When my chest pain started and my left arm went numb, I thought I was having a grabber.
I rested until the chest pain went away but my arm remained tingly. A coronary care nurse I know urged me to go to the hospital, because my heart might be suffering “silent” damage.
My pediatrician friend gave me the same advice. I ignored their concern and hoped my arm would feel normal the next day. It didn’t, so I called an ER doctor. He told me that with my family history (an aunt and uncle died of heart attacks in their 50s) and symptoms, he would keep me overnight for observation.
This wasn’t what I wanted to hear, so I called a neighbor who had recovered from a heart attack. He said my symptoms didn’t sound like his but if my pulse started racing, I should start worrying. That night, I scientifically took my pulse, using the clock on the microwave. It was 90 and I remembered that normal was 60.
I also remembered winning free hot dogs at a restaurant because my pulse was so low. The joint had a heart rate machine you stuck your finger inside. If you registered lower than “Athletic,” you got a free dog. My rapid pulse scared me so much; I went to sleep with two fingers pressed against my left wrist.
The next morning, I went to Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, where I’m the Risk Manager. I’ve been investigating claims there since the early 1980s and wanted to go where everyone knew my name.
In the ER, Dr. Mark DeSilva saw me. An EKG showed no heart damage but Mark didn’t stop there. He had X-rays and scans done of my neck and head to see what was causing the left arm numbness.
Then the cardiologist, Dr. De, took me for an echocardiogram. I had never been on a treadmill before but soon I was running harder than I had since high school. The echocardiogram showed no damage and my cholesterol wasn’t bad, if you consider all the free hot dogs.
Back in the ER, Dr. DeSilva determined that a pinched nerve was causing the numbness. I felt relieved and thankful for the outstanding treatment I had received. You don’t have to be a risk manager to get Loyola-level care at Gottlieb.
I was even more appreciative of the care, when I met a man who is waiting for a heart transplant, because doctors at another hospital had failed to give him an echocardiogram.
A few years ago, a male colleague at the newspaper died of a massive coronary. This tragedy prompted another guy at the paper to have his chest pain checked out, resulting in life-saving angioplasty. Sure, you might have a false alarm – but is there anything better than that?