Pain (And The Internet) Sent Me To The Hospital


Here’s what you should never do at 4 a.m. — surf around on the web to see if you’re having a heart attack. That’s because, according to the web and your own nighttime insecurities, you definitely are.

I woke up because I had been sleeping really hard on my left arm and my left arm was complaining. Or, was it my heart? I immediately powered up my cell phone and looked up “symptoms of a heart attack,” which I already know backward and forward because I am both an informed individual and a total hypochondriac. After my groggy cell phone browsing, the symptoms pointed to yes.

So, I looked up “things that have symptoms mirroring those of a heart attack” and — surprise — I was still supposed to go to the hospital. I leaned over Mark’s sleeping form and whispered, “I need a ride to the emergency room.”

He was instantly awake, keys in hand. He is terrified at the thought of my dying, not because of me, but because of the horrific job of liquidating all of my collections and the contents of my 3,000-square-foot store. On the bright side, then he can buy that boat he has always wanted.

We arrived at the ER in no time. When I walked confidently up to the desk, they asked why I was there. “Wikipedia sent me,” I answered. They nodded knowingly and exchanged a glance. Nonetheless, they put me in a wheelchair and zoomed me in ahead of a 90-year-old man in obvious pain. I was a priority!

The next stop was the lab. I chatted quietly with the two technicians who took X-rays and treated me solicitously and carefully. This is where my intensive Wikipedia training would shine. They would take one look at my torn, bleeding, ulcerous, shriveled and perhaps brown heart and call for an expert, a surgeon — stat! I wish Mark had brought a book. It was going to be a long day.

Never mind that a mere week before, at my annual checkup, my regular doctor had said I was in perfect health. Doctors don’t know everything.

Back in my room, I was hooked up to a couple of machines and monitored by a nurse. The doctor came in and asked me what I had eaten the day before (a cold slice of day-old pizza) and what I had to drink (nothing).

My heart was good. My blood was good. My cholesterol was good. My sugars were good. The X-rays were good.

“But what about that?” I asked the doctor (a 2005 graduate of Wellington High School, by the way, in case you want to feel really old). “My blood pressure is elevated!”

“Most people have elevated blood pressure just thinking about going to the emergency room,” she answered.

“Hmph. So I’m not in danger?”

“Wikipedia is dangerous,” she offered.

They pumped me full of fluids and, two hours later, I was back on the street, chewing a Pepcid. The official diagnosis was that I was fine, perhaps with indigestion. Of course, I could have a real heart attack at any time… like when I get the bill.