The pain in my chest started about noon at Children’s Medical Center in Cincinnati. Their ER sent me by ambulance to University Hospital just across the street, even though the pain had gone away. There they began putting me through tests to determine if I had a heart attack.
The technician who was trying to draw my blood was either very nervous or terribly inept. I had just decided to tell her I would poke her every time she poked me when the doctor came in to ask me to participate in a special cardiac project. I would stay there overnight, and they would draw blood every three hours.
My refusal brought more and more important doctors to encourage me to join the project.
When I showed them why I refused, the doctor finally agreed. You would have thought that would be the end of it, but somewhere in admissions land they apparently decided I would stay.
My little ER cubicle became a parade of people who were dedicated to keeping me in that hospital. Several of them told me, “If we let you leave, you will probably drop dead in the waiting room.” I refrained from asking them how many people had dropped dead in their waiting room, because I wanted out of there.
I just asked if there was another way out.
Finally I got back to the doctor who originally agreed I could leave. “Look, why don’t you call my family physician. If he says I should stay I will—after I talk with him.”
They actually called my doctor here in Greenville. He told them to release me and he would see me the next day in his office. Finally we all agreed that if I didn’t drop dead in the waiting room I would live long enough to see my own doctor and have my blood taken by the lady who works with him and almost never misses my vein.
The trip back to Children’s wasn’t nearly as exciting as the ambulance trip was, but it was almost longer. We walked across the street in the dark to find the door into Children’s was locked.
It looked like we would have to trek all the way around to the main entrance. But fortunately there were people inside who apparently considered us harmless and opened the door to let us in.
The next day we reported to our family doctor. That began the trek to explain the pain. First we had to eliminate the possibility it was a heart attack. This led to the treadmill test.
For many people the treadmill is a useful exercise machine. They seem to have no trouble with it. To me it is the dreaded treadmill. I hate treadmills. There are a lot more entertaining things I can do to bring myself to a state of sweaty breathless exhaustion.
As I approached the dreaded treadmill, I asked the nurse, “What’s the record on this thing”
She said, “Some patients go 10 to 15 minutes before we stop them.”
“No,” I continued, “the least amount of time.”
“Oh,” she smiled, “that would be the guy who stepped on and fell off.”
I was sure that I could tie that record, but I didn’t. I did pass the test, which along with all the others proved I did not have a heart attack. It was almost worth taking all of them.
It didn’t take long after eliminating the heart attack to zero in on the cause of the pain which began in the fifth floor waiting room at Children’s in Cincinnati six years ago. It was reflux disease.
It’s in commercials on television frequently. You know. It’s the one where assorted people are climbing some kind of barren, Chocolate Mountain inside of someone’s esophagus as they seek relief.
Even six years ago relief was rapid once the reflux diagnosis was made. I almost think people without reflux must really feel left out now.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate August 28, 2002.