That’s right, kids, I have congestive heart failure again!
Thursday night, September 8, I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep, but the pain and pressure in my chest was making it difficult to relax. I was also having trouble with breathing—air was going in just fine, but it felt like I wasn’t getting all of it, somehow. I’d had these symptoms for a few hours, and thought I was just stressed out (I have been stressed out a lot lately), so I hadn’t really done anything. But finally I asked my mom what she thought, and she told me to go to the ER.
I was given an EKG right off the bat and taken to a room in the ER pretty quickly. I spent several hours there, leaving only for a CT scan. They brought a portable X-ray machine right into the room, which was neat. I also had blood drawn and they took a urine sample. Since I was having trouble breathing, they put me on oxygen, which helped my chest pain a lot.
When the test results came back, they showed pulmonary edema. They decided to admit me at 4am, and got me into a room by 5:20. (It was now Friday, September 9.) I tried to sleep, but people kept coming in and waking me up. Eventually I was taken for an echocardiogram, which showed an ejection fraction between 25 and 30, just like the last time I had CHF. (I did not actually learn this until Saturday.) Later that same day I was taken for a cardiac catheterization, where they stick a catheter up the femoral artery to look at the arteries and heart. This confirmed that my arteries were fine and the problem was the heart muscle. It was also terrifying, because I had never had that done before, and I sort of started freaking out in the operating room. Thankfully, they gave me some sort of drug that made me very sleepy and blissfully ambivalent, and I didn’t feel anything thanks to the lidocaine.
After the cath I was finally allowed to eat. I hadn’t had any food since dinner the previous day, and dinner the previous day was a Lunchable because I was too stressed to cook anything. (I had at least had Shane’s chicken tenders for lunch.) Dinner was fantastic—I don’t know if it actually tasted that good or if it was just because I was starving. Due to the cath I was not allowed to raise my head, so Sean had to feed me, which was funny but also sweet.
One nice thing about this day in the hospital was that I was allowed to have cran-grape juice. It was delicious. Overnight someone brought me a bagel and some pudding because I was hungry, and that was good too.
The next day, Saturday, September 10, I was on the “cardiac diet,” which is low sodium and low sugar. Tastes as good as it sounds! Thankfully, I only had to endure one such meal, as I was released at 11:30. I will probably remember those cardboard pancakes for the rest of my life.
After being released, I basically tried to rest, as I was not allowed to drive or carry more than 10 pounds. I saw my doctor for an outpatient checkup on Tuesday, September 13. My instructions from her are as follows: 1) take my medication; 2) check my weight daily and call her if it changes rapidly; 3) get 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day; and 4) limit my sodium intake to 2000mg per day. I started with the exercise and sodium-watching yesterday, Wednesday, September 14. I’m using MyFitnessPal to track my weight and my food, and RunKeeper to track my walks. For now, I think walking is probably the best moderate exercise for me.
I cooked a meal yesterday. It should have taken about half an hour, but instead it took three hours, because I kept having to stop and rest. Having CHF is very frustrating. However, if I work hard, I will be able to strengthen my heart muscle and live normally again, so that’s my goal.
I am thinking I will make short posts each day to check off my accomplishments. Maybe I’ll include a note about how I’m feeling, maybe not. I just think it would be nice to have a record of things I did, to show my progress.
Anyway, there you go. I have CHF again. I was foolishly assuming that since I’m no longer obese, I wouldn’t be at risk for it anymore, but I guess I’m predisposed. This time it wasn’t even set off by an illness like last time; it was apparently caused by stress. So I may end up taking heart medication for the rest of my life. (A small price to pay to avoid hospitalization, though!)