Archive for October, 2010

The day my heart stopped beating

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

I woke up Saturday morning, one week ago, with a pain in my chest. I felt pretty bad, like I could not breathe, so I got up, and went to the window to get some fresh air. A big unusual warmth went to my head. I felt dizzy.

Next thing I know, I wake up on the ground, a cold and hard surface against my cheek, a huge pain in my face and neck, pieces of teeth in my mouth. Looks like I passed out.

What happened immediately afterwards remains fuzzy. It is enough to say that I made it to the hospital. I probably looked terrible because the lady at the entrance did not even try to make me wait, for once. Admittedly I had a pretty bad looking bump on my forehead, broken teeth and blood in my mouth, and when I mentioned chest pains it quickly finished to convince her she had to let me in, now.

They immediately started running some tests, one CT Scan for the neck, one ECG, and they plugged me to various devices to record what was happening. I was quite shaken and my neck hurt like crazy, but the initial tests did not reveal anything, to the point that they were ready to release me the same day, a couple of hours after my arrival.

But then, while waiting in the bed, still plugged to the machines, I passed out once again.

It is a very curious feeling. There was no chest pain this time. Just a rush of warmth going to the head, like a fever on steroids or something, and the dizziness again. And then black out. A few seconds later the image and sound came back at once. It took me some good 10 seconds though, to realize what was going on, where I was, and who the hell were all those panicked-looking people around me.

Curiously at that very moment I felt very good, like waking up from a long invigorating nap. No pain, nothing. I think a friend of mine was right on the money when he called that a “reboot”.

Nonetheless, doctors were all around me, and they told me my heart had stopped beating for 6 seconds. They showed me the nice graph freshly printed from the recording device. It felt slightly unreal. I could look at the evidence with my own eyes but still, at that moment I felt totally fine. And the doctors looked happy too, to have recorded something like this “live”.

Needless to say, after that, they refused to let me go anymore. They put me in the “monitoring room”, and kept me there for a week. They ran on me all the tests they had in stock. I had 3 CT Scans, 1 MRI, 2 ultrasound tests, countless ECGs, and a number of other tests I don’t even have names for. They took my blood 3 times, checked the blood pressure, the tension, the cholesterol, etc, etc.

And it all came back negative. Nothing. Nada. According to all their tests, the heart is “structurally correct” and the blood flow within is also working correctly. The CT Scan from the head didn’t reveal any tumors or head-related cause. The blood pressure is normal, everything is “desperately normal”. The first day they were already mentioning giving me a pacemaker. By the end of the week that option was off the table.

Both the Zürich doctors and my father (also a cardiologist) now think that I had a “vasovagal syncope“. They can not really pinpoint why it happened, but they all seem to think it is nothing too serious (or at least, not as bad as they thought it was). Best proof of this, I guess, is that they let me go.

So that’s the good news. The bad news, of course, is that they did not really “fix” anything, and this can apparently happen again, at any time. Still, it’s much better than any of the other nasty things it could have been.

Otherwise, I can also report that:

  • some of those tests are very unpleasant. They inject you with slightly radioactive “constrast material” stuff that leaves an ugly metal taste in your mouth (even though it’s injected directly in the vein). I also hated the MRI. They strap you to the bed with heavy headphones so that you can follow the commands, and you are left for 40 minutes in that tube. It feels like a coffin, I hated it.
  • the nurses driving the bed to the MRI got lost in the building! We ended up in some basement which looked more like a warehouse than a hospital (we crossed half a dozen forklift trucks on the way). At some point the nurses entered an elevator, started discussing/arguing about the directions (all in German, sorry)… and then we left the elevator without even using it. That’s when I started to suspect something was fishy. In the end they had to ask some guy for the proper direction. Oh dear.
  • overall though, they’re very efficient and organized compared to, say, France. I’m glad this happened in Switzerland…
  • doctors said it was not a consequence of drinking too much coffee :)

So that’s it. I’m back. Stuff like this certainly makes you appreciate the simple joy of being alive and breathing.

…holiday quote…

Monday, October 4th, 2010

- woah, is that a shark? It’s so small!

- yeah it is. A small shark… it’s a sharkozy !!!

(only funny for french readers I suppose) cialis