Wednesday, February 14, 2007


.DraDrawing, Febuary 14, 2007
In September 2001, I dream

An airplane with a red, four cylinder engine is leaking oil and smoking.
The plane takes off and crashes.

I woke up and the first thought in my head was, “I am having heart problems.” I immediately set up an appointment with my doctor. We talked about what to do. I had no symptoms. I had no difficulty exercising. My cholesterol level was good. Probably the best diagnostic alternative was to run a thallium treadmill test, but how do you justify doing this test on the basis of a dream? I didn’t particularly want to have what I feared was a radioactive substance in my blood and to have a large medical bill.

Four months later, I was walking up a hill 100 yards from my house and started getting dizzy and sweating. I had to sit down three times before I could make it home. I was told to go to the emergency room. Six hours later I came home, after promising that I would fly to Anchorage, three hundred miles south, and get evaluated the next day.

By the time I reached the cardiologist’s office at the Alaska Heart Institute, I was dizzy and sweating again. The cardiologist spent fifteen minutes with me and gave me, according to the bill, “a thorough heart evaluation.” This cardiologist was going on vacation, and since I had an infected tooth, he did not want to do a angiogram, where a catheter is put up through your groin, dye is inserted, and pictures of your blood flow and any blockages to the coronary arteries are seen. He sent me home, and told me to come back in two weeks.

After getting home that day, I quickly went to the Internet to research my situation. Everything I read said that I had “unstable” angina. I called Dr. C. in San Francisco, a friend I had gone to school with. He said to fly down to San Francisco and they would take care of me at the California Pacific Medical Center.

The next day I was on a flight to California with my family. For the first time at the airports, I took one of those motorized airport carts. Walking was difficult; the world seemed very gray to me. I kept thinking of the Emily Dickinson poem, “The fog is rolling in. I must go inside.”

The cardiologist I was scheduled to see called me at the hotel. When he learned I had taken three nitroglycerin tablets (which oxygenate the blood and prevent heart attacks) and still was feeling strange and nauseous, he sent me to the emergency room. The angiogram showed a long ninety percent blockage of the left descending coronary artery, and a stent was put in. I had just missed a massive heart attack.

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