Monday, May 14, 2012

Stupid is as stupid does and stupid strikes again

Yup, I had another one of those episodes that I brought on myself. The precipitating event occurred a few days ago when I wanted to take my outboard motor to Crystal River to be repaired. It developed a shaft seal leak and I didn't want to tackle the job myself. The sensible thing to do would have been to tow the boat down and let the mechanics at the dealer remove the motor. I didn't want to do that, so I took off the motor and put it in the back of the Jeep. At the dealer's, it took TWO techs to take the motor out and put it on a cart. This outboard weighs in the vicinity of 100 pounds and is bulky, too.

The next day I felt a little discomfort in my upper chest, but I discounted it as it went away. Yesterday, I was playing with the dogs and the discomfort came back and increased in intensity. It didn't hurt all the time, but any movement would cause a sharp pain in my left upper chest. The pains grew and grew and I became concerned. I guess I panicked. I took a shower and changed clothes and then told Helen. We were off to the ER in a heartbeat. At the ER, I made the mistake of mentioning "chest pains". Now I was being treated for a possible heart problem, instant EKG, nitro patch, bed rest. Lying in bed, I noticed that when I was still, it didn't hurt very much but if I twisted, the pains would return. I also noticed that when I was lying still, if I put pressure on that one spot, it would  cause the pain. Back a number of years ago I experienced the same thing, only in my back. It was pleurisy then, and the more I thought about it the more I was sure it was pleurisy now. Helen asked if I had done any heavy lifting or such on the motorhome or something and I told her "no".  Then I remembered the outboard.

Pleurisy is inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest (the pleura) that leads to

 chest pain (usually sharp) when you take a breath or cough. Symptoms: The main

 symptom of pleurisy is pain in the chest.

Now, I have an odd history with pleurisy. In 1967 or 1968, I got it and went to a young doctor that worked in the same building as the dentist Helen was working for. He diagnosed the painful condition as pleurisy and his treatment was to tape me up from waist to underarms with wide adhesive tape. This cause two problems that I recall clearly. First, he wrapped me tight and I had a hard time breathing, making it necessary for Helen to remove the bandage. This brings me to problem 2. Having the tape removed was TORTURE!!!! The cure was so much worse than the illness.

Years later, I would get pleurisy when I was working for myself. At first, I would just quit working for a day or two, but I had a young family and when I didn't work, I didn't get paid. Eventually I found that if I continued to work through the pain, the problem would subside.

Now, back to my ER visit. Saying "chest pain" in the ER is like yelling "FIRE" in a crowded theater. You start a process that has a life of it's own and it cannot be stopped or diverted. I would HAVE to be admitted to the hospital and I would HAVE  to undergo three blood tests to ensure that the enzyme produced by  a heart attack is not present. One test is not enough. Two tests are not enough. It has to be three or more. So I was committed to 24 hours in the hospital.

After a while in the ER, I had to use the bathroom. They refused to let me get up and walk the 40 feet or so to the bathroom and offered me a pee bottle or a bed pan. This was TOTALLY NOT ACCEPTABLE!!!! The nurses told me "NO!" and the doctor told me "NO! It was much too risky to let a possible heart patient walk that distance. I appealed to their sense of logic, asking if it would be more stressful to walk to the bathroom or fight off several staff members trying to force me in the bed. Sanity prevailed and I was able to use the normal bathroom in private. A victory on my part.

While still in the ER I heard two women talking about books. One uses the public library (as I do), the other buys used paperbacks at flea markets and such because she take too long to read a book. I called her over and told her that the local library (right around the corner from the hospital) has shelves of paperbacks free for the taking. You don't need a library card, you just let them know how many you're taking. She was pleased to know that. Then I asked if she had a spare book lying around as I was going to be in for the night. A few minutes later she returned with a brand new book from the hospital lending library, a few shelves of paperback located adjacent to the cafeteria. How lucky could I be. It was a new release (May 2012) of one of Stuart Woods first novels going back to 1988. It may be the only Stuart Woods book that I had not read. That's what I get for being a nice guy and telling her about the library.

Next I was moved to my "permanent" bed in room 331. The staff was nice enough, but even though I was wired and monitored at the nurses station, they had to take "vitals" every few hours. They also had to take two more blood tests during the night. The last was at 6:15 AM and the results would be ready in only 15 minutes. I figured that I'd be getting out early, fool that I am. I was told that a heart specialist would have to sign off on my dismissal, but he/she would be in early in the morning. Ha!!! Early in the morning was after 11:00 AM. Everything looked good and as far as he was concerned, I was free to go. Oh Boy!, I'm going home. I went out and checked with the nurses, still hooked up to monitors and still with the IV needle in the back of my hand. "Yes" she said, the heart specialist had signed off, but I had to wait for the admitting doctor, Dr. Shaw. Oh,oh, I've been here before and the last time I waited HOURS for Dr. Shaw, finally in desperation,  I signed myself out and called Helen to come pick me up. I started out and Helen met me up the street.

I guess I've become a curmudgeon in my old age because I WAS NOT going to be put in the waiting situation again. I removed the monitoring equipment and placed it on the nurses' station. Then I removed the IV myself and deposited it in the "Sharp needles" box. Then I went back to the nurses and asked for the paper I would have to sign to let myself out. They were aghast that I had removed the IV, but one of the nurses offered to tape over the cotton swab I was holding over the needle hole. Then she asked "do you want me to cut off the wrist ID tag?" I said "No, I gnawed it off!", but then I let her cut it off. Oh, by the way, when I started my campaign to get myself out of there Helen sensed a scene and she disappeared around the corner, waiting for me at the elevators.

At home, I got a grand "Welcome Home" from Jodie, Coco, and Sandy. The ordeal is over, but yesterday sure shot Helen's Mother's Day to heck.



  1. Paul between you & Donna, Helen and I have more than enough to worry about, next time get a neighbor to help if you really need to take a 25 horse motor off, That's like taking the engine out of my John Deere without a lift, Glad to hear it wasn't heart related.Tell Helen Happy Mothers Day from all of us. Sam & Donna,& Rigg's.

  2. Boy can I appreciate your post...first, glad it wasn't a heart attack. I had a wake-in-the-middle of the night pain with all the associated warning signs. At least they didn't admit me, I just stayed in the ER for 8 hours, waiting for test results. Phew!


  3. PAUL, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING ? There consider yourself yelled at. Had to laugh though at your analogy of calling fire in a theater, its is true, I know been there done that. Only difference, they've never kept me overnight, think they didnt want the hassle of me bitching the whole know the german/irish thing. Pleursy is painful so take care of yourself. Well now you are going to have to do something super duper to make up the Helen for mothers day.
    Bet the girls were happy, they can sense when we are not well.

  4. Glad it was nothing serious and that you are feeling better now. Love the picture of you, Helen and the dogs!

    Kevin and Ruth