I can’t believe it’s only 9 o’clock. I feel like I’ve been awake for a hundred hours.
I remember waking up this morning. Joe tried to give me a good morning smooch, but I turned my head because he had wickedly bad morning breath.
I regret that now. I should’ve let him kiss me, stink and all.
We went for breakfast with my dad. I had started a post about Tim Gunn for Photo Hunters before we left, and I thought I’d finish and post it when we got back from the restaurant. As we were getting in the car after breakfast, Joe said he’d had a dizzy spell.
Joe has a lot of dizzy spells. I mumbled something and let it pass.
I regret that, too. I should be nicer to my husband.
Joe was excited about making and canning spaghetti sauce today, so we headed for our favorite farm’s market to buy a bushel of tomatoes.
A couple of minutes into the drive, Joe commented that the glare from the other cars was hurting his eyes. “Where are your sunglasses?” I asked, thinking that was a silly thing to whine about.
“At home, I guess,” he replied.
“That’s a good place for them,” I snapped.
I regret that, too. I should be nicer to my husband.
It was very foggy this morning, especially as we crossed over the river. I explained to Grace that we were driving through a cloud, and she marveled at the white haze on both sides of the bridge.
After we’d come out of the fog, Joe said, “It sure is foggy.”
I looked at him, perplexed. “What?”
He couldn’t see. He was confused, so much so that he thought he was still seeing the fog. He closed his eyes for a minute, and when he opened them, everything was black. Over the next couple of minutes, his sight slowly returned.
Our family doctor has sent Joe to specialist after specialist over the last six months – cardiologists, a nephrologist, and a vascular specialist. He’s had test after test after test.
My normally healthy husband has been very tired and down in the dumps. He’s passed out a few times, but the episodes have always been explained away. He’s had dizzy spells and bouts of disorientation. He has an arrhythmia (that’s an irregular heart beat if you haven’t heard the term before), so one doctor told him to avoid caffeine at all costs and then concluded that it could just be Joe’s “normal” state. His blood pressure has been both too high and too low at different times. His pulse has been too slow, so our family doctor told him to keep track of it.
My first thought when he had trouble seeing was his pulse. “Take your pulse, Joe.” I directed.
I set the stopwatch on my iPhone for 60 seconds and waited. “37,” he said.
My stomach lurched. Our family doctor had told us to call right away if it ever went below 45. “Let’s wait a couple of minutes and try again.” I hoped that he’d made a mistake. The next time, it was 36.
The following hours are a blur. Grace pooped in her diaper, and we didn’t have any clean ones. I spoke to an associate of our family doctor, who was concerned that Joe might be having a stroke. He recommended that we go to the ER right away, and he told me that Joe would likely be admitted and kept at least overnight.
Joe was confused, and he couldn’t understand why we weren’t going to buy tomatoes. Grace peed all over herself because she wasn’t wearing a diaper. Joe was whisked away into the ER with an efficiency I’ve never before witnessed.
We spent a few hours in the ER, but I only recall snippets. Joe’s blood pressure was 100/34. I’ve never seen a person with blood pressure that low before. The ER doc ordered all kinds of tests, and my dad arrived to help me wrangle Grace while I waited for test results with Joe. Chest x-rays. EKGs. A body fluid clean-up in the hallway.
I was a weepy mess, on and off throughout the day. It’s embarrassing, but it’s just what I do.
The ER doc came in to say that she didn’t think Joe had a stroke. Great news! She did think, however, that there was some problem that caused his brain to not get enough blood. Then she nonchallantly said, “Clearly, his brain was shutting down non-essential stuff because it didn’t have enough oxygen.”
Oh, right. Clearly the eyes are non-essential.
I also thanked the Lord for my iPhone all day long. Grace watched her favorite tv shows for a lot of the time we waited, and it kept her quiet and me sane. Or mostly so.
By the time the ER doc came back to see us, she’d discovered something that no doctor in five years has noticed. Joe’s heart beat is twice as fast as the pulse throughout his body. Every other beat is unproductive.
At this point, I was thankful for MckMama and all of the cardiac terminology I learned in reading about her son, Stellan. I was familiar with some of the things that were happening, and the rest I looked up on Wikipedia. Here’s your heart lesson for today (but remember that I am not an expert. I looked this up on Wikipedia, which my school librarian says is unreliable. Don’t sue me.):
The SA node is the place in the heart that sends out an electrical impulse that causes each heart beat. A heart beat initiated by the SA node makes the atria contract 0.1 seconds before the ventricles. That makes the different chambers fill up with blood in the right order, pushing the oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.
In a normal person, most of the heartbeats are initiated by the SA node, but there can be an odd one now and then with no ill effects. There are apparently lots of things that can cause extra heartbeats.
If something other than the SA node regularly sends out signals that cause the heart to beat, the heart can get confused. You could get PVCs, which have nothing to do with plastics. PVCs are events where the chambers of the heart fill up and contract in the wrong order. Because things happen in the wrong order, the blood doesn’t get pushed out of the heart and into the body. The heart is contracting, but no blood is moving.
In Joe, this is apparently happening every other beat. As you can imagine, this is a problem.
Once she discovered the discrepancy, the ER doc called in a cardiologist (from his home! on a Saturday! I am amazed at the things that are possible in a hospital.), and he confirmed her diagnosis of some kind of bigeminy. (They specified, but I can’t remember. It doesn’t really matter, does it?) The cardiologist said that it should be a fairly easy problem to correct. He even suggested that Joe will be feeling better than he has in years once the problem is fixed, and the PVCs have been eliminated.
Joe was admitted and put into a room in the main hospital. For the weekend, the cardiologist is going to try to get rid of the PVCs with medicines. If that doesn’t work, an electrophysiology specialist (that’s a cardiologist who deals specifically with the electrical signals that cause the heart to beat) will evaluate Joe and decide on a plan of attack.
I’m so thankful.
And so very very tired.
Photo courtesy of aussiegall on Flickr
© 2009, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.