The Epistle of Q — Chapter Sixty

What possibly could be the most interesting question as we reach the 60th Chapter of this journey?

Well, how about a visit to the Emergency section of the Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH)? Now that sounds interesting….I’m not going to dwell a great deal on this visit but I will let you in on a couple of insights. If you are ever in need of emergency health services in the South Okanagan, get yourself to PRH. The staff members at this place are totally professional — no real surprise here — but they also have tremendous bedside manners and take time to educate you to what has happened, what is happening, and what could happen going forward. I can’t say enough about the care and attention I received during my time in their care on Sunday morning.

First though, a little background… Five years ago, a couple days before Christmas, after attending a Christmas party on PEI on the way home I began to feel not quite right. And when I arrived and took off my leather jacket, my shoulders and chest still felt like I had the jacket on. That didn’t seem normal so after a few minutes and a couple of glasses of water it was decided I should go to emergency at the Charlottetown hospital. Turns out my heart rate was at about 177 (my normal is between 59 & 65). I was quickly whisked onto a bed and shortly thereafter went through some procedures that knocked my heart back into its proper beat pattern. But the doctors weren’t sure that I wasn’t having a heart attack, so they kept me in throughout the night and in the morning put me through some treadmill routines as well as balancing exercises. After getting assurances that I would not take the Christmas Eve service I was to conduct that weekend, nor the Sunday service either (at Summerside Presbyterian) they released me but did clear me to fly in another day or so (I was to travel to Memphis for Christmas). After returning from that trip and dropping in on my own doctor in Edmonton, it was determined that I did not in fact have a heart attack but rather an episode of “atrial fibrillation”. Life then went on…although I did get a heart monitor (blood pressure and heart rate) and used it on and off over the years always with reasonable results (within the zones that my doctors felt were optimum).

Now, fast forward five years… not much has changed in my world in that I’m still working (though not in the pulpit as often) and have moved back to BC. This autumn I was elected to the local Strata Council but that in itself was not seen as anything untoward, until a Human Rights complaint was filed against the Council which came “out of the blue” (and upon which I will comment only after it is resolved). This did dramatically change the workload of the Council and did show up on the above-noted monitor with an indication of perhaps a bit of hypertension — then the machine died (it needed new batteries). Finally I got new batteries and set them on my desk for future installation.

Saturday evening we hosted a small dinner party to introduce a couple of couples to each other — we thought they would find each other stimulating conversationalists, and they were. It was a delightful evening, lasting much longer than such dinners usually do. Lots of laughs but also a good deal of thoughtful conversation… I went to bed quite content that the event was a success (I am not really a comfortable host because I either talk too much or not enough, but this evening seemed to have the right balance on all fronts). At about 4:00 a.m. I arose to make a “Grandpa stop” (as my AZ Grandkids call it) when I have the need to avail myself of certain facilities. I felt good and went back to bed. But about an hour or so later I woke up and as I lay there I began to feel something not quite right…

Eventually I went down to my study, got out the monitor, put in the new batteries and began to got through the protocols. At 6:30 a.m. my BP was 145/105 with a HR of 144… this was not good, so I waited ten minutes and repeated: BP 133/89 (that’s getting better) but HR is now 153 (oooops, not so good). Then it was BP 113/96 HR 148 — blood pressure was getting towards an acceptable rather but the heart rate was disturbing… At 7:30 the BP was back at 151/104 and HR 160 (really not very encouraging) but by 7:40 while the BP remained at 150/106 the HR had dropped to 85 and I felt things were returning to normal. Also by 7:50 it was BP 142/105 and HR 140… I decided I would take two more assessments and if the corner was not turned then I was going to have to get some medical assistance. The final two protocols were still high on both BP and HR. And so off to Emergency shortly after 8:00…

No need to discuss this in detail other than to say the staff were superb. I was taken in to a bed, went through a number of procedures with nurses and doctors, and it was determined that it was an episode of “A/Fib”. Then after the results came back from x-rays, blood work, ECG’s, and other stuff (yes Skyler, they were doing “stuff”!!) they came to the conclusion that I could be released — was given a prescription for some short-term medicine along with a referral to a “heart team” as well as a request that I get a follow-up appointment with my own doctor. I also was to monitor BP & HR at home to see if my return to normal was continuing. At 10:45 when I got home it was BP 125/82 HR 81 and ten hours later it was BP 128/71 HR 59…all good (and I felt good too)

It was an interesting experience. I learned a great deal about “A/Fib” and how I likely have had this condition for some time and may have experienced other brief episodes but never realized it. It is not something to fear but it is something to be conscious of and regularly monitor the heart. For the short term, until I see the heart team, I am to drop alcohol (and any riotous living) from my menu/schedule; for the long term, I am to make sure I don’t have unnecessary stress and strain in my life — no need to run up the BP (try to keep it under 130/85!!).

And that is my story about PRH, “A/Fib” and “Holiday Heart”…