. I learned to tilt the jar so it looked like the same amount unless someone took it down from the top shelf and to make cookies so it naturally was lower before that trick was spotted. At some point I even quit caring and just left her little note there with less carob chips under it.
I also started stealing money from my father's room -- both to take the public bus to school rather than the school bus and to buy lunch at school, finally getting the milk I missed that way. Thankfully, I started working at 15 and continued through graduation, so that stopped.
And, of course, there's the speed of eating. With 6 children and 2 adults, and sometimes limited amounts of seconds of foods that we actually liked, it was often a race to finish our firsts to make sure we got plenty of seconds. Later it was a race to clean the plate so we could escape the mandatory "family time" of dinner. With the most gag-worthy foods (most of her boiled past death veggies, particularly okra and brussels sprouts), if we couldn't sneak them off the plate into cup or napkin, gulping them whole sometimes worked.
So many odd food behaviors learned in that house.
Anyway, I am still wondering when it was that I first learned to spoon peanut butter directly. I mean, sure, lick the knife when I'm done -- but that would be washed. No fingers because they weren't clean. My mother's peanut butter wouldn't have been a likely target because she got it from the health food store grinding machine and it had to be stirred before each use. I'm the oldest child, with the next 2.5 years younger, so I doubt I learned it from them. I can't remember any adult around me eating it that way. It's really odd.
At my best guess, the whole "no fingers" combined with having a spoon accessible or no clean butter knife led to that first scoop.
As an aside, here's what I find truly amusing / strange about this. I love ice cream. Yet in spite of the way I can eat peanut butter, I cannot remember ever eating straight from the carton unless there was less than a serving left. All those TV shows with someone scooping direct from the pint and several pints around them make me shrug and shake my head. (Replace them with peanut butter jars, though ... well, no. I don't think I could eat an entire jar in one sitting. It usually takes me at least four mindless munching moments over a few days.)
Unfortunately ... my spoon kept digging into that peanut butter as my mind wandered down memory lane. I'm going to have fun fitting the rest of my nutrition into the day.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
So, I've made my decision on the race on my birthday. I'm going to pass it up this year. It's annual. It isn't new. I can make much better plans and work my finances a lot better looking ahead than rushing to fit it in this year. Patience means I can make the most of a stay in SF, too. Far wiser than painfully squeezing myself money-wise for the next month or so, especially with my portion of the hospital bill to pay and a paycheck short one day (that I spent in the hospital).
On that note, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center has an Ability to Pay Determination program - a low income health care program. I apparently qualify, which means I will have a co-pay amount rather than the full bill to deal with. (According to the hospital's financial counselor, that will be about $300 compared to the approximately $14,000 the bill comes to. ) In addition, once confirmed / approved / whatever, I'm on the plan for a year. Which means I can do routine appointments and prescriptions on a co-pay thing as well. Without paying any insurance premium.
Oh, there was one thing that made my jaw drop then started me laughing about the whole meeting with the financial counselor. I didn't actually need my bank statements because the assets section wasn't checked. The counselor said that would really matter unless I had at least $250,000 in assets. I would be deliriously happy to see a TENTH of that in my checking account. (Well, assuming it was legitimately obtained and not going right back out.)
Lost another pedometer. I'd been having trouble with the belt clip thing holding properly, but thought I had it in a secure spot when I took Buster out this morning. I didn't realize it was missing until we'd gotten back and I was enroute to the gym. Oh well. Steps are fun to track, but I don't need that to walk - walking is natural to me. It's one less thing to have to remember in the morning.
Went shopping today. There was a possibility of going to the club with someone and I need more than the four sweaters and five dress shirts I wear every week to work.
This is me in one of the tops and ... a SKIRT?!?!?! that I tried on. I haven't worn a dress or skirt in years. That had nothing to do with weight, either. It has to do with the maintenance involved. Leg shaving, for one. Yuck. Nylons, for another. Double yuck. Such a ridiculous expense over time and as naturally klutzy as I am, runs are pretty much a given, which makes them look less than appealing.
I have to admit that a skirt (at least that one) fits my shape better than pants. Most pants feel very snug on the hips and loose in the waist. My solution of a belt is okay, but doesn't mean the pants fit better - just that they don't feel like they're sliding down all the time.
Seventeen months went past without me paying any attention what with everything else going on. I was back down to the 168 / 168.5 range again, but then had another couple days of eating well over my range following a weekend challenge in which I did a lot of cardio. I really need to learn this lesson, I think. My metabolism is already high. When I do a LOT of calorie burn and eat in range, after several days I end up rather hungry. Once I go into eating mode when I'm that hungry, very little seems to satisfy the hunger for long. (Though I did find that, to my surprise, a coffee cake from Starbucks worked - I don't consider 400 calories with minimal nutrition a good solution.)
Solving it -- there's two sides to this. The first is that I really HAVE to break the tendency to push for max points in a challenge if it will put my body out of balance in either nutrition or fitness (getting a 500 deficit or doing more than 60m of cardio all four days). What's funny? I can so easily say nope if the challenge said to eat clean or avoid sugar or sleep 8 hours every night. But I'll mess with my food and exercise. Blue, Blue, silly Blue. The second is that I need to decide on healthy additions to cut off the hunger at the pass. One that comes to mind is frozen veggies that steam in the bag. They're usually 3-4 servings worth, but things like corn, peas, carrots and maybe some other options. I'll stock up this week and take some to work and make that what I grab first when I'm hungry.
I actually upped my expected calories burned. Even having cut back on the gym cardio, I've been burning 1000-1500 more than planned most weeks. In fact ... even with the week I went to the ER, I still managed to exceed it by 500. Upping the calories did, of course, knock my caloric intake up, but I'm not planning to change much. It went from 2200-2550 to 2360-2710. Since my regular eating days are in the 2400-2500 range, that's still within my range but lower in it.
Starbucks was becoming a habit again. I don't mind having it occasionally, such as when I meet up with DDa. But when I printed out my bank account statement thinking I needed it for the financial counselor, I noticed a trend I didn't like ... a dozen or so charges from Starbucks. Those add up, both in dollars and calories. Even if I can make them fit, I don't want to be doing that more than once a week at most, ideally less. (I'm not a coffee drinker at all. I get a hot chocolate and a chewy chocolate meringue cookie. Rarely I get the coffee cake instead.) So as my status said, that ended.
One thing I noticed today while walking Buster was flowers. Daffodils in one spot, some little lavender buds in another. It's still relatively cold, but spring's promise is there.
I owe another blog. There's been a lot of mental ramblings going on, but not enough getting to a fully coherent point.
One thing I've been doing the last few days is finding reasons why I deserve to work to the best body I can obtain. Something weird I uncovered is that I have an antipathy toward overly "perfect" bodies. Not that I hate the person with a very nice body. It doesn't affect my attitude toward them as a person. More like ... in my head I'm nattering about how much of their life they waste in working for that body. Or shrugging it off as air-brushed if it isn't in person. And more.
Something clicked. I have never hated my body. Heck, I have nude pictures I took in a mirror when I was over 230 pounds. I'm obese, no question, but I don't hate the way I looked. I just know it wasn't healthy. Self-esteem has never been an issue. I can't explain how or why, but I've always accepted myself as I am - many flaws included.
But deep inside, there's some resistance to working for the best body I can have. It will mean I am one of "them", though what that is supposed to mean is unclear. Body isn't the only place I do this. There's other points where I "sabotage" myself to avoid excelling, holding myself back to just okay.
I deserve to have a body free of excess fat.
I will not settle for less than I can achieve and I will push for more.
I've been looking carefully at my body and seeing the areas where the excess fat is most notable - the "problem areas" as it were. What I have reminded myself in doing so is that the ONLY way that is going down is if I focus and lose the excess fat. I know the weight work I do can't do squat for it. (In fact, one thing I've noticed with my abdominal fat is that my stronger core simply lifts my gut higher and more noticeable and the muscles beneath may be firm, but no one but me will feel them. All these muscles I'm strengthening and toning are hidden under a bulky winter coat.)
Oh, one last thing. While at the mall, I used one of those health-food store height, weight, and body fat machines. In my sneakers I was 5'8.9 inches. Fully dressed I weighed 174.5. Via hand sensors it measured my body fat at 28%. Not bad at all. As far as I know, I'm 5' 7.75" in bare feet, weighed 172.5 on my scale this morning, and my scale using foot sensors gave 33% for body fat. All close enough.
Friday, February 22, 2013
Oh ... my ...
Just got an email about a race and I'm so tempted to register for this:
Sausalito to San Francisco Emerald Across the Bay 12k
It's on my birthday.
It involves coming across the Golden Gate Bridge!
What's NOT to like?
Well, it isn't cheap. And it isn't in walking distance of home. I would have to have enough for the cost of the race ($50 plus online fee), but there's just no way to be in SF between 6:30 am and 8:00 am unless I spend the night there. A one-night stay might not be horribly expensive ... but it would be a Saturday night before St. Patrick's Day, so not sure how available hotel rooms would be. The longer I spend up there before and after, the more food and transportation costs add up.
Saturday and post-race Sunday in SF to celebrate birthday? Definite bonus.
Lots of hills? Well, I don't do terrible on them, but local races have mostly been flat.
It would also be only the second time I've gone further than 5k in a race. My only other one was the Turkey Trot 10k (which I did in about an hour and a half, so doing the 12k in under 2 hours sounds quite doable.) I have no doubt I can go that far, though my brisk walk ends up less brisk.
Obviously I need to get more details. Will I even have the spare cash to spend on myself for my birthday like that and is that what I want to spend it on?
Just one more thing to rattle around the brain cells that are already working long hours without overtime pay.
Friday, February 15, 2013
So there I was in the ER room bed, all hooked up to monitors, and my silly phone alarm about to do a 5 minute cycle of snoozes and alarms. Ugh. That meant no more sleep or going through a rather awkward process of getting up enough to reach it, turn it off, and by the end of that process be awake enough I wasn't going to get back to sleep anyway.
Amazing timing, but someone came in to see me right at that moment. Financial services. Because I am uninsured, I had to sign something stating that (and that I took responsibility for paying) and was given a paper with what I need to bring back to help determine how payment can be handled. (There's a variety of things, like "Ability to Pay" determination as well as government stuff like MediCal and someone else later in the morning mentioned a Valley Health Plan.)
Anyway, I got her to hand me my phone so I could shut the alarm snooze off. Just as she finished, in came the first nurse. Vitals taken, she left and I realized I was thirsty and needed a restroom. But I'm all hooked up, so I have to wait for a nurse to come back. Then I remembered that I usually carry 2 of my 1-liter bottles to the gym -- could I possibly have a second? That very same effort to get up and get the phone that I'd managed to avoid was what I did to get my water ... and set off some alarm on my monitor. (I think my finger pulse thing got twisted and wasn't registering right, even though I got it straight before the nurse arrived.)
Good timing, though. A couple drinks of water and the restroom need was definitely making itself heard. She helped me get all unplugged, I got my shoes on (ER, so probably not wise to wander in sock feet), and off to the restroom I went. Came back feeling much better only to have the next nurse there with ... a urine sample bottle. A couple more drinks of my water, and off I toddled to see what I could get my bladder to produce.
Back I come and it's blood-drawing time again. I still had the one in my arm from early in the wee hours. However, the poor student nurse tasked with drawing the blood had trouble. The blood was just not flowing well. The regular nurse took over and, nope, wasn't the student nurses fault. It was in the vein. The line flushed properly. But the blood just was not willing to flow like it had before.
So, into my other arm (leaving the needle contraption in my left). First vein, same thing. Second (on the back of my hand of all places). I mention that other than the drinks of water I've just had, pointing at my liter bottle, I'd had nothing to eat or drink since some time before midnight. Finally they've gotten enough blood and they set up an IV -- my first ever on me -- which goes into that needle contraption in my left arm. Now I understand why they didn't remove it.
There's still no bed available just yet, but I do manage to ask a few questions and get the gist of things to be that even after I get moved there, I'm probably in for another night's stay. Things mostly settle after that with the IV getting fluids into me and my drinking getting even more fluids into me. But DANG am I getting hungry. All I've had to eat was afternoon snacks on Wednesday, then a chocolate milk I had for after my workout around 7 pm. The ER doesn't serve meals like they do up in the rooms. Which means 10 am is rolling around and other than water, I've had nothing. When the next nurse comes, I mention this and they scrounge up an orange juice and a milk.
** Oh, I'd forgotten one thing the ER doctor mentioned. While apologizing for the wait, he mentioned that the ER waiting room is usually anywhere from 4 to 8 hours of waiting for the ones that aren't critical - aka bleeding to death / dying. I made a crack about coming in a different day, but not really seeing that ANY day would be less busy. He said that this is one of the busiest hospitals. Most hospitals can celebrate clearing the ER on a few occasions. Here ... they celebrate the two or three days a year they clear the waiting room. (Now, I will add that there is major construction going on so they don't have all the beds they might usually or that they need. This is also the central government-run hospital to which they bring anyone without insurance, anyone from the city jail, etc. So it's not that they are slacking.) **
Finally, between then and 11 am, a bed opens up and I'm on my way upstairs to the main hospital area and an actual room. As I understood it at this point, there were two primary reasons I was being admitted.
One is that after the racing, my resting heart rate was LOW. As in upper 40s. I'm no athlete at that level and I already know mine was typically in the 58-62 range. (In fact, while in the ER, one of the nurses who responded to my HR monitor was tripping because the alarm that brought her was from my HR being too high, and she walks in to see a very low number. I told her it was "normal" for why I was in there. Haha!)
The other is that none of them could figure out why an otherwise perfectly healthy woman in her low 40s was experiencing this. I had so many nurses and doctors in and out, some asking the same questions, some asking new questions, blood drawn, vitals checked, heart monitored. (Oh, and there was a chest X-ray while down in ER - though I never thought to ask about that later, but I'm sure if it showed something, it would have been mentioned.)
In addition, there was the clot risk. With the atrial fibrillation, the top half of the heart isn't pumping right and blood can pool or collect because it's not being entirely pushed out of the section of the heart. That blood can clot, which can then get pushed out and continue to the brain - hence the stroke risk. I also got the impression it was likely I was going to be in the hospital at least another night. Super-UGH!
I finally managed to start making some phone calls from the phone by the bed. I had really bad timing for this. I knew my cell phone bill was due on Wednesday, but I wouldn't be ready to pay until Friday, but hadn't thought about how an ER visit might go and the impact. Result being no phone service once I was in the ER in a bed because there was no decent signal and no phone service by the time I got up to a room because I had no active service. Plus my phone battery was dying.
(I am going to start carrying one of my chargers in my backpack. Having no phone and no Kindle ... left me with 0 time-passing options besides TV which was truly unbearable. I think the only thing I watched for longer than 15 seconds was a news report of something near where I live and a snatch of Family Feud. The rest ... "ugh, new channel" which was useless with about 8 English, 3 Spanish, 1 Other, and 1 with blurry palm tree and wave images.)
Side effect of phone service being off was no way to contact my DDa or DS directly. Whoops. No way to check in with the OUTLAWS and say "I didn't croak". No way to go online and read up a little on atrial fibrillation. No way to go online and see if DDa's uncle, with whom they live, has a listed number. Etc. My DDa and DS are the only ones who would easily know where in my room to find my things, but they're the hardest to get hold of and don't have easy transportation. Others are awkward to ask.
I did finally call work and get them updated, called my father and let him know what was happening since I put him as the emergency contact for lack of a better (more easily contactable) person. Then I called my DDa's friend and left a message in her voice-mail to pass a message along to DDa.
Ahhhh, hospital food. I was in time for lunch. I was writing down each thing I was eating, then noticed the meal came with a paper that listed exactly what and how much was there. Nice! Lined out the stuff I passed on -- decaf coffee, sugar, creamer, cranberry juice cocktail -- and ate the rest. (I don't drink fruit juice things that aren't 100% fruit and cranberry is not on my list of juices I drink to begin with.)
For the next few hours it was a regular parade of nurses and doctors, checking things (a lot of stethoscopes ), asking questions, etc. One of the cardiologist team came and saw me mid-day and gave me an update, but the team head was supposed to come see me later and they were still trying to determine what possible causes there might be as well as get it more stable.
It had definitely improved by morning. When I was up super late in the ER waiting room and later in the bed, it had gotten frequent enough I'd say there was at least one episode or two every five to ten minutes. By the time I was up in the hospital room, it was much less frequent and was no longer dropping my HR as much.
About the time I got hold of one brother and was planning to have him assist with getting stuff from my room, the main cardiologist arrived (just a few minutes after 5 pm). He went over all the things they'd been looking for, all the risk factors that had been ruled out. There is no clear indication of a cause, unfortunately, so nothing obvious for me to avoid.
Other than the occasional racing (which is only a few beats in any one episode) aka the atrial fibrillation (AF), I have absolutely no other risk factors for stroke ... besides gender. There's no apparent cause. There's no heart damage evident at all, no other symptoms besides a single instant of light-headedness following jumping up from my desk and hurrying into the other room (something that isn't uncommon or limited to heart trouble). My blood pressure is completely in the normal range or a little low at points, never high.
The other arrhythmia is benign - both beats occur as they should, but it's just a slightly off tempo. (1-Normal, 2-Slightly early, 3-Normal). In fact, I may have had that one all my life and never really paid much attention to it. It wasn't until it was combined with the AF that it became more notable.
(And I think he's right about that. I remember vaguely long ago during one of my pregnancies being told I had something with how my heart beat that was slightly unusual but no cause for concern. In fact, when I remembered that, it seemed to have been part of why I figured the rapid beating was just another unusual but normal thing. I don't think Sunday was the very first episode. It's just when it started happening often enough that I didn't brush it off and forget about it. And, of course, there ARE actually completely normal situations that can cause a short bout of more rapid beating - stuff like what I was thinking of.)
He then discussed aspirin therapy with respect to reducing the risk of blood clots. My heart beats completely normal and healthy the rest of the time. In fact, the first EKG was almost 100% normal - and only a couple minor hitches (the benign arrhythmia) and the pulse jump the nurse had seen when I was first getting checked in gave them a clue to something more. The later EKGs all involved being connected long enough to pick up one or more episodes - several minutes of watching what otherwise looks mostly normal.
According to him, I don't really need blood thinners at this point - and those have side effects worse than aspirin might have that could be a real question of which is better and safer for me. Because I'm otherwise so low risk for stroke, we're not fighting an uphill battle against a bunch of problems. By that, he meant that I am not under heavy stress, I'm not obese (I did tell them about the weight loss and the time frames of the weights I've been), I don't smoke, I don't use any drugs, I drink rarely, I'm physically active and do 15+ minutes of cardio every day, 60 minutes three days of the week, I eat well. There's no history or heart problems in my family (I had to ask my father on that one. He has Type II Diabetes, but no heart issues. His father died of a fungal infection in the lungs. My mother died of a brain tumor. My grandmother lived to a little over 90 before dying, so even if it was heart that took her, age-related makes that normal. About the only slight maybe was my mother's father, but he did stuff like "polar bear" - swim in the frigid water in NY in the winter - smoke, and more that would have amplified his risk if his heart is what killed him.)
In fact, I asked a nurse later about my bloodwork and I'm completely normal and healthy by that. Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium all perfectly in range, thyroid levels normal (something about the chemical from the brain to produce more thyroid stuff being elevated, but that being normal under the circumstances - and the thyroids responding normally to it), glucose totally fine (no diabetes or even pre-diabetes), etc. I'm separately scheduled for work on cholesterol numbers, but really don't expect any shockers there. I've tracked my cholesterol in what I eat on SP, and I really don't go to excesses. In fact, unless I have eggs, I pretty much never exceed the healthy range -- and eggs actually show in studies as increasing good cholesterol and decreasing bad, so the amount alone isn't the killer.
End result is that for now I'm to take aspirin (the 325mg version, preferably coated - which is what I later bought) for three months and evaluate. If I've gone that long without any obvious episodes, it is up to me whether to continue the regimen. If the episodes start occurring with frequency again, and more importantly if any other symptoms AT ALL show up, I'm to call in and get seen again.
I'm also ridiculously relieved to have OTC (over-the-counter) aspirin be the initial treatment. I do not like taking any drugs, not even pain relievers, unless it either 1) cures the cause of the symptom or 2) diminishes the symptom so the body can cure the cause of the symptom. Being stuck with something that cannot really be cured, just treated, had me rather leery of being stuck on some drug with side-effects almost worse than the symptom and doing nothing but trying to suppress the symptom. I can deal with aspirin easily - just adding it to my one-a-day and fish oil.
Now, the doctors didn't say this to me, but the other thing I plan to do is pay closer attention - not just to my heart but to what I do and eat in the couple days before changes occur. I would like to know if I did something different leading up to Sunday that prompted the entire situation. A single episode seems to not be too much concern because the quick return to normal gets the blood flowing correctly soon after. But the whole increasing number of episodes combined with the other arrhythmia combined and the resulting lower resting heart rate in between, that's not something I want to repeat again any time soon (ever). I won't be making excuses when it races - I'll be looking for possible connections and noting them. (As well as being aware of just how easy it is to see false connections.)
I'm glad I got a healthy heart for Valentine's Day 2013. Much better than having continued to ignore it and potentially missing my 44th birthday. Because I have a lot of living to do still. And now I don't feel like I'm saying "do as I say, not as I do" if I worry about someone else and suggest they see a doctor.
Friday, February 15, 2013
What a couple of days this has been. I mentioned this in a forum post in my BLC#21 ONYX OUTLAW team's thread and really nowhere else until I updated today's status.
Starting on Sunday evening, I noticed that my heart would race for a few beats (6-12 was typical) before slowing back to normal. I just shrugged it off - maybe I was laying wrong and just shifted, maybe I just got a dose of adrenalin for some reason, maybe I got too much blood sugar. It happened a few times, but I didn't really worry at that point.
Monday it happened sometimes at work sitting at my desk and I started to also notice an occasion harder beat. Actually, what it felt like was a brief stop then a firmer push. It didn't cause me any issues in my workout or walking the dog later, so I was still mostly shrugging it off.
Tuesday it seemed to be happening more often - still very short episodes, still very random. I couldn't decide if it was normal and I was just getting hyper aware of it or imagining it meant more. So I turned on my HR monitor and started watching the numbers.
In the last month since I got it, my resting HR has been amazingly consistent. The lowest I usually saw was 58-59 if I was laying down. Sitting at my desk was more commonly 62-65. Getting up to walk down the hall to the restroom could go up to 72-75. Brisk walking took me over 110 (to a little over 60% maxHR). Instead of the expected 62-65, I saw 72 ... while I was sitting still at my desk. Then I felt an episode and the watch read 83 for a few seconds, then dropped down to 58, then leveled out.
After seeing that happen (with varying numbers) more than a couple of times I felt the episodes -AND- not seeing the consistent 62-65 I was familiar with, I started to get a little concerned. So I started looking online. The moment heart is involved, a lot of things just tell you to ... call 9-1-1. No, that's not the information I want. I want to know likely causes, things to watch for, ways to reassure myself that I don't need to get involved in medical expenses.
Tuesday's workout went normally. While I was active, my HR was more stable and I was reassured that nothing major was wrong.
Wednesday I was really starting to notice the episodes were more frequent. I probably should have kept track by times or something, but didn't. However, it was more than a couple an hour. About this point is when I wrote the thread post for the OUTLAWS. (Honestly, while I said I didn't need to be told I needed to see a doctor ASAP, part of actually posting that at all publicly was telling MYSELF to get my butt to the doctor. Because I knew if I read someone else saying this, I'd be right there telling them to get checked.)
By around lunch-time, I was really internally arguing with myself over getting it checked out and waiting it out. I'd had one episode where the HR monitor decided to call the racing heart episode 168 bpm. I figured that had to be off, but still meant it was definitely going too high for me just sitting. I called the nearest hospital's appointment line and talked to someone about what options other than ER were available. They have an Urgent Care clinic, and at that point I was thinking to leave work early and go ... but at the same time not really wanting to waste the time and money.
Then I did my usual hop up from my desk to go to the front lobby when one of the delivery guys showed up - only to stop halfway into the room saying "head rush" as I went very briefly light-headed and my sight fuzzed/blurred. It cleared very quickly, and may really have been nothing abnormal, not at all connected to the heart racing, but by that point ... I was just getting really self-argumentative about going to the doctor or not. In fact, something I had written right at the end of that post to the OUTLAWS was the tipping point at which I think the "go see a doctor" voice won: "being carried to an ER in an ambulance if it goes bad would cost more". I was gambling with my life. If it was bad and I ignored it, the costs wouldn't just be monetary - and would all be higher than I wanted to pay. If it was good and I was seen, the costs would primarily be monetary and I could eventually pay them off.
I finished out my work day and had talked myself into going to the hospital, knowing I'd be there too late for the clinic to be open, and walked to catch a nearby bus. Actually, once I turned the corner I could see the bus coming in the distance and the stop was at the very end of the long block and ran for it. (Again, no heart symptoms running but it did seem to take a little longer to settle after I was on the bus.)
Got to the hospital, found the ER, and signage was confusing. Misread one thing that said to talk to the officer on duty, only to have him tell me I needed to stand behind a line that said Start Here in the other room. There was NOTHING in that other room that said Start Here. (Now that I know what he meant, no it doesn't say that - it's says to remain behind the line and not block the doors.) Ten minutes of standing in that room not sure what I was doing, I walked out. I walked about halfway back to the bus stop arguing with myself every step of the way.
Having written the post for the OUTLAWS, I kind of knew I ~HAD~ to follow through and get seen. I didn't need their lectures because having announced the situation, now I was majorly lecturing myself. I turned around and went back, waited and when my turn came got started in the LONG process. The first person took basic information, hooked me to a little pulse monitor and had someone set up the first EKG they did. The EKG didn't catch one of the episodes, so looked as wonderfully healthy and normal as could be. (However, I think from the speed of the beeps of the pulse monitor, and having one of the episodes there before the EKG, they knew something was happening.)
From that point, however, it became a very very long waiting game. It was around 6:30 pm - 7:00 pm that I first got signed in. It was around 1 am when I got called in and established in a bed. That means after cafeteria hours. They had two vending machines - one for drinks, one for food. At $2.25 for a 12 or 16 oz bottle of juice, I passed on that. I tried to get a granola for $1.50 only to have the machine not accepting bills and me carrying no change. In my backpack I had a liter of water and an 8 oz container of chocolate milk. That was all I had for dinner.
I was C-O-L-D. I have no idea why, maybe it helps with germs, but ER is chilly and that was compounded by my body's natural shutting down around midnight that always leads to me feeling colder than normal. Luckily, I did have my running jacket - the one from the picture - so I got that put on under my normal jacket and did feel a bit better for a while.
It was a very weird feeling to be sitting / standing for hours in a room full of miserable people retching, coughing, sniffling, trying to calm screaming babies, and more ... and look perfectly healthy other than a rare sniff or cough that had nothing to do with why I was there. I was noticing my heart doing its little episodes more often, though. Just nothing anyone else would notice.
Around 1 am, I was starting to worry that I'd missed hearing my name. I got up and walked around toward the first desk where I'd signed in to ask how I could be sure I hadn't missed it, only to have her pick up her phone and call my name just as I was walking up. Quite the coincidence.
From there I was taken in to a room and bed and hooked up to a monitor - pulse, blood pressure, and some heart monitoring (like the EKG, but not as many points). That was enough to let them watch it from outside the room and catch some of the episodes. The racing itself didn't seem to be their biggest concern. Instead, after the race, my heart rate was dropping really slow, then picking back up. Their tracking saw it bouncing as high as 138-142 and as low as 38-42. My resting HR was also staying a bit too low for comfort in the 40s much of the time. Work out regularly, I might, but I am not an athlete to be in that realm normally.
The ER doctor came in briefly at that point and said he'd caught those and would be having another EKG done so he could get a clearer look at what was going on than the few leads could catch.
Somewhere in there, one of the nurses drew blood and got me blankets. Warm, oh so wonderfully warm like they'd just come out of the dryer, blankets.
The EKG was done for long enough that she caught several episodes and managed to get the ER doctor what he needed. At that point I got the preliminary diagnosis: a benign arrhythmia and, separately, atrial fibrillation.
The first was the symptom I was feeling less often that seemed like a missed beat and stronger push following that. What it really was, as he explained, was that one beat would come normally, the next would come a little early, then the third would come normally -- but feel like there was a longer gap because the second had been early.
The second was the racing heart feeling. As he described that, the electric signal to tell my heart to pump either wasn't coming from the right place or wasn't producing the desired result -- the top half of the heart contracting to pump blood into the bottom half. Instead, the signals are more chaotic and the top half seems to vibrate rather than pump properly. The bottom half also ends up pumping faster because the signals passed along are chaotic.
He couldn't really tell me a lot more, saying he was just an ER doctor and the data and more would need to be reviewed by a cardiologist. I was scheduled to be admitted. Only problem? It's one of the busiest hospitals, to the point that the hospital did not have any empty room/bed available. So I'd be "sleeping" in ER. I got an hour or two of sleep there, very scattered and broken. I was thirsty (had not had any water since finishing off my liter in the waiting room) and hungry. Worse, every time I did doze off, my head would slide to one side or the other - as I was on my back and inclined. That led to a very sore neck that would keep me from getting any more asleep.
I was still more awake than asleep at 6 am, but had managed to get mostly to sleep by the time my phone alarm went off at 7:15 am. A phone sitting in the pocket of my backpack down on the floor, out of easy reach.
(And being 12:30 am, I really need to crash and sleep, so I'll continue this with pt. 2 tomorrow. The long story short so no one worries is I'm home, checked out healthy, and have a "prescription" to take an aspirin a day for the next three months. Cardiologist said I have nearly zero risk of stroke, the only risk factor for me being my gender.)
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