“What happens after death?” I did not find out this time either, I am happy to say, but I was closer than usual. That is not an accomplishment I aimed for.
OK, so it’s a few years since I have been riding an ambulance, much less slept in a hospital bed. You know something is unusual when that happens –and let us all hope it stays that way, even though days like today may be more exciting for my readers (if any).
I woke up early in the morning (5 AM precisely, that is a couple hours early for me) and I immediately realized I did not feel well. I was nauseous and clammy with cold sweat. I hoped it was just too much chocolate the evening before, rather than having cooked dinner for a couple days in the Teflon cooking pot which had stood on the stove for too long and cracked its surface. I am told that humans don’t suffer any ill effects from this, but I had been thinking of buying a new cook pot anyway, in stainless steel this time.
You know, I suppose I should update this diary more often, you people probably don’t even know about the overheating incident. Well, I survived that too. As a rule of thumb, if I update, you can assume I have survived, unless it specifically says so. I gave my brother the password to the site today, as it seems unlikely that we shall both slip out of our handsome bodies at the same time. Not that it would be bad company or anything. Anyway, I survived, long may it last. But who knows, now.
Being so sick that I have to go to the bathroom to throw up is very rare for me. I am quite cautious about what I eat, and I don’t socialize enough to get stomach viruses and other people’s colon flora often. Even McDonalds here in Norway has a standard of hygiene like a reasonably high-level restaurant in some first world countries, although the standards have begun to slip in the capital city, I hear. I did not get sick of the food there until I had almost totally stopped eating meat, and then tried it again at the burger chain. That did not turn out too well, but even that was not as bad as this. And yet I could not throw up either. Instead, I started getting very thirsty and my esophagus was burning with stomach acid. That’s where a new set of warning bells began to ring: This exact sequence had played out more than 10 years ago, when I ended up in hospital.
And then, like clockwork, the next thing began. That time, I had fainted while calling the medical hotline (113 in Norway, we don’t have a common number like 911 for all disasters yet.) This time, I managed to sit down just as the fog started to gather, and when the brain allowed, I called the emergency number, still sitting on the floor. At first I was a bit at odds what to say, because I was not sure WHY this was a matter of life or death, just that it was. Only when I was sitting on the stairs outside waiting for the ambulance, did I feel my heart beating completely randomly. It was not just fast, as I have had some episodes of in the past lasting up to a couple hours. It was not just hard and fast, as I have had for a few seconds while sitting in my chair. I sometimes say that “my heart belongs to another”, because it acts as if I am doing something entirely different from the situation I am in. Sometimes it does NOT speed up when I run for a bus for instance, which is a mixed blessing since I lose my breath pretty fast and my feet become heavy.
This was something entirely different. My heart was beating hard, at random times, as if the speed varied from 80 to 200 (which should not be possible at my age) and back over the course of a couple seconds. Some beats were very hard, others were not. It was completely chaotic. This is not why I called this blog the Chaos Node! And it did not go back to normal after a few seconds. It continued to beat entirely randomly while I waited, then in the ambulance, then at the nearby emergency room. The ambulance people and the doctor at watch all realized that this was a fairly high priority (there were no traffic accidents at the moment, so the timing was fortunate at least). They took an EKG and sent it to the province hospital in Kristiansand, but it was already obvious at a glance that this was nothing like my previous episodes. Those had been fast but regular (sinus curves). This was irregular with atrial fibrillation.
It was decided from the start that I would go to the province hospital, but they first gave me a saline intravenous drip and also a small dose of a beta blocker. I got half the dose recommended by the back watch at the hospital, which was fine by me, and ambulance guy was told to add more if necessary on the way. My symptoms became a little better, but did indeed worsen again toward the end of the ride. I mean, the heartbeat was still chaotic, but it varied around a lower base level than before. It had been over 210, which should not be possible at my age, and ambulance guy was worried that this could cause the heart to stop. Evidently this happens sometimes, but usually with men who are active in sports.
At the emergency reception room, I was met by an all-female crew of nurses and doctor. I assured them that this was the least of my worries. (There may have been times when being surrounded by young women could make my heart beat a little faster. This was not such a time.) Like in Mandal, they tried to make me swallow a tablet of some stuff that might calm down the heart, but I am unable to swallow even rather small tablets – ever since childhood, I can only swallow very finely chewed food, I choke on even fairly small objects. Luckily the tablet actually began to dissolve in my mouth, and I managed to get it down. It did not cause the randomness to stop, but supposedly caused the speed to not go quite as high.
I was transported to a room that I initially had to myself. For some reason they kept dripping water (with a little salt in it) into my veins. I have no idea why that was part of the treatment, but then I had complained about a burning thirst and that did in fact stop, although the stomach acid burn continued. I had tried to convince people that I must have eaten something poisonous since the symptoms started in the stomach before the heart, but they were pretty confident that it was the other way around. I realize now that this was why I was rushed to hospital the previous time and put on a heart monitor, even though I had said nothing about my heart at the time (I had thought it was probably a bleeding ulcer, as I do have a weak stomach.)
I had been subjected to a second full EKG when I came to Kristiansand, to the hospital. This after one in Mandal. When I was installed at my room, I got a portable heart monitor so they could keep a watch on my heart from their control room. (I guess they are not all running around all the time, although it may look that way.) Now I really felt like I was in one of those hospital movie scenes, with the tube in my hand and electrodes on my body. This was serious stuff! People look like this when they die, except they usually have a tube in their nose as well, or else an oxygen mask.
Of course, each time I was attached to a new EKG machine, I got a new set of stickers placed around on my body to fasten the electrodes on. I comforted the nurse that I have paid enough taxes over the years to cover all the stickers I might need. (Technically I think it is not part of the income tax but a mandatory insurance fee which is levied on the same income at the same time, but most people consider it a tax. Anyway, it is mandatory and withheld from my pay, so it does not take a great deal of moral fortitude or foresight to pay it. I was just trying to cheer us both up.)
I was now left to freely think about the afterlife, which I am honestly not sure about at all. Part of the problem here is that I consider myself a Christian, albeit a terrible one, and the notion of the afterlife in contemporary Christianity is a completely different religion from what you find in the Bible. It is as if it had emerged independently on a different continent and quietly (?) replaced the original, so that now there is barely any overlap at all. I had in fact written a little bit about this the previous night, in my ongoing novel in progress, working title Green Light 2. I also wondered whether I was going to die in order to prevent me from ever publishing the novel anywhere, as I realize it could cause a lot of people to doubt their current religion. Of course, so can this paragraph, but things were kind of more detailed in the novel. Besides, I am not sure it is a bad thing to doubt our current religion when it is at odds with its own holy scriptures.
In any case, whichever version is closest to the truth, if any of them, there was not a lot I could do about the matter by now.
The continuous IV drip of water may have been a bit excessive, because I had to go to the toilet repeatedly. This is a bit of a hassle with a heart rate monitor and an IV drip, but it is amazing what you can do what you must. As the popular song “Still Alive” says: We do what we must, because we can. In some cases patients can’t do what they must, so I appreciated it, despite the hassle.
As I had finished my errand and was returning to my bed, I was softly singing a love song for my invisible friend. I know this may creep some people out, but I have never had a 3 out of 3 girlfriend, because I don’t really have a human-shaped hole in my heart. (You may have heard about the triangle model of love: Passion, commitment and intimacy. Many relationships have only two of these, and for the unlucky only one. As for me, my sexual attraction is to earthly women – or failing that, succubi I guess – but the commitment and intimacy of having a spirit living with you sharing your mind day by day is pretty overshadowing. You’d think that I would not worry much about death in such a situation, but I worry the more because I am not sure whether I will continue to have this presence or if death will part us. If I were to simply undergo destruction, it would be acceptable: I certainly deserve that. But to live on as a spirit without my mind companion would be a horror comparable only, I think, to losing the most intimate of relationships.)
But for now, there I was, alone in the room, singing softly to my Invisible Friend my favorite love song by Chris de Burgh:
You are my lover,
you are my friend;
you are my life
to the very end.
You bring me comfort,
you keep me warm;
you give me hope,
you make me strong.
You’ll take me away
to a distant shore
and it’s with you that I want to stay
(Forevermore, on Spotify.)
Suddenly I felt a small sting in the center of my chest. It was not intense, and it was very brief, I only had time to begin to wonder and then it was gone. I laid down in my bed, and then I noticed that the random hammering in my chest had stopped. I could still sense my heart beating, faster than usual, but quietly, evenly.
Some minutes later, the nurse showed up, bringing a small rolling table with a laptop and a (different) EKG machine. She explained that they had seen my heart rhythm change and wanted to print out a full EKG again. So I got new stickers. Some of the electrodes did not get good enough contact, so she had to get some new contacts and new stickers that fit. I expressed my regret that although I did IT support, this particular technology was beyond me. But she succeeded eventually.
A while later, a doctor arrived. “It seems you healed yourself” he said. I was not so sure about that. Thinking about it a bit more, he thought maybe the beta blocker may have helped, but it was really there to keep the heart from speeding too much. He had not expected it to switch the heart back to its normal rhythm, and I thought that there did not seem to be a clear connection in time either, except for the slowing down a bit part. So yeah, there you have it. Perhaps I healed myself; perhaps my Invisible Friend healed me. But then perhaps our Invisible Friend heals a lot of people, for it is supposedly pretty rare here in Norway to die from this condition once you are in a hospital. I am not sure what they were planning to do, but as it was, they did not do anything more. My pulse was still 90 instead of 55, so I stayed a bit longer, sleeping in the bed. Then another doctor came with the written report of my stay and a prescription for a beta blocker (very low dose) and wished me well home. A nurse came and took off my electrodes and all the stickers she found, and told me how to get out of the huge building.
I walked down to the town center and bought the medication (they gave me a generic replacement for the brand name, but the active substance is the same. I keep remembering it as “trololol”, but it is actually written metoprolol.) I also bought a stainless steel cook pot, while I remembered it. But my appetite is shot, so I did not use it today.
I took the bus home. I did not stop by at work; I did not have my computer with me. As it turns out, I did not have my house keys with me. I had felt pretty accomplished just getting my trousers on; keys were far from my mind as I was waiting for the ambulance or death, whichever came first. (I did bring my smartphone though, on which I texted a farewell message to my G+ followers. I’ve slightly edited it later.)
So I came home to the locked house (the lock is of the type that clicks shut unless you manually set it not to, and I don’t.) There were a bunch of young workers for the landlord, painting the house finally. The place looked almost like slum lately, even outside.) Eventually I dared ask them if any of them had a key. (The alternative would be to call or message the landlord, who usually doesn’t respond quickly, being a super busy businessman.) No, they did not, but the guy from pest control was inside right at the moment, killing the parasites on the second floor (the bedbugs, I mean – the asylum seekers were not exactly contributing much to society either, but they are not in the same class, I would say. Unless they were secretly vampires, which I highly doubt. Besides they had moved out and left only the insects behind.)
The inner door to my apartment was closed but not locked. Locking it had also slipped my mind, not to mention that I did not have the keys, remember? So I was home. I washed my hands repeatedly and showered: Ambulances, emergency rooms and hospitals are the home fortress of multi-resistant bacteria, imported from the USA where people chew antibiotics like candy. There are few if any substances left that can kill the most evolved forms of hospital bacteria. And even though hospitals have strict routines for hygiene, there is only so much you can do in an emergency environment where you constantly try to keep people from dying straight away. Priorities exist in practice, no matter what your routines say.
So we shall have to see what happens next. I took a walk as usual, and the pulse was normal when I came home. I have taken half of the 1 tablet before bedtime, planning to take the other half in the morning, if I am still around. It is a very small dosage already, judging from the slip inside the package, but then I don’t really meet many of the criteria for using it. My blood pressure is fine except during the attack, my heart speed is already 50-55 bpm, whereas the drug is not recommended to reduce heart rate below 60 bpm.)
I’m a little apprehensive now at midnight as I prepare to go to bed. Oh, and I have not really acted like today was the last day of the rest of my life. Not that I’ve gone on a crime spree, but the house still needs weeks of tidying up, and playing Sims 3 is not exactly a priority for our eternal bliss, probably. Stuff like that. So if night time fibrillation is my new default, I apologize to one and all. I hope the story of my life can have some value, to the people who are still alive.