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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Friends, the EMTs

My Friday, May 2nd 5 am actually started about 5 pm on Thursday, May 1. I picked R up from work and we headed for the coast. It was 95 at our house when we left, so even if we hadn't had this trip planned for a month, we may have headed for the cooling breezes of the ocean anyway.

We stopped in Paso Robles at an A & W because R needed to be fed and watered. I stayed in the van reading on my Kindle. I am easily triggered by food smells and photos, and I didn't need the temptation. Cravings have reared their ugly head. He was inside for a while, then he came out, finished his fish sandwich and we were buckling in to leave when I said, "Hang on: I need to use the restroom."

I was in there quite a while with explosive runs. I mean...I've never experienced anything like that in my life. I don't know how long it took. I got up, pulled up my pants making sure the sanitary napkin I had stuck to my undies was over my leaking belly wound, flushed, and washed my hands.
I walked out to the car, got in spoke to R, we began buckling up, and I had to go back to the restroom. And I was in there quite a while. I sat there for a while with nothing happening to make sure it was done, finally got up, pants up, washed hands, and had to sit back down again. It was just unbelievable. I think I was in there over 20 minutes, I'm not sure.

When nothing had happened for a while, I washed up and headed back to the car. We finally headed out and south to our hotel room, which was only two blocks from the ocean. I couldn't wait to get my feet sandy and wet.

We got off the 101 in Shell Beach and took the frontage road which was covered with restaurants, shops, and motels. When we finally reached our hotel, I had to go. Again. Not as bad, but definitely urgent.

I couldn't imagine what I'd eaten that could cause such a reaction.
We stayed in the hotel for a while to make sure it wasn't going to repeat before we headed for the beach. The plan was to walk to the beach, but by this time, I was not feeling 100%. R drove me to the end of the street and I walked onto the beach as he parked the car. The tide was very low and it was a long way, over sand, huffing and puffing, wondering if my fixed broken ankle could handle sand (it could), and waited for R. I waved at him and he got this super cute picture of me near the water.

I had been waiting for this mini-vacation for a long, long time and I was determined to enjoy it. I felt like I could probably "go" again, but I could hold it. I wanted to get my feet wet, hold hands with my sweetie--whatever that "thing" was that we had on our first date--it's still there. Attraction, chemistry, whatever you want to call it, it's still there. And it was perfect. We walked on the beach, picked up shells and a I found an ocean-smoothed rock, got our feet wet in the freezing cold water, and then went up to the seawall to watch the sunset. And it was glorious. R made me laugh and we hugged as the sunset began to change colors.

We started looking for a restaurant and nothing piqued our interest. We drove around for about 45 minutes, and I said, "We'll know it when we see it." And we did. It was the Shell Beach Brewhouse. Really delicious food. Really delicious (I had the lobster bisque--no chunks, just a tomato/chicken broth with lobster and sherry taste. Fabulous.) I also had two glasses of water after (we were there about two hours), as I knew I was risking dehydration due to the amount of liquid that had exited my body (I had to "go" again as soon as we got to the restaurant). I had also had a 20 ounce bottle of Arrowhead while on the beach and a 20 ounce Sobe on the trip down from Paso Robles.

Back at the hotel I went again (!!!), we changed for bed, too tired to do anything but surf the net for about an hour, and then we snuggled up and went to sleep. I'd tried to have a protein shake, but I could only get about half of it down because I was so full of liquid.

I woke up at 5 am, my heart pounding, racing, galloping like a runaway horse. This had happened to me once before in January 2001 while I was watching a Dennis Leary video with my then boyfriend (so funny!!), and I leaned over to put my finished dinner plate down and I felt my ribs pinch my chest and my heart started racing and I was panting. After and hour of this, I called my mom who told me to go to the ER.

I went to the Urgent Care nearby that was a fully-stocked and staff ER, told them what was going on, and they put me in a wheelchair as my nurse yelled out "SVT!", and they put me on a gurney in the back and tried to find a vein. I don't know how many times they stuck me, but they finally got it in my hand--I forget the drug name, but it puts the brakes on real hard and makes your chest feel cold from the inside. They observed me for an hour or so to make sure there was no bad reactions, then I went home and resumed my life. It never reoccurred.

Until Friday, May 2 at 5 am.

My doctor at the time had told me to try doing squats and coughing to try to "restart" the heart at a normal rhythm.  First, I hadn't done a squat, a full squat, since I broke my ankle, and was startled and glad that I could. I did four, and my heartbeat didn't change. I tried coughing and squatting again--no change. I was breathing hard and panting. My thinking starting getting confused, I woke up R and said, "I'm in trouble."

He had a great difficulty waking up--we'd only been asleep about 4 hours--and I didn't kno what to do and I started crying. Finally R said, "Do I need to call 911?"
"Yes, yes, call 9111." That was the thing I'd been trying to think of but couldn't.

I was wearing a cotton spaghetti-strapped chemise and R said, "You should put some clothes on for the EMTs." I threw on some capris and a T-shirt and sat on the side of the bed, panting, heart racing.

Within about two minutes, a Pismo Beach police officer arrived. He had a big plastic box that looked like a medical kit and latex gloves on. "Hi," he said. "What's your name?"
"Julie," I said.

He took my pulse. He said, "I can help you, but I am a police officer, not an EMT, but they should be right here."

And they were. Three EMTs and two fire department.

They quickly got to work. Took my pulse. Tried to find a vein. Asked me what drugs I was taking, I pointed to the TV stand where R had lined them up. "Over there." Pant. Pant. Pant.

One of the EMT's got me to slow my breathing: In through the nose, out through the mouth, like Lamaze training, which I'd actually taken with my aunt who'd asked me to be her labor and delivery coach when her baby-daddy split in '95. I used that breathing in a lot of painful situations (like I dunno, SURGERY) over the years.

He took my pulse again as the other guy continued to look for a vein in my arm(s). "Your pulse is 207," he said. I looked alarmed. "That's lower than what it was when I got here."  I didn't feel reassured. A normal resting heartbeat is 60-100 beats per minute.

Finally, they decided to go with my left hand. Those veins are blue and obvious through my pale Irish skin. He didn't even hurt me too badly. The clearly older, veteran EMT, who was guiding the young, handsome EMT who was handling my IV and drug administration said, "The drug we're going to give you (adenosine) has about a six second half life, and the closer we can get to your heart the better it will be. But we'll try it and see how it goes."

It wasn't as dramatic as the time I had it in 2001, but my heart slowed down and I did feel a little bit of a coldness in my chest. They all cheered when my pulse slowed down, then had me walk over to the gurney (with multiple cords attached to my body), lie down, they covered me and strapped me down, and started wheeling me out of our room to the parking lot. Son-of-a-bitch, but the guy leading the end of the gurney, where my feet were hanging over he edge (don't they have any gurney's for people over 5' 7"? LOL), and damn if he didn't bang my bad ankle right into the guard rail, heel first. "OW! That's the ankle I broke!" I don't think anyone heard me. It's fine, just a little sore, and sometimes I feel the metal shifting (I don't know how to describe it, but it hurts.).

Into the ambulance with Kevin-Bacon's look-alike (at 26), no lights or siren; I wasn't an emergency. Which is good, but I really wanted the lights and siren *grin*.

At the hospital R and Kevin, the Kevin Bacon doppleganger, realized that they had gone to college together and served on student government at CSUMB in 2008. Small world. But wait, there's more. Evidently my full name is the same name as their dispatcher. The vet EMT said to me, "You're not Jules XXX, you don't have curly hair!" They were all tripping out at my name and cracking wise. Honestly, they were a whole lot of fun.

So they put me on saline, took blood for labs, covered me with the thinnest blanket I'd ever seen (why was the A/C on at 5:30 am? Dunno.), and I waited. R took care of insurance and admitting, and came in to wait with me.

The doctor came to see me and told me I was severely dehydrated and my magnesium was low. I had explained about the DS surgery, shown them the diagram on my doctor's business card (and so wise), and she said she was going to give me a magnesium pill but she wasn't sure it would help due to my malabsorption issues. I took it, whatever.

They finally cut me loose about 9 am. We needed to haul ass to Los Angeles as I had an appointment with my DS surgeon at 1:30 pm. No surprisingly, I slept the whole way.

My surgeon was very surprised to hear of the events of the last 24 hours. "You shouldn't be low on magnesium, but you were very dehydrated." The hospital had given me copies of my labs to show to him. Whatever the test for dehydration is, I was a 13 and normal is 25 or above. We talked about what could possibly be causing the severe diarrhea and he decided it was the tomato soup at Panera.

Thinking later, I think it was the Italian sandwich I got also (and took home), with no bread or lettuce, just a slice of turkey, a slice of roast beef, and a slice of salami with Italian dressing and some red onion. I had the "sandwich" later that night. It finally dawned on me that onions and I have always had a love/hate relationship, and I shouldn't have eaten them. If I had to point somewhere, it would be the onions. I just wasn't thinking when I ate them. Lesson learned.

I'd had tomato soup, Campbell's, from the can, made with Lactaid milk, added cheese, and a sliced up turkey dog earlier in the week with no issues, so I really think it was the onions. My weight was up five pounds. Doctor was shocked. I was pissed. It had been going up and down five pounds for two weeks. I wasn't eating a proper DS diet--I had gone off the ranch.

Regardless, no more "just a bite" of any vegetable or fruit or anything fried or that is not protein and water-based. No fake sugar except Stevia, no Crystal Light, just water, protein shakes, and protein. We went straight to the biggest and best natural food store in Orange County and got some samples of protein shakes, bars, and some chewable iron tablets, and headed for my inlaws.

I've been eating "clean" since Friday, and I'm down six pounds (Hooray!), and my blood sugar was 131 fasting this morning. I've had no insulin for two weeks. I'm so grateful to be able to say and experience that.

The SVT was caused by dehydration. I had drank so much fluid I couldn't fit any more in, but it didn't matter--it wasn't enough. And it caused an emergency. Poor R, once he woke up, was rightly frightened; I was terrified.

This surgery is no joke. I can't think of anything I could have done differently as far as hydration--I literally couldn't squeeze more in. But next time I have severe diarrhea, I'm calling my surgeon. Actually, now that I think of it, R tried to call him before and while the EMTs were there, but it kept saying "the number you have dialed is no longer in service."  ??? WTF? We tried over and over and over and just got the same message. I'm going to guess we just had no service there on the coast.

It was a weird and frightening experience, and one I'm not eager to repeat. I'm just glad it turned out well for me and for R.

Happy ten years!

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