The Heart Knows: On My Second ER Visit and Anxiety

The first thing I noticed in the hospital, as I lay at about a 45-degree angle in that bed, was the bells. As I listened, some in my room synchronized with others in other parts of the ER, drifting apart and coming together with a somewhat soothing regularity. I also had to contend with the calls on the intercom, often in code: “Cassidy, you have a call on 5 7 8 3 6.” And on and on. Sleep? Hardly, especially as the automatic blood pressure cuff squeezed at chosen intervals.

Yes that’s right, I made a second trip to the Emergency room in two years, this time mainly because on waking the morning of Saturday the 24th, my heart was just about pounding its way out of my chest. A rather vivid nightmare had launched me out of bed and towards the bathroom to relieve myself, and as I moved my rate jumped to frightening levels. I told myself, Just lay back down and it should begin to decelerate. But when it didn’t, a sort of panic feedback loop resulted that made me incredibly nervous, until I finally made the tough decision to wake my wife at 5:30 AM and head on in.

Of course by the time I arrived at Wake Med Hospital, things in my chest were back to relatively normal. Even so, I stayed in that cold Emergency department room (door closed by the doctor to protect against the frightening and surging Delta variant of COVID, for almost 6 hours. In addition to the blood pressure cuff, I had some 12 leads attached to my chest to measure whatever was happening in there, the pulse monitor on my finger, and a couple of blood draws done. The second was completed in my hand by an intern, and honestly it didn’t feel good. That spot still sort of hurts.

Thankfully, nothing unusual was found while in that setting. Still, I am going to visit a cardiologist (again) just to be sure that nothing is going on that should get treatment.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I, along with those at the hospital, believe that the primary reason I may have experienced this episode is mental health/anxiety. It builds so slowly and insidiously that one barely notices until physical health effects are felt. Ever since my heightened awareness, I have noticed that I tend to have fewer heart surges (noting that on Saturday night after my discharge I nearly had one again due to the anxiety over that morning’s trauma). As such, I have really started doing the deep-breathing exercises my Apple Watch recommends, which I’ve found can often help me relax whenever I find myself in stressful situations which is nearly constantly as an adult right?

Especially as we are still battling this seemingly endless pandemic, I implore you to be aware of how your own mental health, and by extension physical health, is being effected, and take time to take care of yourself. And as far as I go, keep me in mind next Wednesday as I go into the cardiology office and hope that there are no bigger issues afoot. I guess I am just glad that I can get these things looked at now, and while I think our medical system is good, I very much decry the costs with which one must contend while trying to simply stay alive.

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