It so happens that despite the seriousness of what I have endured, there were actually a fair number of amusing anecdotes along the way. Fortunately, I do already have a blog for reporting amusing anecdotes. It would be a shame to waste it just because the stories don't involve poker or Vegas. Keep in mind I've been through a lot since all this happened and I didn't keep notes, so some of the times, dates, and even details may be off a bit.
On Monday, October 17, I drove myself to the Emergency Room in the morning with some mild "discomfort" in my chest. I really wouldn't call them chest pains, although perhaps that was an under reaction on my part. Most of the time it was located very high on the chest, right under my neck, at the collarbone. Sometimes it felt lower, more towards the center of my chest. It could be either the left or the right side, but it was more often the right side than the left.
I had noticed this for a few days. I probably would have been more concerned but to be honest, I had had several similar incidents like this before. The first time it was over 25 years ago. That time, I called my friend Norm, had him drive me to the ER. I was only there an hour or two, they said I was fine, and Norm and I had lunch and saw a movie that afternoon. The symptoms disappeared within a few years.
A few times more recently I have driven myself to the ER feeling something similar. Each time, there was a lengthier stay in the ER, but each time, they found nothing. After the first time, they recommended a follow up treadmill stress test, which I always completed within a few days time and always passed with flying colors. End result: they never found anything, and the symptoms always went away on their own within a week or less.
One time I recalled arriving at the ER at Noon and not being released until midnite (and having to return for the treadmill stress test two days later). It was before the days of smart phones and all I had to amuse myself while waiting for the test results was a dumb cel phone. There was delay with the lab results, that's why I was there so long. I was bored out of my mind. I did have a TV but I believe there were no cable channels on it. I was reduced to watching "Deal or No Deal"—which actually kept me entertained a bit—and "Big Brother", which I watched for the first time and immediately decided was the worst show in the history of television.
I probably would have waited a few more days to decide to go in this time, but a look at the calendar got me thinking. On that Friday (the 21st) I was headed back to Vegas for the first time since summer. I skipped Labor Day trip due to my cataract surgery. I was sure I had the same thing again—nothing—but couldn't stop thinking about if/when to go in. I figured the only way to get it off my mind so I could concentrate on the trip was to just go in and get the clean bill of health.
Knowing I'd be there for a number of hours at least, I took my Kindle tablet and a few Kind bars (in case I couldn't get any food). Knowing there was a greater than zero chance that I could be admitted, I threw some other things and put them in the car as well. If I was admitted, I could have one of my friends visit me and bring stuff out of my car to my hospital room. I wasn't too careful about the stuff I took, cuz it was a longshot. But I grabbed my laptop, some toiletries and drugs that I had ready for my vegas trip, and a pair of pajamas and some changes of underwear. I stuffed all this into a duffle bag I always take to Vegas
My health provider is Kaiser Permanente. They are a huge HMO in CA and other states. If you've never had to deal with them, you've at least heard of them. I've been with them for years. The ER and my doctor's office—as well as a huge hospital—are located in Panorama City, which is roughly 20 minutes from my home. So I drove myself over there and got checked into the ER. They wasted little time in taking an EKG. After that, they sent me back to the waiting area. About 20 minutes later a nurse called me into the ER. The nurse said that they EKG looked good. He even told me I had a "good heart." I replied, "Then what am I doing here?"
He laughed and said that he wasn't sure. There put me in a gurney and then came back to check on me every once in the while. I was just lying in the hallway. I assumed that meant that they were out of actual rooms to stick me but they never told me that. I knew from past times that they would have to do two things before they'd release me: Give me a chest X-ray and take some blood tests. But no one really told me what was going on. I never saw an actual doctor during this time. The first nurse (who did the EKG) asked a few questions but I would have expected a doctor to ask more in regards to my symptoms. Never happened.
They finally took some blood and eventually took an X-ray. I waited for hours and was mostly ignored. I wasn't even offered water (since I didn't have a room, there was no tray to put it on anyway). I certainly wasn't offered food. My Kindle was behind me where I couldn't reach it, but I had my cell phone to check twitter and such. I was honestly disappointed with the way they were handling my situation, based on past experience with this very same thing.
Sorry to end this there, so incomplete. But as I post this, in real time, I had a bit of set back today (Sunday). I felt that I had a bit better each day since getting out of the hospital. But Saturday night I came back with some serious gastric distress. I won't go into the gory details, but I spent of an awful lot of time in the bathroom for the next 12 hours. Between that and a lack of sleep, I've been unable to spend any time writing today. I feel much better now and hopefully will get back to making progress on my recovery tomorrow. I'll continue this "soon".
(Edited to add, see the follow up here),
(Edited to add, see the follow up here),