Yesterday I unfortunately experienced a very scary medical situation. Let me give you some background. First off I need to say I am not a doctor nor do I have any medical experience. In addition I do not recommend anyone use my actions as a guideline for handling similar situations.
On Sunday I started feeling run down and had a few bouts of sweats and feeling light headed. I didn't do much and went to bed early. On Monday I felt OK in the AM, ran 7 miles, and did some errands. After the run I had lunch and then started feeling really run down and had a bad stomach ache. I battled extreme stomach pain all during the Red Sox home opener. The pain slowly subsided and I went to bed early again. Yesterday I woke up with pain and tightness in my chest and was still feeling run down. I worked for several hours in my home office and started feeling light headed and still had the tightness in my chest. Around 11:00 AM I started making lunch and broke out into a sweat and started feeling faint. The bottom line is that I had pain and tightness in my chest, had the sweats, and was feeling faint. I couldn't believe it but I thought there may be a possibility I was having a heart attack. Me?
To make matters worse I did not have a vehicle as I had let my daughter take my car to school as I didn't plan on going anywhere yesterday. I considered calling 911 but thought there is no way this could be happening. Unfortunately I couldn't deny the way I was feeling and knew I needed medical attention ASAP. So what did I do? I quickly threw on my running shoes and walked to the Walk-in Center a half mile from my house. I was feeling very faint and weak and thought more than once on the way over that if I collapse this would turn out to be a very dumb decision.
Once at the Walk-in center I was quickly examined and the doctor told me based on what she was seeing I needed to go to the emergency room ASAP. I had no car but it didn't matter because they said I also needed to go via ambulance. To make a long story short I ended up being at Lowell General Hospital for the next 5 hours undergoing a whole battery of tests on my heart. I was examined thoroughly and I would like to thank the great staff at Lowell General.
What were the results? I had a surprisingly lengthy conversation with a cardiologist who explained to me that after all of the tests my heart was fine. They do not know what caused my symptoms but it wasn't heart related. I was probably fighting something off and maybe I strained a muscle in my chest...not sure. Regardless I was glad to hear that I did not have an issue with my heart. During my discussion with the cardiologist I mentioned I was a runner and in fact I had planned on doing a 5k road race later that day. Here is a snippet of our conversation heavily paraphrased:
Doctor: After all of these tests we do not know what caused your symptoms but it is not heart related.
Me: So my heart is fine?
Me: So there is no reason why I can't run in a 5k tonight?
Doctor: Well, I can't tell you what to do once you are discharged but your heart appears to be healthy.
You have to understand that after a lifetime of running and racing one of the scariest things that could happen to me is to have a heart condition. We have all heard of fit runners having a heart attack. It does happen. Once I heard my heart was fine I was instantly injected with relief and knew I was running in the Good Times 5k that night. I left the hospital at 5:30 PM quickly changed and went to the race. You see, I can deal with feeling faint, weak, sick, etc. Many long distance events I have completed at some point I have felt that way during the race. I wasn't feeling at my best (obviously) and completed the race in 20:22.
The moral of the story is that if you feel you are having a heart attack it is better to be safe than sorry. Know the warning signs and by all means call 911...don't try to walk a half mile to the doctors. A heart attack is survivable but only if you get immediate medical attention. If you have the symptoms and feel it may be happening don't wait and become a statistic....call for help. I also don't recommend running a road race after leaving the emergency room.
Know the Warning Signs of Heart Attack
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
Chest Discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness