Heart Attack, Mortality and a Good Latte

ChazFromCali

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Just for fun / info / entertainment. I hope you like my story. It's an edited / condensed / footnoted version of what I posted on another forum that I used to frequent.
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Background:
I was chatting online with my buddy Johan in Portland on Saturday night (Feb. 26th) about 10:30pm. I mentioned I felt terrible and I thought I may have food poisoning. I had gotten a burrito for lunch earlier that day and it might have been a little "off." I've had food poisoning before, luckily the last time was decades previously, but, I know what it's like.
He insisted I go to the hospital. .......... where? Totally unprepared for this - in every way.

Living in Rosarito, Baja Mexico I knew I should make a list and be prepared for emergencies with addresses - phone numbers of the clinics, hospitals, ambulances, etc. Always put it off. Net result, caught totally off-guard.
As a veteran I used the VA when I lived in the Portland, Oregon area. In the almost one year I've been here I've yet to go to the VA in San Diego and get set-up administratively. My excuse was always the three or four hour wait to drive across the border due to not having a Sentri Card.
*(Sentri is the magic card that lets you go across the border in quick, go to the front of the line, Rock Star fashion)

Had been having some tiredness and difficulty breathing for a week or so. But even hard-headed me realized something was very wrong. I was a bit out-of-it and feeling worse by the minute. Decided to go to Cruz Roja - (Red Cross emergency room in downtown Rosarito) It was a struggle to get some clothes on, huge effort to get my shoes on........

Got in my car, (forgot my phone in the house, which comes into play later) I think the clinic is downtown. Open? No idea. As I started driving, quickly realized I ain't making it very far this way. Sweating heavily, browning out.
As I drove past the Pabellon Mall I saw Saturday night was in full-swing, loud music, partiers at the Veinti-Uno restaurant, lots of cops parked and walking around. Welcome to Rosarito, Baja - party town. Plan? What plan? I knew I was not going anywhere much longer in this condition, so I pulled-over and parked. Walked / shuffled across the street and explained (in my bad Spanish) to one of the cops, I thought I was having a heart attack. He looked dubious. Supporting myself on one of the yellow cement traffic barrier poles I puked right on cue, (lol) for dramatic effect. (The burrito?)

He says to sit down on the curb and he's calling an ambulance. I didn't want to sit cuz I thought I may pass out, but that made more sense than passing out standing up and hitting my head on the sidewalk. I had a great desire to lay down and roll up in a ball on the sidewalk or grass. But I didn't. I realized I wasn't thinking straight.
My sensation of time was at this point not functioning normally, but I think about 15 minutes later an ambulance shows up. Older guy and younger girl EMT's. I get in the ambulance and explain what I think is going on. If I recall correctly they may have gotten an IV in me, I don't know for sure. I was losing it fast, i.e. in and out of any contact with present time. Any contact with present time that I had was strangely hyper-real, followed by a disoriented semi-conscious jumble.

Had at least one by-stander looking on that I remember, maybe more (I get the impression they think I'm on drugs). The EMT shut the door at this point. I asked why we were not going anywhere, he said they don't know what hospital to go to. Maybe Rosarito, maybe Tijuana, maybe even Tecate! (Far away) Don't ask me to explain. It's different here. Just normal Mexico type weirdness for a Saturday night. Eventually we drove away...
(oh, I have to mention that before the ambulance arrived, my car was unlocked, driver side window rolled down and I needed to cross the street to lock it. I told the cop this but he insisted I stay sitting there. He walked away for a minute, I knew I needed to lock my car. To do this was almost a super-human effort but I did. Then I came back to where I was and sat down since standing didn't seem like a good idea.)

Sitting / laying in the ambulance some amount of time goes by, no idea how long, don't remember leaving, but eventually we arrive at a hospital. No idea where. I'm in and out of consciousness, I remember only certain scenes. They wheel me in on a gurney. I need to puke, the EMT hands me a plastic garbage pail with a bag in it. I puke. After a bit, several nurses(?) are trying to find a vein to get an IV in me and not having much success. Poking me full of holes in my arms. I scream. The doctor says, "they're trying to help you."
I say, "I know, thank you" "but it hurts.... a lot." I think they eventually got one in a vein. The light is weird in the room, not very bright. It occurs to me that I don't want to die like this.

Doctor says, "You're having a heart attack." "We're going to take you to the border."
Me: "OK." "You can take me to the V.A. hospital in San Diego."
"No, we're going to take you to the hospital in Chula Vista." "It's closer."

I'm past caring at this point.

*The border has a dedicated medical lane for which I greatly appreciate that fact.

At the border crossing (La Linea) I remember pulling in under the roof covering, I'm in and out of consciousness. Strangely I'm OK with dying HERE for some reason, lol. I realize again I may not be thinking straight. Some talk between the EMT teams, they check my ID, unload me from one vehicle to the other. Thank you guys & girls. Very professional and courteous.
Off we go to Sharp - Chula Vista hospital in Chula Vista, CA. (Which I find out later. At that moment I was just a comatose package with no idea of what was going on)
To get to this point i.e. arrive at the hospital, the entire misadventure took almost three hours. We arrive at the hospital about 1:20 AM Sunday morning. I know that because I briefly saw a wall clock as they wheeled me into the operating room.

End of part one.
 
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ChazFromCali

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Part 2

I don't remember much after being transferred to the other ambulance at the border. It was lights out.
Next thing I do remember is being in a room being laid on a bed or gurney to see if "I would be OK on my back." That was what I heard someone say. i.e. if I was going to be awake I would have to be on my back......some discussion ensued about it. They were talking about "the procedure."
I said, "No, I don't want to be unconscious for the procedure" so I stayed put on my back and I was awake during it. Awake is relative. I was on whatever med's they were using. But I was able to talk when I was not drowsing off.
The tube up into my heart to insert the stent was started at my right wrist. I found out a day or so later that it usually is inserted either there or the groin. While all this was going on I couldn't feel anything in my arm or in my heart. I just remember feeling pretty good...... good drugs, I guess.
Heard the surgical team (5 people maybe) talking between themselves. Seemed all very business-like. First thing I said that I remember was that I gotta pee, one of the guys says hang on 10 more minutes we're almost done. After what seemed longer than that one of them put a urinal where I could pee into it. All was good. That's about all I had on my mind, lol. Another 15 minutes of whatever and they wheeled me out to the ICU.

Woke up the next afternoon, one of the nurses asked me how I felt. "Very weak." "Well, you just had a major heart attack."
Now I know how that feels.

This Sharp - Chula Vista hospital apparently is owned by or has something to do with Sharp Electronics. It seems pretty new, clean, etc. The staff was awesome. Very professional.

I'm not sure when I was moved out of the ICU, it may have been Monday night. But my room upstairs had a great view out the window. One thing about hospitals is it's almost impossible to get any sleep in one. Someone is always waking you up to draw blood or take pills, etc. I'm not exaggerating when I say they must have drawn blood from me 25 times. I just about was at the point of refusing because it just hurt so much. My right hand still hurts if I move it the wrong way.

(It's OK now)

Funny thing about being in a hospital, they have TV. OMG, what retarded ********. I have not been missing anything. Finally I just put it on the new-age music channel, very soft, as background noise more than anything. Seemingly endless nurses and doctors, and assistants introducing themselves, pill-taking, blood taking, attempts to sleep, peeing into the plastic urinal and eating the mostly bland hospital food. Quickly became a routine. All in all a very well run place.

I think it was Tuesday, the doctor that did the procedure came by and explained it a bit and about the med's I'd need to be taking. From this point on. As in the rest of my life. This is when it hit me, I was keeping it out of my mind. "It" being "f*ck, I could've died." I mean I understood that - but not on such a visceral level, as after he said, "you're very lucky" with that dead-serious look on his face. That look scared me.

End of part 2
 
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ChazFromCali

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Part 3 of 3.

I was in the hospital from early Sunday a.m. until Wednesday afternoon, four days. but it got into a routine of nurses coming and going, taking blood, giving me pills and it seemed endless.

I wondered if it was me? Maybe it was just that this entire misadventure is far so out of my normal daily routine. I kind of went from one extreme to another. My life is generally very boring, I meet few new people. Go where I want when I want. Now the other extreme, I'm meeting more people at a faster rate than I can process and my body is very weak, I feel really weird and I'm dependent. Basically just sitting there watching TV until I got bored of the novelty of that, (I don't own a TV) or sitting in the reclining chair staring into space wondering how I'm going to pay for all this. Usually being interrupted by someone new attending me before I could come to any conclusions on that. Good thing. I didn't really want to look at it.

I tried to sleep in the bed but found I was better in the recliner which allowed me to go into a semi-comfortable sitting position that was easier for me to catch a few winks in. I can stand pretty good, can move around a bit, bed to chair to couch. Walked over to the toilet in my room although the nurses want me to pee in the plastic urinal. I guess they analyze it with all the blood they're taking. lol.
Claustrophobia! That's it! I'm feeling claustrophobia. I call the nurse tell her I need to take a walk, we stroll down the corridor. It's the middle of the night but she didn't seemed surprised, probably seen it all before. I'm kind of shakey but the walk does me a world of good.
Next day my brother called. I didn't have my phone. I thought I had either lost it in the drama of initial contact with the ambulance, i.e. fell out of my sweatpants pocket or I left it in my car, so I gave them what I remembered as my brothers phone number hoping I was correct. That evening my Mom called me as well.

My car. I wanted to get out of the hospital because my car was parked on the street in Rosarito, Mexico, lol. I have insurance, really good insurance, but it would be a huge headache if it was stolen. I probably should have stayed at least one more night but I really wanted to go get my car.
So Wednesday afternoon I change into my sweatpants (with no underwear) dark T-shirt, old house sweater and sneakers.
*(And bright yellow hospital socks!) I'm given a bag with my med's and paperwork and I'm wheeled out to the front of the hospital. Oh boy, maybe this wasn't a good idea.

Kinda shakily I make my way down the sidewalk to the bus stop. I had no US money on me, only pesos, but the hospital had given me a bus pass. I'm sitting at the bus stop reflecting on how messed-up and homeless I must look. Four day growth of stubble, bandaged hands, dressed sorta odd, clutching a bag. Bus comes, it goes to the blueline MTS trolley stop which is what I need to get back to Tijuana.

It takes me a long time to walk from the San Ysidro trolley stop (last one) to the border crossing. The border crossing is already a bit of a survival of the fittest (long walk) without being just out of the hospital. Takes me about fifteen or twenty minutes to trudge the several hundred yards stopping every little bit to catch my breath.
In the building they wave me across, no one cares what's in my bag. Heck I've seen guys carry the bumper to a Ford F-150 truck on their shoulder across the border into Mexico. Out on the walkway I get a wheelchair guy to roll me down to the street, (another long walk) and I get a taxi back to Rosarito. Had a nice chat with the taxista, he was an educated guy. Told him my story and we talked politics as well. Pulled up to see my car sitting there right where I left it. Thank god. Good thing I had locked it. Fired right up, I drove home and there was my telephone sitting on the table. All good. I basically slept all of Thursday.

Didn't really reflect too much on Mortality or Immortality, lol. Just thought it'd be a catchy title for a thread. But I did get a great latte Friday morning. I never had one that tasted so good ;-)

I hope this never happens again but I 'll be better prepared if it does.
 
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hdvades

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Just read Parts 1-3. To the OP... If you're a Veteran and are 60 years old, you should have some form of Tricare. Either as a primary or secondary to your primary insurance. If so, your medical expenses should be covered. Good luck in your recovery and watch your diet.
 

Masmus

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I know this was an ordeal and I hope your recovery goes well. My older brother had a massive heart attack was unconscious in about 30 seconds and dead in 4-6 minutes. He was about 1 mile from a major trauma center but that didn't make any difference. Later the doctor told me that for 90% of people that have heart attacks the first one os fatal. If anyone ever thinks they might be having one call an ambulance I'd rather be wrong than dead.
 

Toto'sDad

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I have no idea how I missed this! I must have been off doing something and just never saw it. Quite a story! I don't know you, but I'm glad you made it, seems like you did everything you could not to! Do you ever wake up with extra hundred-dollar bills in your wallet, or that girl from WalMart you thought was out of your reach? Whoooooo Hooooo, that's some story!
 

ChazFromCali

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I have no idea how I missed this! I must have been off doing something and just never saw it. Quite a story! I don't know you, but I'm glad you made it, seems like you did everything you could not to! Do you ever wake up with extra hundred-dollar bills in your wallet, or that girl from WalMart you thought was out of your reach? Whoooooo Hooooo, that's some story!
Funny you should mention that, lol. One time I gave a kid who was hitch-hiking a lift from Bend, Oregon to Eugene, Oregon. (Turns out he was from Ontario, Canada and was "seeing America")
Was a bit out of my way but I didn't mind. After I dropped him off near the road that goes to the coast I stopped in a 7-11 to get a Big Gulp. Found a folded up 100 dollar bill on the floor.
Never had a Big Gulp that tasted better. ;-0
 
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ChazFromCali

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Geesh!!! I'm with @Toto'sDad I have no idea how I didn't see this thread before but, man.... thank goodness you're still here! What a story!!! Man. I take my hat off to people in the medical profession. The courage they have, the quick whit and action, etc. that's a moxy that I don't have. Glad they took care of you!

The EMT's were great. The doctors were great. The Mexican EMT's obviously don't have the resources the US ones do but they did a good job. With both teams of EMT's I got the impression (when I was conscious ;-) that this was not their first rodeo. The hand-off at the border of the package (me), basically took 4 minutes. Bim, bam, boom, rolling.

The doc's in the ER were stone-cold pro's. I mean that in a good way. When I was conscious their talk was calm, measured, darn near conversational, but professional. I was on some good drugs at the time but I remember thinking "these guys really love what they do."

I was very impressed with that hospital in general.
 
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Milspec

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As a man who has been clinically dead 6 times....that was one hell of a night!

It is good to know that there are others out there just as stubborn as me when your body isn't right. Most would have immediately gone to the ER, but you concluded it was just the burrito...I do the same thing, just never imagine it is anything worse than that. Then driving yourself to the clinic, well that is a very familiar act and they really never work out very well.

My last outing was salmonella from of all things, an expired Cliff energy bar I bought at the gas station on the way to work. All day I was'nt feeling right, but shrugged it off to something I ate the night before. I even stopped at the store for groceries on the way home. I took a shower and mid-way through I suddenly realized that I was about to puke for the first time in probably 20 years.

I remained in the bathroom for the next 7 hours, puked 52 times before passing out on the floor wrapped up in bath towels. I woke up in my own vomit and then started going the other way leaving me glued to the toilet for the rest of the day. I was so dehydrated that I felt like I was in shock.

Day 2 I decided that I had to get some help, but I had already lost my voice from the puking so I couldn't call for an ambulance. I tried to drive to the ER, but was so out of it that I couldn't find my way through the parking lot. I just had no idea where I was or what was happening, and then passed out right there in the hospital parking lot. It took 3 IV bags to get me back to the real world. Isn't life fun?

Glad to hear that you are okay, the idea of a heart attack scares the crap out of me personally. I would rather deal with another gunshot wound than a heart attack. Stay on the mend and listen to the body when it is telling you something. I have been trying to do the same thing lately.
 




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