Sunday, March 01, 2009

Making an Intense First Impression

I suppose there is a sort of black humor involved in meeting your new girlfriend's parents over dinner, having all come off well despite a few early jitters, then having no choice but to conclude the night rather abruptly by being transported via ambulance to the Emergency Room. As I told the ER technicians upon my arrival, This feels like a bad romantic comedy.

I had a hypertensive crisis as a result of making a dietary oversight. Though I love cheesecake, I know I can never eat it again. My diet can tolerate certain kinds of cheese that are not aged but with the hindsight of nearly ten hours, I should have known better than to try to risk it with a restaurant food I neither made myself, nor fully knew about the ingredients beforehand. The first couple bites caused me to feel odd and if I'd had more sense I'd have stopped there, but I went ahead and ate the whole slice. Within two minutes of consuming the last of the cheesecake I got a huge head rush and felt instantly disoriented.

Having never had but one bad reaction like this before, one that culminated with an eight hour long headache at night, I wasn't aware that the effects of a reaction to the MAOI could feel quite this way. In desperation, I rushed to the bathroom to try to induce vomiting, which was the first response that came to mind, but I was unsuccessful in that attempt altogether. I'm not even sure that would have worked. A combination of tightness in my chest, light-headedness, sweating, and a rapid increase in pulse rate put me on the verge of panic.

As I sat down, I said the fateful words one never hopes to say to anyone's significant other: Honey, I think you're going to have to call an ambulance. Thankfully the medics were there within two minutes. As we were eating at Bethesda at the time, Suburban Hospital was literally two blocks away. E. rode with me in the ambulance. I was seen quickly upon arrival. Despite informing her parents before I was put on the gurney that I'd much rather they tend their own lives (since the whole situation was deeply embarrassing to me) they were good enough to drive down to the hospital and stay with me in the ER room for the duration of my time there. They didn't have to do that, but they insisted.

My blood pressure got as high as 150-160 systolic and 105-110 diastolic at its worst point, which is not the most awful it could be because a really terrible hypertensive crisis can run systolic as high as 230 and diastolic over 120. Still, the lesson to be learned from this is that I have no intention of ever reaching a point in the future again where a reading that high would ever become a reality. This hypertensive crisis was really more on the mild to moderate end, but if this is mild or moderate, I have no desire to see for myself what severe acts and feels like. Since I've been exercising daily, often my morning and afternoon systolic blood pressure pressure is down under 100 in normal circumstances and my pulse rate, which is normally on the low end (often no more than 50 to 60 beats per minute) was in this instance much higher than normal as well--at one point 120 beats per minute. Imagine how much higher both would have been had I not been doing cardiovascular aerobic exercise regularly.

I was kept in the ER for a couple hours to monitor my condition. Eventually, thankfully, my blood pressure and heart rate came down to safe levels and I was discharged. I got back to the unit around 1 and quickly fell into an exhausted sleep. As much as I've had to obsessively monitor what I eat before now, I'm going to have to be ten times more rigorous in doing so from today onward. If I have even the faintest fear that what I'm about to eat is unsafe, I simply will not take a chance at being wrong like last night.


Boxer rebel said...

First, I am glad you are now ok and that you were able to recognize the signs so quickly and get help. Two, I know it was embarrassing, but the girlfriend's parents were really nice to come down to the ER. And I have to agree it does sound like a bad romantic comedy, but at least in the end things went fine. Plus if this is a bad romantic comedy or something, maybe many years down the road y'all will be talking and laughing over how this first meeting. Again, glad you are OK.

Gail said...

Oh my Kevin-

I am SO glad you are okay. Your girlfriend and her parents appear to be really nice people. Excellent. I love your romantic comedy so much! :-)

A quick story: A good friend of mine was having dinner at his new girlfriends parents house for the first time. Thy have a wonderful meal and he excuses himself to use the bathroom. He had to do #2!
After he 'finished' and went to 'flush' the toilet would NOT flush. He was so embarrassed that he crawled out the bathroom window!!!! - and never went back. True Story' - yup! :-)

Love Gail

Mauigirl said...

Just caught up here - so sorry to hear your dinner with your girlfriend's parents was interrupted by such an unfortunate health crisis! I'm so glad you're OK though. Those MAOIs really are tricky I guess. And how nice her parents came to the ER with you, they sound great.

PENolan said...

Comrade, I know it was a misery for you - but when I imagine the expressions on your face after you've had two bites of cheese cake, wondering if your meds were off . . . another bite and a new expression on your face. Then struggling to make yourself vomit when you're mental and mortified -- Well, I just think it's positively charming. There's nothing like a bad romantic comedy to start a relationship off in the right direction. E. and her family were supportive and kind. Exactly what we all need when we're in a crisis. And now it will be much easier to be yourself around them as long as you can take the inevitable rotten jokes about cheese cake.

Guess what: the word verification today is matchin. No lie! A good sign that it's a match for sure.

Anonymous said...

Holy hell, Kevin. I'm not quite sure I understand what actually happened but it sounds like a nightmare.

You're in the DC area? I grew up in Silver Spring.

I did not know you were a Quaker. I wish I could be one.

Comrade Kevin said...


I take a medication, Parnate, (anti-depressant) that has some major food restrictions. All MAOI inhibitors run a risk of causing a hypertensive crisis if you eat the wrong things. I thought at first I wouldn't have much of an issue with the cheesecake, but I was proven extremely wrong.

For right now, I am in the DC area, since I am receiving in-depth, long-term treatment for my bipolar disorder.

And as for being a Quaker, I highly recommend you give meeting a try if you are curious. Go to

Utah Savage said...

I'm so sorry for you dear. But it sounds like you made a good impression despite the episode.

Anonymous said...

Kevin: I've attended a local Quaker meeting here a couple of times. I just think I am not very good at the simplicity thing. :)

Word verification: faker

Hey, is that some kind of accusation from Blogger??