I have about 95% English ancestry, so I never paid much attention to St. Patrick’s Day. This year it was a little different, and a day I will never forget.
Starting on St. Patrick’s morning, I spent 48 hours in solitary confinement — not in jail, but it seemed like it. It was the result of a low heart rate and sudden admission to a hospital that is locked down tight.
I won’t bore you with the medical details, but I had a routine appointment on St. Patrick’s Day, scheduled several weeks ago with a cardiologist. I planned to leave the appointment and get a haircut. Arriving at the doctor’s office feeling pretty much normal, they did a blood pressure check and an EKG.
Suffice it to say that the doctor was obviously alarmed by the numbers and immediately called to have a cardiac pacemaker installed. I was then wheeled from his office and admitted to the hospital. This was the start of almost exactly 48 hours in solitary before I was able to go home, which disrupted my life even more than the COVID-19 virus restrictions.
Upon admission, I was informed that I could have no visitors — not even my wife or children — since the hospital was closed to everyone but employees and patients due to the virus. My wife would have to bring anything I needed from home and deposit it with security at the hospital doors, and an aide would retrieve it and bring it to my room. While I understand the need for certain precautions, this restriction only brings to my mind the apparent fact that if I had been dying, my family would have had no opportunity to even say goodbye.
I grew up on a farm and have difficulty being confined even to my own large house, with a lifelong strong need to be out and about whenever possible. The current closures and restrictions had already made my days a bit stressful because I couldn’t do the things I normally do, like coffee with the guys. Being confined to one small room with no outside visitors was reaching somewhat above my tolerance level.
I had to wear a heart monitor to transmit my condition to the nurses’ station. To make matters worse, the medical personnel were absolutely certain that my heart rate was so low that I just had be suffering from dizziness and prone to falling. I felt that I wasn’t, but they prevailed and turned on an alarm that sounded if I tried to get out of bed without assistance.
The nurses were excellent, and I tried to be a good patient but without a lot of success. Confined to a bed in a small room, having to get permission and assistance to even use the bathroom — despite my feeling perfectly normal — was much too far out of my comfort zone. They did have to respond to the alarm twice, both times when I tried to retrieve something that I dropped on the floor.
The first night, I was sleeping soundly when the door burst open, and two nurses rushed in, yanked up my gown and stuck patches on me. I spied a heavy-duty looking cable, and asked, “What’s that, jumper cables”?
Surprisingly, one said, “Yes, sort of. We thought we would have to put a pacer on you because your heart rate dropped to 25 beats per minute.”
I didn’t see where that was so bad, since I had started the evening at about 35 beats per minute, dropping to 25 while in a deep sleep seemed pretty much appropriate. Apparently, not so.
Well, I survived long enough to have the pacemaker installed, was released after 48 hours in the hospital, and it’s quietly doing its job of keeping my heart rate above 60 beats per minute. It’s nice just to be in my own familiar surroundings, able to have visitors and face-to-face conversations, but the best thing of all is being able to go to the bathroom by myself like a big boy.
Another negative result of the incident was that the governor closed the barber shops while I was in solitary, and I wasn’t able to get the haircut. So now I’m getting shaggier looking by the day while I recuperate, and just hoping that next St. Patrick’s Day isn’t quite as memorable.
Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. He writes a guest column for The Lima News, often focusing on police matters.