There’s not much that’s more exciting than spending six or more hours in an ER when you’re pretty sure you don’t need to be there. This is especially true when the ER staff discerns that you don’t need to be there either, but they can’t let you go until they get permission/instructions from a doctor.
Thanks to the internet and my knowledge of my past medical history*, I was 94% sure the radiating chest pain I’d been experiencing was not due to any cardiac problem.
Six percent lingering doubt is enough for a primary care physician to send one to the ER to rule out an emergent condition.
Blood tests, EKG, and chest x-ray ruled out the heart as the cause of my pain as I was almost sure it would do. I knew the pain was more than ordinary acid reflux and, after much reading, decided esophageal spasm was the best fit to my symptoms.
Yet… the chest pain I was experiencing didn’t involve difficulty swallowing, correlate to eating, position, or exercise, or involve regurgitation or a “sour taste” in my mouth. Then again, I didn’t have any nausea, vomiting, or shortness of breath that might be associated with a cardiac problem.
Thus the doubt and the need to rule out a problem requiring some action more proactive than taking a pill.
All I had was a recurring, intermittent, and sometimes severe chest pain that radiated to both arms and almost into my jaw. Yep, that’s “all”. It is scary to hurt that bad in that part of your body and I don’t blame my PCP for sending me to the ER. As she stated on the phone, “We can’t do an EKG and our lab can’t do cardiac enzymes.”
What annoyed me the most about my ER visit is that a cardiac problem was ruled out within an hour of my arrival. The tests had been run and all returned normal. The next five hours was waiting for someone with the title and authority to tell the ER to dismiss me.
When that guy finally showed up (and I realize I was not high on his priority list because he also knew I wasn’t in danger of having a heart attack) he assured me that my heart was almost positively A-OK.
I’d had a cardiac cath in mid 2006 which showed zero blockage and he told me that a blockage developing in 3 1/2 years severe enough to cause symptoms was highly unlikely.
(I am overweight and have high blood pressure, so was required to take a stress test to join a fitness center… and I failed. The docs said that it was probably boob size that caused the failing reading, but the only way to make sure was cardiac cath.)
He was more than happy to write me a 3 month prescription for Nexium — which is what I intended to ask my PCP for when I was lucky enough to get an appointment with her. So…
Is all well that ends well? This time, for me, certainly.
*my past medical history includes banded gastroplasty, which always creates gastro problems while not even close to always resulting in weight loss… but that’s an entire blog’s worth of rants that I don’t really feel like going into right now, especially on this blog.