Sunday, August 1, 2010

You might be wondering...

Where the heck have I been??? Well, I haven't been riding my bike much, unfortunately, and there are two main reasons for that.

First of all the month of July here in central Pennsylvania was dangerously hot much of the time. We had temperatures above 90° for fourteen out of twenty eight days, plus a few days that hit over 100°. In addition to the heat the humidity was out of control, making for some dangerous biking weather.

But the main reason is that just over three weeks ago I woke up in the morning feeling like an elephant was sitting on my chest. The pressure of it literally woke me from sleeping. I then had pain spread from my chest down my left arm and into the left side of my face and jaw. Can you say panic?

Now I have had chest pain before-- and even woke up because of it-- but this was different. Due to my job I have developed some tightness and trigger points all around my chest area and that can sometimes cause pain. But the pressure and spreading pain was not like trigger point or muscle strain.

I started to feel numb, except for a shooting pain down my left bicep. Maybe it was because I was starting to panic, I don't know. It seemed crazy to think that I might be having a heart attack. But I was scared enough that I went to the emergency room.

Once there (and yes, I drove myself-- I know, bad move) they hooked me up to an ekg machine, gave me an IV, put a nitro glycerin patch on my chest, the whole nine yards. I had a chest xray. Everything was coming back normal, including my heart rate. The pain had subsided by the time I had arrived at the hospital, and it was shortly thereafter that the pressure was relieved.

Since heart problems run in my family, the decision was made to keep me overnight and do blood enzyme tests every eight hours to see if I had actually had a heart attack. To make a long story short, despite the fact that I was allowed to have my laptop at the hospital with me-- and I even had a pillow from home-- I was so BORED and uncomfortable that I was miserable there. It was one of the longest twenty four hour stretches of my life! Luckily everything came back normal and so I was sent home the next day (Saturday) and told to come in for a stress test early in the week.

I had a nuclear stress test on Tuesday and let me tell you-- all this bike riding has paid off in the heart strength department! It took almost the entire nine minutes to get my heart rate high enough and once they ramped down the treadmill my heart went back to resting rate quickly and without incident. I was completely reassured by the stress test.

When I saw my doctor the following week he told me that everything looked great-- my heart was healthy and strong, my cholesterol was low, and I didn't have diabetes or thyroid issues, both of which can cause the symptoms I had. I do, however, have pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the pericardium, the lining around the heart. They don't know why I have this, but it could be for any number of reasons. Mostly they are non-fatal so I'm trying not to worry!

For now I have to take an anti-inflammatory drug and they've put me on a diet. I'm also taking a baby aspirin each day. The diet is fine; I've been trying to lose weight anyway! I'm not happy about the medication or the aspirin, but I'll be retested in three months and can hopefully stop taking both at that time.

Needless to say I was afraid to ride my bike while waiting to find out what the heck was going on with me. I've been on a few short rides this past week, the longest being about 18 miles. Not many pictures, though. But now that I'm on this new diet I've taken some 'before' photos to have later for comparison. So here's me, and I hope you'll see less of me in the future!