She woke up feeling pain in her chest. Like a vice exerting a steady pressure across her sternum and ribs. No shooting pains, just the steady pressure making it hard to move or breath.
She had gone to bed with a slight tightening in her back, between her shoulder blades. That was nothing unusual. She worked at a desk all day performing highly demanding tasks and it was normal for her to carry her stress in her back and into her dreams at night. But this tightness in her chest was new.
She slowly pulled herself up off the couch where she had fallen asleep watching another rerun of Friends. Standing seemed to relieve the pain slightly but not much. Over the next 30 minutes she would try multiple things to relieve the pressure. The first and obvious was to use the restroom. It felt a bit like gas, although a slightly higher than usual. While sitting and waiting she thought over what she had ate the night before – nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
When that did not work she tried laying down, but no matter what position she tried the pain just squeezed tighter. She tried yoga – downward dog and the child’s pose seemed to relieve a little bit of the pain, but not enough to really make any improvements.
She poured herself a nice warm bath, breathing deeply through the pain while she waited for the tub to fill. She had learned this breathing while giving birth to her first child. While it had not worked at all then, she had learned over the years that it did work to calm her nerves when she felt anxious or the times when someone had pushed her one too many times and her temper flared. She had even taught her children how to handle their anger and heartbreak with the technique. However, this time the deep breathes just increased the pain and pressure across her chest. As she dipped into the water she googled anxiety attack. She wondered if she was finally succumbing to one. Sure enough the symptoms seemed to fit, but WAIT! Reading further she saw the same symptoms were attributed to a heart attack.
No! She was too young for a heart attack and she had no family history or other risk factors. She could not be having a heart attack. Yet as she lay in the warm water, which was not soothing her muscles the way it usually did, she could not help but see an image flash before her eyes. An image of her lying naked in the water succumbing to a heart attack while she adamantly denied the possibility.
This prompted her to get out of the tub, it wasn’t working anyway, and call the 24 hour advice nurse offered by her insurance. The nurse was friendly and a willing listener. She admitted that it definitely sounded like it could be an anxiety attack, but it could also be a heart attack. And while the girl had no risk factors or family history, the advice was to go to the ER to have tests run to it rule out.
Tears filled the girl’s eyes as she tried to stay cheerful while thanking the nurse. She had to stay cheerful – if not her voice would break and then it was only a matter of moments before she would begin crying and then everything would break. She calmly dressed and grabbed her purse and then woke her husband. The nurse had said to call 911 and get an ambulance, but she was not going to do that. Her husband could take her – save some money and then he would be there with her if she did finally break and lose control.
In the end the ER did their job – they were friendly and thorough if not a bit slow. But then that is normal for ERs. In the end they did confirm the girl was not having a heart attack, but now she needed to make an appointment with her doctor to determine what the root cause was. Maybe an anxiety attack, an ulcer, her pancreas or thyroid. So many possibilities. None of them good, but all of them better than the heart attack. All of them better than her missing her chance to see her babies graduate and get married some day. All of them better than her leaving the world just as she had finally decided to break some chains and Soar. The world had tried to throw another chain over her, but she was not going to stand still and allow it to hold her down.
End Note: In the end, it appears the entire episode (and one 3 days before not written of here) very well may have been a very ugly and nasty case of heartburn. We don’t know for sure yet and won’t for a week or so mostly likely. But how LAME! All the drama for some heartburn.
As embarrassing as that is – I am glad I did not take a chance and I was able to rule out something more serious. For those few moments when my imagination ran wild and I saw myself – a healthy 40 something – dying of a freak heart attack, I realized that it truly is time to step out. Rather than discourage or scare me, this has just made me that much more determined to pursue these changes in my life. To really truly take a risk and step outside my comfort zone. I welcome you to come along for the ride – buckle up!!