A couple of weeks ago, I woke up to discover a feeling of tightness right in the center of my chest. At first I tried to imagine that I had pulled a muscle or something, but by the next morning it had become what I could only describe as the “chest pains” that guys my age have good reason to fear. Several of my school classmates, as well as my older brother, have recently had to endure heart bypass surgery with varying results. I’m normally an optimistic, cheerful person, but I couldn’t help but fall into a frightened, depressed panic. It seemed to be my turn.
Having been fortunate enough to have never suffered from any major illness or injury, I’m not at all familiar with local hospitals or insurance procedures. Should I call 9-1-1 or drive myself to a hospital emergency room for tests? I wasted the rest of that day debating with myself about what to do. Yeah, I know, stupidly dangerous thing to do, but fortunately the steady deep soreness didn’t get any worse. I didn’t want to frighten my sons until I at least had some idea of the scope of the problem. So, I called my regular doctor’s office, fully expecting to be told to get to a hospital. My thinking was that they could at least advise me on which area hospital was best or refer me to a specialist. Unlike me, the receptionist was calm and undisturbed. She checked with my doctor and said he could see me as soon as I could get there.
Doctor King shares his office space with two pediatricians. So, as usual, there were a few parents in the waiting room with small children. One lady sat beside a baby carriage containing an unhappy sounding infant. Her daughter, probably around four years old, was standing over by the aquarium watching the tropical fish. I smiled at the little blonde girl when she turned to look in my direction. Before I knew what was happening, she was across the room and hugging me like her long lost grandpa. Her mom seemed surprised and called out, “Sarah.” I patted the little girl’s back and she happily headed back over toward the fish. Glancing over at the lady, I only managed to mumble, “Don’t worry. I’m not contagious.”
Right on cue, a medical assistant called my name and I went in to see the doctor. We talked about my symptoms and he pushed and felt around a bit. After a nurse gave me an EKG test, Doctor King returned to inform me that he was giving me a prescription for acid reflux disease and had scheduled a precautionary chest X-ray. I never would have thought I could be thrilled to be diagnosed with any type of disease, but under the circumstances I’ll take that outcome any day. Maybe it’s a bit overdramatic, but it seemed like the sun rose as I walked out of the building. If I hadn’t been afraid of breaking something, I would have jumped up and tried to click my heels. With my family history of heart disease, the risk of more serious problems could still be there someday in the future, but not that day.
Sometimes, all you really need is a hug…and maybe a little Prilosec.
Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.