My trip to ER
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Earlier this week I felt a pain in my chest ... something I'd never really experienced before, at least not without a known cause. I didn't think it was anything serious; the pain was not severe. But since I was unfamiliar with this sort of pain and I did not know the cause, I started exploring the symptom online. Virtually everything I could find suggested any chest pain could be a sign of a heart attack or heart issue, and encouraged getting medical care immediately. I was reluctant, but considering that a heart attack killed my grandfather before I met him, as well as my wife's strong encouragement, I agreed to go to the nearby hospital emergency room.
Chest pain apparently is the first-class ticket in ER; it really seems to draw prompt attention. I've been to emergency rooms before for such things as a broken bone, and I recall spending hours in the waiting room before getting examined and treated. But this week, when I went in and mentioned chest pain, they immediately escorted me into an exam room to check my vitals, then moved me to another room to hook me up to various machines (EKG, oxygen, etc.). For a few minutes I had four people surrounding me, attaching tubes, inserting needles, drawing blood, and checking equipment... And while I was getting all of that attention, I started to think this might be really serious. I suppose that explains why my blood pressure went up quite a bit since it was first measured in room number one.
Next they took X-rays and kept me for a few hours of observation ... then moved me to another room ... then took me to a lab and ran more tests, including a stress test. All the while they kept me from food and drink, and effectively kept me from sleep with all the relocations and interruptions. Finally, some 14 hours later, I got the verdict: I have no heart problem. They couldn't tell me what caused the mild chest pain, but they assured me that my heart is healthy.
Ah, the things one takes for granted, and how a single event can shake some assumptions, prompt some newfound gratitude for fundamentals such as health. Thinking about the open heart surgery that fellow dW blogger Grady Booch recently endured, and considering the health challenges that so many others face, makes me realize how fortunate I am to have spent only one night at the hospital -- and how fortunate I am to have a healthy heart.
I was also fortunate that the hospital could employ such gadgets as "peripheral venous access" devices that let them access my veins multiple times via a single entry point (and thus prick me with a needle only one time, versus stab me each time). Or the standard, intuitive user interface for the multi-purpose remote controls in the hospital rooms (although I question the wisdom of having the emergency alert button next to the TV channel-changing button). If I'd stayed a bit longer (or if I was not so sleep-deprived and self-absorbed with my pending diagnosis), I might've asked about the software and hardware at my hospital, and perhaps find out how much they've embraced open, cross-platform standards. I wonder how my local hospital measures up to St. Anthony's Medical Center which (with IBM's help) leveraged open standards to integrate components from multiple vendors and create scalable digital imaging and disaster recovery systems.