Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Our Experience at the Twin Cities Hospital Emergency Room

Our Experience at the Twin Cities Hospital Emergency Room
Twin Cities Hospital Emergency Room
© B. Radisavljevic

Symptoms of Heart Attack and Stroke

We all know that certain symptoms should make us immediately dial 911. Those would include classic heart attack symptoms or stroke symptoms. Some symptoms of an impending heart attack aren't so obvious, though. Many conditions can cause such things as dizziness, lightheadedness, and even chest pain. 

I can remember many a night when I was lying in bed,  wondering if I should call 911 about chest pain. One night I thought I'd better let my husband drive me to the Twin Cities Hospital emergency room, only five minutes away, just to be on the safe side. Here's what happened when I got to the emergency room. Yes, that's me in the photo above. Fortunately I was able to go home after a few hours. On another occasion I had to stay overnight for observation.

Deciding to Go To the Emergency Room

So far I've never called 911 for anyone but my mother who was in her late 80's at the time. That was because she had fallen. I took her to the emergency room many times during her last years, and it was rarely a false alarm because she had had heart surgery and she also had congestive heart failure. She lived very close to the hospital, and I could get her there about as fast as an ambulance. She was also not manifesting symptoms of a heart attack or stroke on those occasions when I  took her in.

We know to call 911 when an emergency situation is obvious. What's tricky is determining when you should go to the emergency room if you aren't sure you have an emergency. Let's take last night as an example. For a few days my husband had had episodes where he would suddenly feel lightheaded for a few minutes at a time and  then the symptoms would go away. He would have an episode like this once or twice daily.

There could be many things that could cause such symptoms, many of which would not be life threatening. He  had also had wildly fluctuating blood pressure measurements during that period that had concerned him and he had been living with a stent in place for six years. He had called his cardiologist about getting an appointment and left a message as instructed and had not yet heard back by Friday.

Yesterday he read an article in the Wall Street Journal , " Watch for Small Warnings Before a Cardiac Arrest,"  by Ron Winslow that stated this:

.... new findings are a reminder that people who experience unusual or repetitive symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath or lightheadedness that go away quickly should call a doctor, Dr. White says. If such signs persist for several minutes, even if they haven’t occurred before, “that is a mandatory moment to call 911."

My husband and I talked about the article. It was almost 9 pm. I had almost been afraid to go to sleep at night this past week because I was worried about those symptoms and was afraid if Hubby had a heart problem when sleeping I might never know it. 

Even though  he was not experiencing the lightheadedness as we were discussing the article, he had experienced it several times during the week. We realized these episodes could be early warning signs of an impending cardiac arrest -- or nothing dangerous at all. We took off for the Twin Cities Emergency Room, and I drove him, since an ambulance ride didn't seem called for while he seemed to be symptom-free.  We decided it was better safe than sorry. 

What Happened in the Twin Cities Emergency Room

Our Experience at the Twin Cities Hospital Emergency Room
Patient in Twin Cities Hospital Emergency Room
 © B. Radisavljevic
We arrived at the emergency room quickly and within a few minutes we were called in for processing. The nurse took Hubby's vital signs and got his medical history and medication list which we had brought. In this photo he is having his blood pressure and oxygen saturation measurements taken. 

After all the data had been entered into the computer, they showed my husband to another room. If you haven't been to the Twin Cities Emergency Room in the last view years since they improved it, you will be delighted at the difference. The treatment rooms are now separated with actual walls - not just curtains.

The emergency room can appear almost empty when it is actually full because everyone is in a room. I remember in the old days when my mom would have to wait on a gurney in the hallway after emergency treatment to be taken upstairs to be admitted to the hospital because all the treatment rooms were full and anyone waiting for transport had to wait in the hall so their room could  go to the next patient. This photo shows the actual room my husband  was taken to last night. They even had television.  I might add that the nurses we had were all very helpful. 

Our Experience at the Twin Cities Hospital Emergency Room
Patient Treatment Room at Twin Cities Hospital Emergency Room © B. Radisavljevic

We had arrived at the emergency room at 9:10 pm. The first thing they checked my husband for was obvious signs of a stroke. Fortunately, he didn't have any, which I was pretty sure of when I brought him in or I would have called 911. You don't mess around when stroke symptoms are present. They hooked Hubby up to a heart monitor and a oxygen saturation monitor and a few other kinds of monitors I'm not sure of. They took his blood pressure reading periodically . They drew blood and got a urine sample and they took an x ray of his chest.  The tests did not take a lot of time, but waiting for results did. 

After the results were in the doctor's diagnosis was Near syncope; Bradycardia. In layman's terms, that means near fainting episodes and low pulse rates. Neither of these conditions in itself is especially dangerous, but either may be symptomatic of a more serious condition. My husband was given outpatient instructions that included taking his pulse often and coming back to the emergency room if it goes below 50. He will be seeing his doctor soon for further information and treatment options if needed. 

We were able to leave the emergency room and go home about 1:30 am. Although being away so late was somewhat of an ordeal, considering it turned out not to be an immediate emergency, at least we knew what was wrong and I was not afraid to go to sleep, since I realized a sudden heart attack was probably not imminent. We now have a better idea of when it will be really important to get to the emergency room quickly next time and when we probably don't need to worry. I'm not sorry we went. I'd rather we paid a visit when there was not an urgent need than to not go when it might be a life-threatening emergency.

Being prepared for a Sudden Emergency Room Visit

It's always good to be prepared for a visit to the emergency room. An important part of that is having your medical records, especially a list of medications and any supplements you may be taking, handy and ready to go. Your medical history is also something you will want to have available. It's something they always ask you about, even on doctor visits. Having it organized in a book you can grab and go is ideal. During an emergency, it's often hard to remember when you  or the person you have brought to the emergency room had broken bones, surgeries, and other procedures that you have to put somewhere in the mountain of  paperwork they give you to fill out or the nurse asks you about.

The medical records organizer below has a place for all your important medical information. You should have one for every person in your family -- even your children. It will be a great help to them when they are on their  own and can't remember their early medical history. Why not get these organizers today while you are thinking about it?

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