The Yoga Teacher's Heart Attack

Chapter 7: DH and PCPs to the Rescue

Still March 6 2017

I adore that my Darling Husband has got the oomph in him to execute on a plan.
 

We stop at home for a snack, I read through my ER discharge papers. There is no kale on my plate and I my ears pinken with anger and I can still feel Dr. Dursley's inky disgust.  

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You should try harder for a BMI of 25
Then I'd be happy to keep you alive. 

In addition to the instructions of “work on lowering BMI,” which is just politically-correct-sounding words that mean “you should stop shoving cookies in your piehole,” I see that Dr. Dursley has included nutritional suggestions in my ER discharge papers. Basically, salad recipe suggestions. 

Page nine, blurred at the top, is something that says I had a troponin level as 0.015. Notation says to ignore troponin levels under 0.045. Well, phew. I guess. 

My EKG lists a first degree AV block and a nonspecific longword longword delay.

Seems like, as a non-medical person, that “block” and “delay” popping up on an EKG would be a red flag. Right? Especially since the nurse wasn’t able to get all the leads on. 

EKG small print says “EKG shows abnormal heart rhythms.”

Calmly, James shepherds me back into the car and we head over to my primary care physician, Dr. Vivian. She's in another office, but Dr. Kate makes time for me.

"The ER doctor said I was diabetic?"  I hand over my discharge papers. I feel embarrassed to say the 'diagnosis' out loud. I've been to both Dr. Kate and Dr. Vivian over the year, with half my visits centered on why I've been unable to lose weight.  I mean, I do eventually lose weight, but I've got the metabolic rate of Seabiscuit. 

Dr. Kate looks alarmed. And mad. And concerned.

"I'm going to touch base with Dr. Vivian. But you are not diabetic or pre-diabetic." 

She confers with Dr. Vivian by phone, in the hallway. Their conversation sounds as alarmed as I feel. 
 

Dr. Kate says that while she can promise that I am not pre-diabetic, the important thing is to get me in to see a cardiologist.

Dr. Kate warns me that this cardiologist is in high demand and is often booked out a couple of weeks.
 

"Weeks? I have to wait weeks to see someone about a possible heart thing? What if I, you know…  die… between now and then?" 

To which Dr. Kate replies: "You won’t. And he's totally worth the wait." 

She whips out her prescription pad, writes with lips pursed, lots of underlining.

 

"You'll need this," Dr. Kate says with an ironic smirk.

In black Sharpie, she has written  "you are not prediabetic!!" 

Dr. Kate was right: Dr. Worth-the-Wait's first appointment is two weeks away. 

Surely I can stay alive for fifteen-and-a-half more days, right?

Which reminded me: OMG, I had my Moth GrandSLAM at Seattle Town Hall on March 30th.
That would totally suck to die before I get to play to a big house like Town Hall. My lifelong dream of performing in front of a big juicy crowd, I'm finally arriving at that dream and then, kerplooey, I die before I get there?

 March 7 2017


I go to work the next day, absolutely on fumes. My fatigue has soaked into my bone marrow and I succumb and take a mid-day nap in our nap room.

I'm replaying the ER events, and I'm getting hot under the collar about Dr. Dursley and Close Hospital. Why was she in such a hurry to discharge me? No, I'm not short of breath because I'm a size 12, that makes no sense, you wench. 

Also, Dr. Dursley, did you ask my husband any questions about my health? I am a dragon boater and hot yoga teacher and I am not prediabetic. That's not even a thing. I mean, it is a thing, but according to the American Diabetes Association, "there are no clear symptoms of prediabetes."

And while we are at it, I did Google Dr. Dursley. I found her on LinkedIn, that seemed like a normal non-stalkery thing to do. Her resume lists the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania as her alma mater. It sounds like a made-up place, but I'm too tired to fall into that rabbit hole. 

The pen is still mightier than the sword, right? Right!

I’ll admit that I’m obsessive when crafting my top-shelf piss-off letters, but not this time. This time I'm just mad and appalled. I write to the Close Hospital's customer care department, explaining the crushing chest pain and the abnormal EKG  and the suggestion I try eating salads. 

"Imagine my surprise to see in my discharge papers that my EKG showed both an IV block and and intraventicular conduction delay. Light googling shows that these can be benign issues ... unless the patient presents with chest pain.

So, weird, huh? My primary care doctor has referred me to a cardiologist. But I am distressed (to put it mildly) that Dr. Dursley wouldn't even bother to mention these anomalies. It would be nice to understand why she chose to ignore these test findings." 

"So, weird, huh?" isn't the best sentence I've ever written, true that. But it was less combative sounding than "malpractice-ish." 

You know what's weird?

 

Close Hospital actually replied. By phone, even.

The very next day, I get a call from a self-described “patient advocate.” She's all Honeybutter voice, and starts off by saying "Before we review any medical details, let's get to what is important: how are you?" 

To which I reply, "Well, I'm alive, which is good news for you people. If I do die, though, I've given my husband very clear instructions on making sure that he lets you know of my untimely demise. Also, if I die between now and March 30th when I perform to a sold out crowd at Seattle Town Hall, then that is more bad news for you people.”

(Seattle Town Hall! I will be standing -- or will I? -- on the same stage that has hosted Al Franken, Lindy West [not on the same night, LOL], Sherman Alexie, Salman Rushdie, just to name a few.) 

​And even with that opening salvo of mine (Snaps! I said what I was thinking and I didn't repress!), 
Ms. Honeybutter informs me that she had reviewed my records and noted that I had gone to urgent care in the summer of 2016 with chest tightness and shortness of breath. And that the EKG had been abnormal then as well. And, yes, she agreed that it is weird that I would go to their Close Hospital twice in eight months, register an abnormal EKG and not be told of said abnormalities. TWICE. 

I had almost forgotten about the summer of 2016. I was in my new job at the 911 center and had been sent to a week-long training on a college campus in Tacoma. We were housed on the 3rd floor in the college dorms. The elevators were horribly slow, so I started to dash up the stairs, only to be completely out of breath by the 2nd floor. So out of breath that I had to stop and lean against the wall.

And, yes, now that Ms. Honeybutter reminded me, I did go to urgent care with chest pain and shortness of breath in the summer of 2016 and was diagnosed with dehydration. (Have I mentioned? I taught hot yoga for 12 years. If there’s one thing I’m a queen of, it’s hydration. So that was also a junk diagnosis. Just sayin’.)

I had long had issues with stairs. Bikes, dragon boating, hot yoga, even light jogging … I’d very rarely feel any sort of shortness of breath. Stairs and hills? Every single time.

But the dorm stairs episodes were troubling because I was also getting clammy and sweaty ten steps in. While I did have seizures as a child and spent my more than my fair share of time in medical settings … the concept of a heart problem felt super foreign and super scary.

I made a conscious decision to not obsess over Dr. Worth-the-Wait. I made an equally conscious decision to make an intelligent list of questions for the doctor and then put my faith into God and Ganesh to provide me with the healing I needed.