"I don't know what to do with you, " the nurse told me. "I'm on the fence."
"What are you thinking I should do?" I asked.
"Well, I might want you to go to the hospital..."
It was Saturday Dec 28th when I started feeling a pressure in my chest. Like a tightening over my heart. I gave myself my weekly methotrexate injection and went to bed. In the morning, I felt better. By the evening of the 29th, though, the pressure was back again. And went on into the night.
Annika had a nightmare and I tried to get her back to sleep. My heart started racing even though she hadn't scared me. It was 5:30 AM and I struggled to get back to sleep.
When I got up Monday morning, the pressure was still there. Like a giant was pushing on my chest until the pain started to seep into my shoulder blade. Although I had checked online and found that I wasn't having a heart attack, I also couldn't stop the pain or even figure out why I was in pain.
I called my favorite clinic. I no longer have a doctor there because she defected to the BYU Health Center, but I felt confident in the staff and tried to get an appointment. They put me through to the nurse. She found my case puzzling.
We talked about my family history of heart disease, including my dad's recent heart attacks and subsequent surgery. That seemed to make up her mind.
"Go to the ER. They have the best equipment. They can tell you what's going on."
Over breakfast with my kids, I told them about the pressure in my chest. I told them that a nurse thought I should go to the ER. I took a shower, got dressed, packed my laptop, a book and my contact and glasses cases and drove myself to the ER.
I called Wendell, told him what was going on and convinced him not to meet me there.
"I promise I'll call if anything gets interesting," I told him.
At the ER they took my blood pressure, ran some blood tests, an EKG and took a chest X-ray.
"On paper," the doc told me, "you look great. We could do a CAT scan to be sure." I explained that I had an aversion to CAT scans.
"What I think you have, is inflammation that's causing pressure in your chest."
"Oh! From my arthritis?" I'm very familiar with inflammation.
"Probably not," he said, drawing out the phrase like he was politely considering it.
I figured he'd tell me it was my lack of exercise or my over-eating. But what he said was, "Take care of yourself." And he tipped his head in a way that was simultaneously sincere and gentle.
After I left the hospital, I read over the paperwork. The diagnosis on paper cited stress as the most likely cause of the inflammation. I was having a physiological response to stress. And there on Monday Dec 30th, in the hospital parking lot, I knew things had to change. So I began to think a lot about my goals, my aspirations, my joys and how I want to spend my time. Because, believe me, I do not want to be in the hospital parking lot at the end of 2014 because of stress. It's time to revamp.