So my worst fears were realized when I went to that check-up last Friday afternoon. Medical staff at the doctor’s office attempted to get my blood pressure but failed repeatedly because it was so high they were having trouble pressurizing the cuff enough to actually get a reading. This caused them to erupt in a flurry of activity that could only be described as “get this guy out of here before he can sue us,” as I was plied with blood pressure medication and then monitored closely for about half an hour before they told me to get my ass to the emergency room.
We stopped off at home and, knowing that we could be in for the long haul, packed a few necessities and made sure the cats were well-stocked with food and water before driving out to Lehigh Valley Hospital. It was either a slow afternoon or the hospital staff were scared at how high my blood pressure was because the ER nurses took me right back as soon as I went through triage and began all sorts of procedures – taking blood, ordering x-rays of my chest, performing not one but two EKGs – and filling me with as many sorts of blood pressure medication as they could to bring me back into something even barely resembling a normal range. They made the decision to admit me for even more tests and I was shipped upstairs.
I hate hospitals, and not just because the wife was in and out of them so much over the past few months: the last time I had my own extended stay in hospital was when I was dealing with that whole cancer scare back in 2005. The only things I associate with hospitals are pain, discomfort, sleeplessness, and complete lack of dignity thanks to those goddamned hospital gowns that leave your ass hanging out in the breeze. Thankfully this hospital stay was on the shorter side, as I was out in less than 24 hours. Still, it was a long night fraught with horrors, and he rising sun did nothing but bring its own terror.
Forget about the fact that I had a blistering migraine for more than a day and a half, and that every time I moved or talked it made me want to kill myself. Let’s not even go into the fact how having tests done – like a CAT scan of my head at 1 in the morning – is incredibly painful when your brain is trying to escape out of your years, or how the broken blinds in my room did absolutely nothing to block the rising sun, which just made my headache that much worse. No, we need to discuss the other man in my hospital room – the one that was there when I checked in and was still there when I got out, and might still be there today for all I know.
This man was large. He was so big he couldn’t even fit in a hospital gown. Using the Cosby Scale he was 2 Fat Alberts and a Mushmouth. I’m not exactly a small guy, but this man easily weighed 650 pounds or more – and everything he did was incredibly loud. The worst was when I would be lulled into a false sense of security by a long stretch of silence, only to have the peace shattered just as I was about to drift off to sleep and gain some respite from my piercing migraine. At that point the entire room would reverberate with a loud, explosive cough, followed by labored wheezing as the man shifted positions in bed. Goddamn but he was loud – the kind of loud that was like getting punched in the eye with a handful of rusty nails.
Still, in between the haze of pain and horrible hospital food, there was some good news: all the tests they ran on me came back negative for any kinds of horrible ailments. My cholesterol was in acceptable levels, I wasn’t diabetic, there were no horrible pulsating tumors growing deep in my brain, and my kidney and bladder function looked fine. My actual problem, according to the attending physician, was that I was most likely suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, as it’s been linked to high blood pressure, headaches, and even swollen lower extremities.
At that point I didn’t even care. I will wear one of those Darth Vader CPAP masks any day of the week if it means I don’t have to worry about things like my heart exploding in my chest. Now I just have to get a sleep study done to confirm the sleep apnea diagnosis and find some way to get one of those nifty little machines. Isn’t modern medicine amazing?