Ambulance day again

Screenshot anime Non Non Biyori

“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.

(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.

I brought this on myself

Screenshot anime Chuunibyou (Rikka Takanashi is worried)

“…my heart races so fast I can hardly bear it.” Evidently this is a familiar problem for young people. Somehow most of them survive. So did I, although with less margin.

This is quite possibly the worst tachycardia (racing heart) episode I’ve had yet, and I brought it upon myself. The Light warned me already the day before, repeatedly, but I joked it away. That may sound like a weird thing to do, but I just did not want to listen. When I get an idea in my head, I can be stubborn as a mule.

In my fictional Lightwielder universe, there is a saying so common among the Servants of the Light that they can say it without thinking: “The Light informs, warns, protects and heals.” Of course, that is a fictional world, but loosely based on my own experience and that of others, just transposed into a more literal or physical form. Yesterday, and today, the warning was unsettling in its clarity. But I decided to take the chance, thinking perhaps that the Light would protect me when it could no longer warn me. That’s not exactly how it went. Or perhaps it did, but not as much as I had anticipated.

My pulse was over 200 at the highest … 204 or 205 according to my pulse watch. That should not even be physically possible at my age. The rule of thumb is  220-(age), so in my case 165. That’s pretty close to what the cardiologist found on the bike test last year. So basically my heart was not entirely beating in the ordinary sense, but starting to fibrillate – the final stage before it stops, although people can endure various degrees of this for various lengths of time. A young friend of mine who was born with a reversal of the heart chambers sometimes had a pulse of 400, if I remember correctly. Eventually he died from it, in his teens. But it is a lot more than me, so, who knows what I may or may not survive.

I’d like it to not become a habit though. That probably means I shall have to listen to the Light before things get out of hand like that. I’m just not a very good Servant of the Light in real life, I’m afraid. But that which does not kill us makes us scared, so that is a step in the right direction.

The main attack lasted for about 5 hours, but it was above max pulse only when I walked. Perhaps I should just not do that. Or perhaps I should not take stupid pointless risks to my body and soul in the first place.

I am energetic?

Screenshot anime Sakurasou, featuring Misaki

Genki girl. Not larger than life, just much more energetic. Not like me. For one thing, I am not a girl.

I couple of things came together recently. The Norwegian winter seems to have a dragged on for months now, and it came on the heels of the rainiest November I can remember (at least here on the South coast of Norway). So I haven’t really exercised my body since sometime in October. Instead of a 1 1/2 to 2 hours of walking and jogging, I am just walking briskly for about half an hour a day.

Wait, what? The other day I read an article by a Norwegian cardiologist, who said that he personally walked half an hour a day; that was a sufficient, in his opinion. I’ve seen a number of seemingly sane medical experts say approximately the same thing, some of them adding that if you can’t walk half an hour a day, you should at least try to walk a quarter of an hour.

When I try to imagine someone exercising less than a quarter of an hour a day, I automatically imagine something like the illustration photos for articles about the “obesity epidemic”, a triple-sized American whose gender is half lost in the rubber tires surrounding their vaguely humanoid body. (My visual imagination is very hazy, admittedly.) I am like “how do they do that?” because I hurry to the bus, hurry from the bus to the office, hurry up the stairs, often take a walk during lunch break, and do the same thing again on my way home, except I hurry to the bus station across downtown. Then I may or may not go get some groceries after I am home. I guess having a car can be pretty bad for your health.

But the thing is, it does not feel like I am exercising or even being active. These are all things that just happen. And it matters who I compare myself to.

***

If you have read the early years of the Chaos Node, you will notice that I occasionally wrote about my then best friend, the girl I loved approximately like myself, the amazing Supergirl (later called SuperWoman, at her request.). (She has a name, but did not feel comfortable with being online, so I don’t have her name or address or photo anywhere on the site.) What I noticed the most about her was her intelligence, because she was one of the few people I had met (at that time) outside my family that was actually more intelligent than me. This fascinated me. She was much younger than me, so I knew and understood many things she didn’t (at least back then), but in raw processing power she was high, high above me.

But intriguingly, this was not the only thing she excelled at. She was also good at sports, good with people, played a couple of instruments and could sing and dance well. It was as if everything she put her mind to, whether for the body or the mind or a combination of the two, she mastered easily. Well, it did not always seem easy to her, but by human standards it was amazing. It seemed like she came with 300% energy in a human-sized body. That is the best way I can think of it.

I came to think of this because I recently watched two episodes of an anime, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (the pet girl of Cherry Hall). One of the characters there is a girl who is just way too energetic for a single human body. Her teacher refers to her as an alien, hopefully in jest, but she feels kind of lonely among all the normal people who cannot do what she can and who grow tired easily. It was hauntingly familiar.

***

It really seems to me that some people come with more energy than others, and that this energy often shows both in the body and the mind. (Of course, the two are not really separate beings that just happen to travel together for a while – they are very much intertwined or even aspects of the same being, I have compared them before to the metal and the imprint of a coin.)

I have not thought of myself as an energetic person, although I have learned things fairly easily all my life. I did not do really well in grade school and even most of middle school, as I was home sick whenever I could think of an excuse for it (so as to not be bullied) and because I was lazy and did as little school work as possible. But when something interested me, I learned it easily. But only theoretical knowledge. I was small and weak and frail, and moved as little as possible. Therefore, I could never see myself as energetic.

Ever since I started running around as a toddler, I had asthma attacks. Likely I was born that way and am still that way – the attacks may simply have stopped because it was exercise asthma and I stopped exercising. The last years before the attacks stopped (around the age of 10, I think) they mostly appeared in the morning, I woke up gasping for breath. This week I am doing that again and it really drives home how creepy it was. But I realize, looking back, that the attacks back then were probably triggered by dreams of running and jumping and all the things ordinary humans did. Only when I became very, very quiet even in my dreams did the attacks stop.  And that is how I remained for the next four decades or so.

I have had my heart tested a few times during the last decade or so, last May very thoroughly by a cardiologist with modern equipment, and before that a few times with EKG machines for anything from a few minutes to hours. In each case, the result was something I had a hard time believing: That my heart was like that of an athlete. Not a world class athlete obviously but perhaps not too far off: The cardiologist said I could participate in “Birken”, the Birkebeiner race which is a national-level competition of unusual endurance. Surely the man was exaggerating, but my resting pulse was in fact squarely in the bracket of endurance athletes on a regional level. (It is higher now, but then I have a chronic infection these days.)

If not for the asthma, it seems, I might have been an athlete as well as a genius, like my brother, although perhaps not quite at the same level in either. That would take a lot.

What does this difference in people come from? Is it some kind of spiritual “life force” or does it come from differences in the metabolism? Perhaps in the mitochondria, the organelles in each human cell which is the only part of the cell that transforms fat and sugar and oxygen into energy for the cell? But the mitochondria are all inherited from one’s mother – the sperm cells leave theirs behind when they enter the ovum. If the mitochondria were to blame (or praise), you should be roughly as energetic as your mother. I am not sure that is how it works: Supergirl had the energy and smarts of two normal girls ever from she was little, but her numerous siblings were quite normal, as was her mother from what I could see and hear.

I don’t have all the answers, although I like to play someone who has all the answers on the Internet. Perhaps I will learn the answer if I live long enough. For now, I wish my supposed energy could be used to get rid of this infection of the sinuses and thereabout. Even with the return of daylight up north here, I can’t exercise with infection in my body. If I do, I tire quickly and the infection flares and spreads.

The Japanese word “genki” translates both as “energetic” and “healthy” or even “well” (Genki desu ka = How are you?) “Ki” is of course the Japanese word for energy and also spirit (also known from Chinese as “chi” or “qui”). I don’t feel entirely genki these days, but perhaps I am simply used to being among the 1% of energy?

Mysterious illness

As mentioned in my slice of life journal, my pulse is 25-30 beats above normal this evening, after having been some 15 beats above normal for over a week. I have not been able to exercise during this week, or rather I have quickly become stiff and tired even from walking. Apart from that, the symptoms seem to vary randomly. Something is happening inside this body, but I have no idea what.

This is just a heads-up, really. Sympathy (or antipathy for that matter) won’t make a difference, my body will have to handle this on its own. Right now it is too vague to even involve a doctor. (Besides, it is extremely few times in my life that a doctor visit has led to anything at all besides spending time and money. It has happened, but it is not the rule.)

My belated superpowers

Unfortunately I can’t manipulate time to slow down or speed up other people, but evidently I am slowing down myself. Not that this will surprise many… ^_^

The report from the cardiologist arrived, and I left it on the fridge for a while. Turns out it actually contains more details than I got when I was there (or at least other details – while there, I got to look at the ultrasound pictures and cool stuff like that).

The report could barely have been more upbeat if it were ordered by an elderly presidential candidate trying to convince the world that he was not going to keel over at the start of his term and leave the country in the hands of a pretty but cheerfully ignorant vice-president. Not that such a thing would ever happen. Anyway, upbeat. Vague pun intended at heartbeat.

Did you know I have physical superpowers? My mental superpowers are a matter of record, of course. I mean, you see them here almost every day. Plus, I used to be an amazing programmer, back when it was necessary to be an amazing programmer. These days, you can make whatever you want in some high-level programming tool, and the super fast computers will run it at a decent clip even if it is sloppily written, as long as the logic is not insane. I don’t really feel there is need for me as a programmer anymore. But the good news, if true, is that I now have superpowers of the body as well!

I refer to the observation that my resting pulse, which used to be around 55 back in 2005 and 50 last year, is now evidently 44. The portable heart monitor came to this somewhat disturbing conclusion, at least. Disturbing how? Disturbing in the sense that this is the resting pulse of a national level athlete. Well, for small nations like my native Norway, I guess. World class athletes may have slightly lower, though not all of them do. Just the outliers, the ones most people (but not me) have heard about. Yeah, baby. Magnus Itland, world-class athlete without even trying.

Actually, it is not quite that easy. On the contrary, the good doctor admits that “the patient has however a lower physical capacity than one should expect”. Uh, not if one bases one’s expectations on the patient not having exerted himself for even half a minute for the previous 45 years, I think. But yeah, the pulse rises really fast if I actually exert myself. Jogging for a brief stretch raises my pulse to 140. Of course, I have never actually jogged before, beyond a few steps now and then, so there’s that. Evidently to translate that ridiculously low resting pulse to actual working capacity, I will have to actually exert myself. Perhaps one day!

While I was at the lab, I asked him whether my low pulse wasn’t a case of bradycardia (as the Wikipedia rather strongly implies it is). The doctor did not think so. He said it came from there just not being much resistance in my blood vessels. He showed me ultrasound pictures that indicated less rough surface and plaque than normal for my age. Overall, I seem to have a body that is several years younger than my chronological age. This makes sense, I suppose, if my heart has beat less times than the heart of people much younger than me. By that measure, I may be closer to 40 than 53. Someone please tell my hair.

In fact, I suspect this is a lifelong trait: I reached puberty later than all the other boys my age, and I kept growing taller for longer than all the other boys my age. That probably means I was also immature for much longer than other young men my age, which certainly fits the fact. If this keeps up, I may die from old age much later than the other boys my age too. On the other hand, the sad truth is that most people don’t die from old age. They die from cancer, or heart infarcts, or stroke, or blood poisoning, or the flu, or being too demented to realize that the cows don’t need to be milked and they are not on the farm and it’s below freezing outside and the nurses who should keep track of them are playing Facebook games. Stuff like that. So my 120 years birthday is far from secure, alas.

But at least my cardiologist is giving me a chance. Thanks!

Testing the heart

Tomorrow is the scheduled day for stress-testing my heart. The physical heart, that is! The doctor is a heart specialist, so it is probably the safest place to do it except for an actual hospital. Still, I have not actually exerted myself fully (or even nearly fully) for over 40 years. So I look at this with some worry.

I have had exercise asthma since I started running around as a toddler. There were no inhalers in rural Norway at the time, so the way I survived was learning early on to never exert myself. I mastered this in grade school, more or less. Around the age of 10-12 I had stopped even dreaming at night about running, so my nightly asthma attacks also faded. I credited this to divine intervention, which may well be true, although it was in that case an internal one rather than external: A change of me rather than of my circumstances. Actually these are my favorite divine interventions, may there be many more of them.

I intend to update my journal pretty soon after returning from the test.

If not … thank you all. It’s been great.