I awoke with a start Monday morning, 3:45 on the button. The vise grip of some dark apparition around my left arm. As someone with a very high tolerance for pain, I was more than peeved. I wriggled and stretched and rubbed and won that first round, drifting back to sleep after about an hour. When I rose, it had returned and gotten worse, even spreading to my shoulder and back. I felt nauseous and it became increasingly difficult to fill my lungs. Then I remembered the cheesy “Just a Little Heart Attack” video with Elizabeth Banks, and wondered if I could be having one.
I dialed the advice line quick-like, and the nurse, when I described everything, told me to get to the hospital, and pronto. “Do not take a shower!” So the hubster zip-zipped our golden chariot to the emergency room in record time. Upon my arrival, I got a wheelchair and EKG stickers in places I’d never have thought to check. Sure enough, my little heart was at a full gallop, and that damn vise was no looser on my left arm, either.
The nurse asked if there was any possibility it could be a panic attack, and to quote a recent callous observer of my life, “Colleen, you have no real problems.” I concurred, despite the fact that having no real problems does not equate with a lack of feelings, save in the observer, the biatch. Until my arm got ensnared by some unseen evil, I’d been pretty snazzy.
So, more tests. I got my blood expertly drawn, twice (no bruising!), a chest x-ray that made me feel like I’d stepped into the world of the Incredible Hulk, and, saving the best for last, an ultrasound of my left arm, because, dag-nabbit, it might smart like a heart attack but be a right and proper blood clot, for those run in the family.
And this is where I must make note of the idiosyncrasies of medical professionals. On Monday, the nurses who drew my blood complimented my good veins. “So plump I could stab it without looking.” The ultrasound tech, who joked that he learned to use the machine over lunch, said, “Wow, you image very well. Look at that valve!” Then I remembered back to my hysterectomy and my anesthesiologist uttering, “You have a beautiful spine. I would love to give it an epidural.” And, finally, the nurse who emptied my catheter bag, holding the pitcher of urine like a trophy, exclaimed, “You have beautiful pee!” It’s a different world.
And back to mine. Despite the excitement and wonder my body provided and the battery of tests and nearly six hours spent waiting and wondering, no single resolution was made. I, Colleen Sohn, remain a person without any real problems. For the sake of speculation and for someone somewhere to get a good chuckle, the likeliest source of my horrible pain? A trio of muscles, the left bicep, deltoid, and pec pulled while sleeping or applying body oil. Oh bother, and a whole week thrown off kilter.
p.s. The photo is a detail of Richmond Burton’s “Echoing Green” at the Portland Art Museum. Pretty!