I had a very very bad night last night. Even before I was ready to go to sleep, I was feeling uncomfortable. My hands and arms were tingling, or feeling like they were going to be tingling, and no amount of moving them or rubbing them or moving around made it better. Hub went off to sleep, with an early morning alarm to go to an on-site meeting that required a two hour commute (each way). I sat up for a while because my right elbow started hurting. Then my left inner arm starting hurting. The tingling was still going on in both hands. I was so unhappy. I couldn’t lie down and get comfortable, so I kept sitting up in the dark (I had turned the TV off by about midnight in the hopes that I could go to sleep). I was rubbing my hands and bending my elbow repeatedly.
And I did the worst thing I could do. I thought I remembered that pain in your elbow was a symptom of a heart attack, so I looked it up. And it was…and I knew immediately I’d made a mistake by confirming that, and I turned my phone off immediately. I tried again to go to sleep but now both arms were hurting, the elbow, all the tingling, and my body was getting weary from sitting up for so long. I hadn’t slept a wink.
At one-thirty a.m., I had a panic attack in my pitch black bedroom, with my husband snoring beside me. This panic attack in particular consisted of violent trembling of all my limbs. I knew what it was and I let it come because I had hoped it would tire me out and let me give in to sleep. Instead, all the symptoms I’d had before the attack were still there…and I still couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep. So I sat up for another hour or so and ended up with a second panic attack. Same violent trembling and fear, with all my pain symptoms still hanging on afterward.
So I woke Hub up and told him I needed to call an ambulance, because I was feeling really poorly, I felt short of breath at that point, and all my other symptoms remained. While he got dressed and went to the bathroom, I pulled on some clothes and tried to get downstairs to wait for him. He called 911, requested the ambulance, then called my father so he could take care of our dogs. It was about three thirty in the morning.
I wish I could say the EMTs were kind and compassionate when they arrived, but they weren’t. The lead guy started asking me what was going on, and I told him. He immediately asked me if I had any history of anxiety…which I said I did, but that it was well-controlled most of the time. And that my symptoms had all come about prior to any feelings of anxiety. He told me to follow him to the ambulance–Hub helped me out through the garage while the EMT just walked off–and told me to get in through the side door (again, Hub helped me up the steep steps). Inside the ambulance, the EMT hooked me up to the blood pressure cuff and oxygen finger thingy, then started asking me questions again. He kept telling me that my tingling and pain could be from anxiety, and I kept telling him the tingling and pain were PRIOR to me feeling anxiety. My vitals were pretty high, so he directed me to work on my labored breathing while he filled out some chart and told me he and his partner didn’t usually work our local area. As my vitals came down a little, he announced that maybe I wanted to just go back in the house and let them go back to the station. “We’re not in the habit of kidnapping people and taking them to the hospital if they don’t want to go…”
I just stared at him. I was giving him information on “bilateral” arm pain, shortness of breath, tingling in both arms and hands…and he was telling me to go back to my house. I told him in no uncertain terms that I was very familiar with my anxiety and that this wasn’t anxiety…and that I wanted to go to the ER to find out what was going on. He kind of sighed and said, “okay, but you need to keep working on your breathing and anxiety so once the doctor sees you, they can evaluate you without the anxiety in the way.” Then during the ride to the ER, he asked me, “how many times have you done this? gone to the ER in the ambulance?” I said, “this is the first time.” All he said was, “Oh.”
At the ER triage, he told the nurse FIRST that I had a history of anxiety. During his recitation of my history and presenting pain, he told her at least two more times that I had a “previous history of anxiety”. They took me to a room and told me to scoot from their gurney to the hospital room bed, then said, “the nurse will see you at some point.” and they left.
Hub FINALLY found me a few minutes later, without any assistance from any of the nurses or the EMTs, who were all standing around chatting at the nurses’ desk. We sat in the room and waited for about half an hour (or 45 minutes?) before the nurse and PA came in to see me at the same time. The PA started asking me questions about how I was feeling, then looked at the computer and said, “You have anxiety issues?” I said yes, but that this was not the anxiety, that I have been managing my anxiety extremely well for quite some time–the PA looked at Hub as if she was expecting him to argue with me, but he confirmed what I was saying. So the PA said, “why don’t you let us get you started on some fluids and some anxiety medication?” I said, “no, I don’t take medication for my anxiety. I manage it without medication.” The PA looked dumbfounded, and wanted to know what she was supposed to do. I told her that I was afraid the pain was symptomatic of a heart attack, and I wanted her to check to see if that’s what was going on…or if it was something else and WHAT the something else might be. The PA asked again about giving me anxiety meds, or something for the pain in my arms. I said I didn’t want pain meds (which she told me would be anxiety medication anyway), that I had anxiety medication at home but that I didn’t take it. Again, I got a look from the PA that said she was sure I had lost my mind.
At this point, the nurse stepped in and said, “oh, I do the same thing. I carry my klonipin with me all the time, but I haven’t used it in years.” The PA looked both confused and annoyed at that point.
The PA said, “I can do a whole work-up, but your history says you had an EKG in June with a stress test and that’s the GOLD STANDARD. So if it was clean, you really don’t need to do anything here.”
I told her I wanted to know what was going on, what the pain was and why was I feeling really poorly. So she said she’d order the EKG, bloodwork, heart enzymes, and a chest and neck xray to see if there was anything going on there. She left the room, and seriously? That was the last time I saw her. We were there for another two and a half hours and she never came back into the room. Neither did a doctor. The nurse took care of us, did the EKG and told Hub about thirty minutes later that an attending said it was normal. She did the blood draw and then told us about an hour later that the results were all clean. She took me to get the xray (because their orderly was MIA) and she was the one who came back to say the xray was fine and I could go home. In the time we were there, she was in and out of our room a lot, talking with us about her history of anxiety, and how people who had never dealt with it didn’t understand. That she knew what I was saying, and how I was feeling about the meds, and how she understood that I was identifying pain not associated with my anxiety.
I felt so demoralized by the EMTs, the PA, and the other staff there (not including the good nurse). I am very open and honest about my anxiety. I feel it’s important for medical personnel to know my history in full, which includes my anxiety. I’m so disappointed that doing so in this instance gave the EMTs and the PA the reasoning (in their minds) to shove me aside, to not take me seriously, and to abandon my care.
We were released from the hospital and got home around six forty-five in the morning. Hub had to bow out of his meetings, he retrieved the dogs from my father’s house, and we both went back to bed. I slept for about two hours, then dozed fitfully for a little while after that. When I woke up and went downstairs to have some lunch, I found that I still had all the same symptoms as the night before. The tingling comes and goes–and is in my legs and feet and sometimes in my face–my back is hurting, I’ve had a headache on and off. I don’t know what’s going on.
Hub reminded me today that fall is usually when I get a pretty bad flare of my myofascial pain syndrome. So is that what this is? The pain is in different places and the tingling is new. Of course I know that my MPS symptoms have changed over the 15 years I’ve had it, but this all feels different. I don’t know why I feel that way, but I do.
Even so, I have no idea what to do now except push through and try to keep my anxiety in check. I am scheduled to go in to see my massage therapist tomorrow to try to get some trigger point work in, with the hopes that it will relieve some of the pain if it is in fact related to my MPS.
The panic attacks don’t feel like a huge setback (a small one, yes), mostly because I knew what was going on and I actually welcomed them with the hopes that just going through it would give me relief on the other side. Almost like if I gave it permission to happen, then I was okay with it happening.
Now…I’m tired. I hope I will sleep. Hub is working from home tomorrow for most of the day, I have the massage therapist, then I’ll be alone for a bit while Hub is visiting a client. Well, the dogs will be with me and my father is nearby, but I’ll have to take care of the dogs and feed them and stuff on my own. Hopefully I’ll feel up to it.