Saturday, January 07, 2012


The tightness in my chest and the racing pulse told me that something was badly wrong. I couldn’t comprehend why this had happened, exactly. I hadn’t eaten anything out of the ordinary. I’ve learned to follow dietary restrictions obsessively over the course of the past four years. If food isn’t the culprit, the introduction of other medications with reactive properties usually is. That line of thinking proved unhelpful as well. What could this be?     

I’m glad that few have observed me in the middle of a hypertensive crisis. I doubt I would come across as courageous or stoic. Convinced that the condition would stay temporary and mild, I manage to stay semi-calm for the first few minutes. However, as my pulse rate and blood pressure continued to rise to dangerous levels, my composure fled. Within ten minutes, I was on my hands and knees, my head leaning over the mattress, screaming into the bed sheets.  

I hope God is not judgmental regarding this method of direct communication. Prayers that began with half-shouts and incredulity grew quickly to become desperate pleas for immediate intervention.    

Don’t let me die. Don’t let me die. Please God, please God, don’t let me die. 

I wasn’t actually going to die, but a hypertensive crisis encourages substantial panic and fear. Not again.  This had been my fourth in eighteen months. By now, I knew that I only had one option, and that was to call 911. 

I have worries beyond the ordinary. Anytime I go to the hospital, I’m always afraid they’re going to disrobe me somehow, or cut off my clothes.  Either of these would reveal to a potentially uncomprehending world that the garments I wear routinely aren’t exclusively male. I’m reminded of experiences earlier in life, lovers who didn’t or wouldn't understand. Several made no attempt, assuming my style of dress was merely something else weird that Kevin did. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.
One of them tried to comprehend, to be tolerant, but I could always tell she was made uncomfortable. The look upon her face has never left my memory for long. In particular, I saw how her eyes trailed down to the floor, to my dirty clothes neatly piled next to my suitcase. To her, I was one of the strangest people she had ever met, and while part of me found the statement a perverse compliment, her words still hurt. These days, I don’t need to prove myself as out of the ordinary the way I used to do. I no longer wear unusual as a badge of honor.  
The paramedics arrived quickly, within five minutes. I’m fortunate to live within a tenth of a mile of a fire station. Though weak and shaken, I was at least strong enough to walk under my own power out the door.  After entering the back of the ambulance, they asked me to lie down on the bed. The seat belt was cinched around my waist and clicked into place. A blood pressure cuff was applied to my right arm, and it automatically inflated.     

Blood pressure elevated. 160/110. Pulse rate slightly higher than normal. 

I arrived after a short trip. Wheeled into an examination room, I spoke with a nurse and the doctor. The nurse scattered after a few brief questions. The doctor entered, then disappeared. The nurse reappeared to apply electrodes to my chest in order to perform an EKG. She also shaved a section of hair across the top of my left wrist with a woman's electric razor. The process was over and done in a few seconds. Next, she started an IV on the right side of my left wrist, an inch or so before the base of the thumb.

Ativan, a tranquilizer, was administered via IV. I began to relax. My blood pressure, by contrast, remained elevated, even rose a little. By now, I was too sedated to be fearful. Within thirty minutes, normal readings were gratefully reached. The doctor appeared.  She was discharging me, suggesting I stop taking a particular medication, and also requesting I visit a cardiologist.

I headed home by taxi, quiet and sleepy. I've had enough of these for one lifetime.

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