Saturday, September 06, 2008

A sobering dose of reality

At 4 a.m., Tuesday, August 26, I woke with a painful, crushing sensation in my chest, a pain worse than anything I'd ever felt before.

Once, about a year earlier, I'd woken with a similar pain, but it went away after a couple of hours. This time it didn't go away.

At 10:30 a.m. I drove myself to the emergency room, where they took blood and urine, and attached me to a variety of monitoring devices. The conclusion, after several hours, was that I was not having a heart attack. However, that did not rule out other possible heart problems, so the doctor scheduled me for a stress test.

Tuesday morning, September 2, I took a nuclear stress test. Parts of my chest were shaved, making me look like I have mange, and I was again attached to various monitoring devices. Then I ran on a tread mill in an attempt to raise my heart rate.

I was unable to raise my heart rate enough. My chest pain, which had never fully gone away, returned. I started sweating heavily, and I felt dizzy. They removed me from the tread mill.

They induced stress chemically, injected me with a radioactive isotope, and then I spent twenty minutes lying still while my heart was videoed.

I returned on Thursday, September 4, was again injected with an isotope, and this time had my heart videoed while it was at rest and under no stress.

Then the two videoes were compared. The result? I have 17% blockage in the left ventricle of my heart.

Tomorrow, September 7, I turn 51. Tuesday, September 9, I am scheduled for angioplasty.

I may have a balloon inserted to open my artery and may have a stent inserted to keep it open. If all goes well, the procedure is over in about an hour. I might be released that day or I might be kept over night for observation.

If the procedure does not go well, or if there's more blockage than the tests reveal...well, I'm trying not to think too hard about that.

Most people seem to ease into their 50s. Sometime in their 40s they start falling apart, leading to radical changes in diet, daily ingestion of prescription medicines, operations, and whatnot.

Not me. My body waited until it was 50 and then kicked me in the ass.

In some ways I've led a charmed life. My blood pressure and cholesterol level, while slightly elevated when I had them checked for my 50th birthday, have led to a moderate change in my diet. I have no other medical problems of which I am aware and, until last week, did not take any prescription medications on a regular basis.

All sorts of thoughts go through my head at this time, but, given the nature of this blog, let's deal with this one: What about my writing?

The past few months have been both fertile and successful. I've been writing much more than I had been the previous several months, generating new ideas and finished manuscripts, and I've been selling at a high frequency again after a fallow period.

Writing is not a particularly strenuous physical activity, so I don't anticipate physical interference with writing, but what about the mental and emotional impact? I shot through a range of emotions when I learned my heart required medical intervention. Which of these emotions will prevail next week? And, if I am writing, will I be able to use any of those emotions in my writing?

We shall see, we shall see.


Susanne said...

Positive thoughts and prayers are with you, Michael.

KNOW what it feels like to be in charge of Me, Myself & I.

There's nobody else to step in and fill the void in a sole proprietor business like free lance writing.

You'll probably have a bit of "down" time when you're not actively writing, BUT I have every confidence your mind will be hard at work preparing for a productive return to the keyboard.

Hope the silver lining to this dark cloud is plenty of material to use in future stories!

Please take care and remember how much your Cyber family cares about you!

Keith Raffel said...

Good luck. Generating positive thoughts to send your way.

Sandra Ruttan said...

All the best Michael. My partner had multiple heart surgeries as a child and here he is. It's reassuring to live with proof of the best outcome, and I hope your surgery is as successful.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I'm so sorry to read this, Michael and I wish you nothing but the best with this deal. Know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Also know, that if you are lucky, it won't change how you write or what you write. Also know, that if not, it will change your writing in a way that is very hard to explain. And make damn sure that you don't do like I did and dump all your stuff one day because you get fedup with all of it.

And also know that your friend to the north is here anytime you want to call. You do have the phone number so make use of it. :))

Michael Bracken said...

Thanks everyone for your kind comments here and in private e-mail. I appreciate it.

JD Rhoades said...

Michael: best of luck to you. The good news is that they caught the problem before it got completely out of hand and it can be addressed with a procedure that's almost routine. I have every confidence you'll come out of this fine and fixed up.

Still, there's nothing quite as terrifying as sudden and intense chest pain for a middle aged man, is there? Sorry the warning had to come in such a scary fashion.

One more thing: if, god forbid, this should ever happen again: get someone else to drive you to the hospital, doofus.

In fact, I hear them new-fangled ambalances run all night, even at 4 AM.

Seriously, get well soon.

Victor J. Banis said...

Michael, like many others, I'm waiting anxiously to learn how you're doing; in the meantime, know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Victor J. Banis

Patricia Harrington said...


I'm an "old" SMFSer andhave followed and admired your career path and writing. Saw on the list about your blog and zipped over. Just wanted to let you know you're in my thoughts, will say a prayer for your speedy recovery, and truly, you'll use this experience in your writing. I know it will continue for many successful years.

All the best,

Pat Harrington

Kate Thornton said...

Micharl, just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you and wishing you the best. Hope you are recovering nicely by now.
Kate Thornton

deborah elliott-upton said...

Sending prayers your way, Michael!

Nick Andreychuk said...

My heart goes out to you, Michael.

That's probably a poor choice of you need to be well so that you can be my editor again. Got it? (Yeah, I even threw in your favorite word, "got".)

Seriously, best wishes.

(And I can't help but think that you'll get some writing ideas from this experience, so I'm sure you'll be selling like wildfire again soon.)

Chris Speakman said...

Michael, hope this finds you home resting and determined to get back to your keyboard. Take care. Chris Speakman

Marian Allen said...

Michael, take care. We sure miss you on Short Mystery. Glad you got this looked into. It IS a sobering dose of reality for all of us, reminding us to listen to our bodies. Keep the fiction fire burning. It's all material!

Laura Elvebak said...

Michael, Positive healthy thoughts going your way. Chest pain is very scary. I experienced it once and drove myself to the hospital. My son was with me but I didn't trust his driving.

It turned out not to be a heart attack but now taking blood pressure meds.

You'll be back to writing. Nothing is better for the soul and body that immersing one's self in another world at the keyboard. So glad you are better.