Post #60: Getting Sick With Something Other Than COVID During a Pandemic or A Stroke is a Stroke is a Stroke is a Stroke. Or is it?

A few years ago, Sue and I were watching "The Americans" (ever notice on that show that Felicity had a better record as a fighter than Muhammad Ali and more sex than Wilt Chamberlain?) when my right side went numb. I thought God was punishing me for rooting for the FBI, but doctors thought it was a TIA. I went to the hospital and recovered quickly with only some residual quiver in my hand, as if I needed another burden besides a lack of musical talent when trying to play the ukulele.

Last year, I came closer than I wanted to to popping off when I found myself suffering from chest pains and shortness of breath while attempting to climb even the smallest of hills. The result was four coronary stents over two surgeries, adding to one that was put in some nine years ago. Tuesday, I go into the hospital again for another catheterization to see if my current symptoms are the result of more blockages. It's nerve wracking to be a high risk person and go to a place where the ICU is filled with COVID patients, but I've been assured by the surgeon, his staff and friends in the field that that aspect of it will indeed be safe.

The surgery itself another matter. Last time, I was awake but woozy through it, just aware enough to feel the camera snaking through my arteries and to say in the middle of it after feeling my chest squeezed, my  jaw hurting and my breath quickening, "Excuse me, I hate to interrupt your work but I think I may be having a heart attack." The surgeon asked me a few questions as he poked different sections of my heart with a screwdriver and pliers. "Does this re-create it?"
"No."
"How about his?"
"Nope"
Then he reached into my carburetor, turned the valve screw and said, "How about now?"
As my engine suddenly started to race, I said, "Yup, I think you got it."
"Ok, he said, I think we found it, thank you."

And I got myself a bonus stent to go along with the two others he sewed in that day.

All this is a long set up to the current problem, having similar issues but not wanting to go to the hospital. When I spoke to the cardiologist via telehealth (it really works, you go right into the doctor, don't have to worry about parking and no way they can suddenly decide to check your prostate), he said he has had to deal with patients with severe heart disease when it was too late in the process because like me, they were reluctant to come in. So we made the appointment for Tuesday.

Back to the point. When I first started having symptoms around the time COVID started spreading my PCP suggested we just try to treat the symptoms with a couple of new meds, something to open up the arteries and medicine to further lower my blood pressure. He also insisted I stop watching Donald Trump's press briefings as there seemed to be a correlation between watching him on the podium and my BP jumping up to 180.

So I turned off the TV at 5:30 and took the medicine until I ran out of the BP pills the other day. Our local pharmacy has been great. I like them because they're not Walgreens or CVS. Medicare put all kinds of financial pressure on me to abandon the apothecary but I wanted to help keep him going so I turned down their cheaper plan to stick with the drugstore where everybody knows my name.

Usually, I call with my refill numbers but because they are so busy these days, they have a Web site where you type in a refill and have a system where you can pick it up or have it delivered. No customers are allowed in the shop. If you pick it up, you just open your window and someone comes out and tosses it in.

This time we arranged a pickup of the one bottle. Sue got it and wiped it off with disinfectant when she got home. I opened it up and took a pill.

An hour later we working on the newsletter when she said one of the links was bad. Five times I asked her which link she was talking about. No matter what she said, it wouldn't stick in my brain. That night after dinner I went to get dessert. "You just had it," Sue said.

"I did? I had no memory of it. "What did we have for dinner?"

For the life of me,  I couldn't remember. It was obvious to me that although I didn't feel weak in my side, I was having another small stroke or TIA.  I called the doctor and while I waited for him to call back,  I tried a little test that I sometimes give myself when I think my memory is going south. I tried to write down all the presidents in order, something I can usually do easily. This time I forgot Polk and Coolidge? Who forgets Polk and Coolidge?

The doctor finally called and thought I indeed might have had a TIA and advised me to go to the ER. Sue and I weighed the potential of being exposed to infection in the hospital against not getting care. Because as a reporter I like information, I called the ER and got a very pleasant person on the phone. She confirmed that they indeed were filled with COVID  patients. Would I be safe, no guarantees, so we decided since I'd been through this before and improved quickly the last time, I'd just go to bed and hope for the best.

The next morning, I found myself at my desk, not feeling very rested when I saw the bottle of pills that Sue had bought home. I looked at it and nearly fell off the chair. Instead of BP medicine, it was Ambien. They had filled the wrong medicine. I take Ambien every few days when I can't sleep, but I never take the full 10 mg dose. I cut the pills into tiny 2 mg segments, which is more than enough for me. But the night before I took the full 10 mg. No wonder I behaved the way I did.

Then I thought, what if we did go to the ER, and what if I had been exposed, me at  high risk?

Not good.

Angrily, I called the pharmacy soon after they opened. The assistant pharmacist got on the phone and when I explained to her that they had made a serious error, she complained about having to deal with this at the beginning of  her first day back after eight weeks and then said without apologizing, "You should have checked the bottle."

I said maybe I should have, but I had only ordered one prescription and it never would have crossed my brain that I shouldn't have trusted them. "And," I added, "do you really want to blame me?"

She did. They prepared a new prescription. Sue went to pick it up. There was no apology.

And I did check the bottle.

Onward to Tuesday.

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