I have an uncanny knack of hurting myself in bizarre ways. A month ago I dorked it up and broke my pinky toe on a closet doorjamb rushing to get a bathrobe so I wouldn’t have to answer the doorbell naked. That got me wondering… What could I do to top that? I pride myself on being an overachiever, going the extra mile. When I do something, I do it right. So the other day, at 4:21 a.m. (give or take), I rolled over to my wife, who was sound asleep like an angel resting on a bed of clouds, and cooed into her ear something to the effect of “Honey, there is a chance I am having a heart attack.”
That’s perhaps the last thing you want to say to your spouse at 4:21 in the morning. Those heavenly sleepy clouds dissipated in a hurry and my angel was now propped up in bed with frazzled hair, big eyes and a suspicious crooked eyebrow. But I felt I really didn’t have a choice. I woke up ten minutes earlier with uncomfortable chest pain and difficulty breathing. It didn’t feel like an MS hug and it couldn’t be a heart attack, could it? I mean, I exercise vigorously every day, I’m only 44, and there is no family history. So naturally I did the first thing one always does in a potential medical crisis. I Googled it. And what did Google tell me? Stop Googling, you idiot, and call 911.
Our house is less than five minutes away from the nearest hospital—we could drive there quicker than most ambulances could even get to our home. So the two of us hustled to get dressed (I carefully avoided doorjambs) and soon we were in the ER surrounded by doctors and nurses. It’s amazing how fast the medical staff works when you complain of chest pains. And my first doc didn’t dim my concerns. “I’ve had a few cases like yours where I would have bet the house there was no heart attack, but the tests came back shockingly positive. Or it could be gas.”
Did I wake up Laura at 4:21 a.m. and have her drive me to the emergency room because of some digestive issues? Now I was doubly scared. But when some liquid concoction I swallowed didn’t help matters, an overactive colon seemed unlikely. We were stuck waiting for the required six hours before a blood test could rule out a mild heart attack. Another doctor had other suspicions.
“What did you do yesterday?” I just exercised, I told him. Tried some new stuff. Lots of twisting with heavy weights. “Hmm. You strained your chest. When the test comes back negative you can go home. Take it easy for the next few days.” The paper he handed me described my issue perfectly. “A strain of the chest is due to stretching and tearing of the muscle fibers between the ribs. This may occur as a result of strenuous lifting or twisting injuries of the upper back. This usually causes increased pain with movement or deep breathing.”