Discharged from the hospital, with a clean bill of health as far as bloodwork and the upper and lower GI tests could show, and scheduled in a week for a cardio-stress test at the hospital across town, I went home with my doctor’s instruction to check back in if the symptoms returned. Five days later in the evening I asked my wife to drive me to the other hospital, where my tests were scheduled, after a few hours of increasing chest pain and arrhythmias, breathing difficulty, dizziness, sweating and nausea. I wasn’t ready to ask my fellow rescue squad volunteers to take me. A fellow has his pride, after all.
The ER doctor checked me in, encouraging me with his words that my heart sounded like a train speeding clickety-clack down the track. It felt that way too. He sent me to a regular room where I proceeded to get worse. In the middle of the night the nurse came in with the news that my doctor had given some orders at last.
No heparin this time, nor intravenous nitroglycerin. He wanted to know how I handled a regular dose of nitro, in the little tabs under the tongue, up to three if I did not get relief right away. I took three in a few minutes succession, and felt much better. Miraculously better, I thought. There was also something to settle my stomach, which I took, although it already was feeling better.
The nurse sat down at my bedside and told me about her experience with nitro. She told me that she had angina that was stable and benign most of the time, unstable when she became overly tired or stressed, and she used nitro tabs when she needed them. Her situation might not be like mine at all, only tests would tell, but she wanted me to know that people lived with that condition, and it was a good sign that I had responded so well.
When I went home that time, with nitro tabs and beta-blockers, and still non-committal comments from my doctors, until that postponed stress test and more time had passed, the most helpful conversation was that one in the middle of the night with a nurse who had her own experience and the audacity to share it. Her casual suggestions about work pacing, stress relief, rest, limiting caffeine intake, and trusting that answers would be found proved to be the timely help that was needed.