Family Emergency Update

Matt and the Possible MI

After going to a local doc-in-the box with the symptoms of racing heart (tachycardia), palpitations (feeling of pounding heart in the chest), and catching in his breath when taking deep breaths, and getting an artifact-y and questionable 12-lead EKG with some possibly bad signs on it, Matt was admitted to the ER Sunday morning. Admitting diagnosis that we knew about was possible inferior MI (heart attack, for folks who don’t do medical jargon).

Other admitting diagnosis—the one we did NOT know ended up on the chart…”Chest Pain.”

“Chest Pain” was a CFU (clerical fuck-up). Someone—ER doc, triage nurse, ER nurse, admitting doc, ward secretary…—SOMEONE who wasn’t listening put that on his admitting diagnosis in spite of the fact that Matt had never had chest pain, had never complained of chest pain, and was at the time of admission not experiencing chest pain. This would prove to be a problem in what was to come.

I stayed at the hospital. Did not go home to get things—just stayed. Hospitals were my gig before writing was, and one of the things I know as an RN is you never leave someone you love alone in the hospital in the hands of strangers. You stay. Period.

All day Sunday and all day Monday, we ruled out heart attack with bloodwork, chest X-ray, EKGs, and an echocardiogram. By Monday night, all of his tests were negative for any sort of heart attack, but he still had the atypical symptoms that had taken us to a walk-in clinic on Sunday morning.

Palpitations. Tachycardia. Occasional catching in his breath.

After telling us Sunday night that all Matt’s tests were normal, and telling us that he was going to write the “clear to discharge” order, the cardiologist went out to the nurses’ station, checked the chart, and spotted the “Chest Pain” admitting diagnosis. And instead of writing “clear for discharge,” ordered a cardiac stress test (treadmill test) for 9:45 the following morning “because your chart says you were admitted with chest pain.”

Matt again emphasized that he had never had chest pain. Palpitations. Tachycardia. His breath catching sometimes on deep breaths.

Too bad. It was on the chart. We were told by the cardiologist and several nurses that our two options were for Matt to have the stress test, or to leave the hospital AMA (against medical advice).

We were there self-pay (no insurance), and having a treadmill stress test to check further for the MI he hadn’t had was like having a doctor order a fetal stress test on a woman who had been admitted for possible pregnancy AFTER she was found to be not pregnant, because her admitting diagnosis was “complications of pregnancy.”

You ruled that out, assholes. Move on. Patient is still having symptoms, and it isn’t what you first thought…so stop checking what it isn’t, and figure out what it is. But that wasn’t going to happen. This was socialized medicine in action.

We left AMA around 11:30 PM, and the next morning made an appointment to see a doctor recommended by his mother, who also goes to this guy. Yesterday, Matt saw him in his office, talked to him for about an hour, and is now being treated for stress. By about 3 PM, no more palpitations, no more tachycardia, no more catching of his breath.

So we’re all good, right? Life will resume its normal routine.

Not so much.

What happened next

About 10 PM last night, we got a call from Matt’s folks, who were in the ER of a different hospital with my brother-in-law, who was admitted with aphasia (inability to speak), loss of motor control, and a couple of other things.

Our first news was that it could be nightmare blood sugar (very high). We were sitting in the ER with the rest of the family for the next news, which was was that it was malignant cancer of uncertain origin which had metastasized to his brain, and which included one 9cm tumor.

Third news was that it was probably benign, and related to previously diagnosed hemangiomas.

And that’s where we are now. Up in the air, waiting for something definitive.

I’m taking the rest of the week off from everything, in order to be available for family. If things go well, I’ll be back Monday.

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39 responses to “Family Emergency Update”

  1. Heidi Avatar


    Best wishes for you and your family. I know that family medical emergencies are tough to go through. My dad’s diabetes is really playing holy hell with his health these days as well. He’s been in and out of the hospital several times in the last couple of months.

    I also know how terrifying an attack of tachycardia with palpitations can be, as I went through the same thing about 13 years ago. I was on the beach in Oregon and I just fell over with my heart racing and unable to catch my breath. Before I did the face plant in the sand my vision went black except for a small pin point of light in the center (it was like the old tv’s that have a dim spot of light after the rest of the tube went dark). I had brief incidents in the past but they always ended after about one minute. so I waited for the problem to go away. It didn’t and eventually I agreed to call 9-1-1. When the EMT’s got there and hooked me up to the EKG my pulse was 244+ and Resp were 70+ and shallow. They got an IV in me and by the time we reached the hospital I was back to a normal 65 bpm after intravenous verapamil. I was kept overnight for observation then cut loose with the directive to find a GP for follow up.

    I’ve had a few incidents since then but again they have all lasted only 30-60 seconds, but at times of high stress and feeling trapped.

    Last year I think the problems I was having with lethargy and wanting to sleep all the time was due to a damaged furnace that was pumping C0 (carbon monoxide) into the trailer all winter. Add Obstructive Sleep Apnea and you have a combination that can literally kill you (tendencies to fall asleep behind the wheel being the biggest issue).

    I totaled my car the beginning of this month, slid into the truck in front of me and then got rear ended in a heavy thunderstorm. Llost a lot of time from work dealing with the insurance, the police, and trying to find a new car. Thankfully the people at work were understanding during the crisis and now I’m back to working six or seven days a week. And looking forward to getting back into the authors seat and picking up all the pieces I’ve left slide over the last year.

  2. Minze Avatar

    I hope everything’s going to be alright for Matt and your brother-in-law. Best wishes for everyone.

  3. James Lovette-Black PhD, RN Avatar

    Holly: hang in there. I send you healing energy and loving support from San Francisco.

  4. Don Avatar

    What a horror fest health care is a real bugbear with me. You would expect with what money people are paying for health care you would get what you pay for like everything else. You may not believe this but I go to the VA here in Denver. These people have saved my life twice, I get really good care when Air Force Kid gets out tell him to go to his local VA and get on board. It’s not like the bad old days of the 1960’s 70’s and early 80’s. I just hope when the guys in Washington do what they are going to do with health care they don’t destroy the VA. Hang in there Holly!!!!!

  5. PolarBear Avatar

    Glad Matt is doing well. Brother-in-law symptoms are scary. Whether the tumor is benign or malignant, that’s not in a good place and carries a lot of risks. Will be praying for good news.

  6. Ruth Avatar

    Oh, my… I’ll be thinking of you and your loved ones. Hope you get good news on all fronts.

  7. Ramble (HtTS) Avatar
    Ramble (HtTS)

    I’m still keeping you and yours in my thoughts, Holly! That’s a lot to handle right now, so it sounds like you’re making a great choice to take some time and be with your husband and family. And be nice to yourself, too, during this stressful time.
    Best wishes for everyone,

  8. Ivye Avatar

    I know only too well the waiting-for-an-answer-waiting-for-developments-waiting-some-more feeling. It’s good to hear that your husband is on the mend. You and yours are in my thoughts.
    Take care!

  9. zette Avatar

    This is really awful! I’m glad Matt is doing well, and hope all the rest of this turns out for the best.

    Now, you need to unstress, too. Take care!

  10. ecrivainjack Avatar

    Goodness, Holly, I’m really sorry to hear about your troubles. As someone with real cardiac issues (stent), I sympathize with Matt’s and with your brother-in-law. By all means, be with your family.

  11. Michelle Avatar

    I’m so sorry, Holly. Thinking about you.

  12. Johanna Avatar

    I know first hand how much miscommunication there is in hospitals, so I sympathize with you about what happened to Matt.

    As for your brother-in-law: that is horrible news. My deepest sympathies to your family.

  13. Kari Avatar

    Holly, go be with your family. We will all be here when you get back 🙂

    All our prayers, good wishes and thoughts go with you. We love you!

  14. Cat (from HtTS) Avatar

    I hope everything will turn out all right for you and your family, Holly.

    (Still, I can’t help bragging: I translated 4458 words today. That’s my all time record!)

  15. Debora Avatar

    Take all the time you need, Holly. I am greatly relieved to hear your husband is okay, but what a nightmare!

    Hope you hear good news about your brother-in-law!

  16. Leah Avatar

    Ugh, a nightmare indeed! My prayers are with you and your family.

  17. globalgal (Heather) Avatar

    As a fellow former RN – my thoughts are with you.

  18. Ieva Avatar

    Your family is so lucky to have you by their side. Hang on, and best wishes for Matt and his brother!

  19. S. Megan Payne Avatar

    I’m praying for you and your family. And thank you for taking time out to help me with my much smaller problems. Blessings!

  20. shawna Avatar

    (((hugs))) and take care… we’ll be here whenever you get back, with prayers for all of you in the meantime.

  21. djmills Avatar

    Prayers and good wishes for both you and Matt, and I hope it all goes well for Matt’s brother. And another hug for you and your family.

  22. Jessica Avatar

    What happened to Matt sounds exactly like what happened to my husband a couple of years ago – thought it was a heart attack but without anything definitive, they blamed it on stress. Then he was admitted a few months later with possible blood clot in his lung that played peekaboo in one x-ray and hid in the MRI. I can only imagine the stress you’re going through but you seem like a strong person. Just try not to stretch yourself too thin and get rest when you can.

    Hugs and cookies, and happy thoughts to you and yours.

  23. June Avatar

    Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Hope things turn out well for the whole family.

  24. Sarah Avatar

    Best wishes, Holly. I’ve found you continually inspiring, and one of the reasons for that is because you know how to set priorities and boundaries. I hope everything goes as well as can be hoped for- or better!

  25. Eve Avatar

    Very best wishes to your whole family.

  26. Rene Avatar

    My thoughts are with you and your family. Fingers crossed that the tumor is benign.

  27. Dawn K. Avatar
    Dawn K.

    Best wishes for you and your family. An emergency is just that and we will all be here when you get back. I very much hope for the best possible outcome.

  28. Texanne Avatar

    Love and prayers for you all. We’ll be here.

  29. Littlesister Avatar

    I really love seeing people set the right priorities…
    Your family is lucky; whatever happens, you’re THERE for them when they need you. There are no words in English sufficient to describe the goodness that comes out of this.

    Take all the time you need. We can take care of ourselves, we’re responsible adults (most of the time anyway ;-D)

  30. The Pencil Neck Avatar
    The Pencil Neck

    Our thoughts are with you and your family. Take as long as you need.

  31. Sarah Collins Avatar

    (((Holly and family))) – I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Many hugs and prayers for you all.

  32. Lisa R Avatar
    Lisa R

    Prayers are headed your way!

  33. Patricia Avatar

    I’m praying that all goes well and everyone returns to full health quickly. Good luck 🙂

  34. Bonne Friesen Avatar

    Blessings. Take the time you need.

  35. driftsmoke Avatar

    Sending good thoughts your way. And a virtual batch of homemade cookes (which don’t have calories or sugar) if you need them.

  36. Krista Avatar

    I’m glad Matt seems to be on the mend. Stress is such a bizarre and vicious thing.

    Prayers, good thoughts, and well wishes for your BIL. How awful.

  37. Clare K. R. Miller Avatar

    Wow. That’s pretty awful. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping that tumor is benign.

  38. Emma Avatar

    How horrendous! Thinking of you. (You don’t know me, but I’ve been following you for ages!)


  39. JL Coburn Avatar

    And you just nailed one of the reasons why I left nursing too. The utter frequency of screw ups like that.

    That said, you’re where you need to be. Especially considering you know whats going on so the family doesn’t have to depend on the medical staff for all their information.

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