Two days ago I began to experience heart palpitations, a slight headache, sensitivity to sunlight, and some very unusual pressure around my neck and shoulders. Because I've had anxiety issues before I just figured this was a mild reaction to stress - a miniature panic attack. It really wasn't much of a concern until early yesterday afternoon when it began to feel like my head my just pop off my shoulders at any moment.
I have no idea how or why I knew that my blood pressure was elevated - I just did. After consulting with Joan I decided to visit the local pharmacy and see exactly how hard my heart was working at the moment. By the way, given that we have what many consider to be a medically fragile child our house contains no less than four different oxygen tanks, a Pulse/O2 monitor, a concentrator/compressor set up that "squeezes" oxygen out of ordinary room air for when Ben is sick, an apnea monitor, two stethoscopes, a nebulizer machine, and other various accouterments for gauging and measuring our sons health yet we did not own until today a blood pressure cuff!
After slipping into the wooden chair and sliding my arm into the cuff I pushed the start button. This would be the first of about three dozen times over the next 4 or 5 hours that my upper left arm would feel like a mouse in a hungry python's cage. Today my arm feels like it could be used for one of those Fruit Roll-Up commercials.
That first reading of 157 over 104 didn't look too good. In fact the chart sitting in front of me told me that I was somewhere around Stage 2 of Hypertension. At this point I decided to sign in at the CVS Minute Clinic to see what a nurse practitioner would suggest I do now. After a couple of more readings it was difficult to determine if she was concerned or actually impressed. I do know that one's blood pressure is very much like golf in that lower is better. Par is 120 over 80. Perhaps she's a basketball fan? Two more checks gave us scores of 169/99 and 160/99. All joking aside the very nice nurse (who called to check on my today) told me to go immediately to a doctor. She actually scared the hell out of me when she suggested I might need a "transport" (EMS, ambulance, a firetruck would've been cooler).
Since I was only about a mile from home and I had no chest pains (then) I got to drive home so that Joan could cart me to the hospital about 3 minutes from our home. Because Ben's nurse had to check out once I arrived at the house he took the trip with us. Long story short, he was incredibly entertained that Dad was now the guinea pig and not him. I could've done without the laughing and smiling except it was my kid who has dealt with far more shit that me under medical care. Three hours later I was at home.
My blood pressure continued to rise throughout the afternoon and even with an IV beta blocker (Lopressor) my BP didn't return to normal. After a visit to my personal physician today I am now on a daily drug regimen along with changing my diet and beginning a more regular exercise routine. Even with the chest pains I experienced this morning I got the green light to travel to my show this weekend.
Despite the humor of the situation it truly did scare me. I am 48 years old. My dad passed away when he was 51 most likely from stress related issues. This has been a tremendous fear of mine since he died and particularly after we had Ben - to leave Joan with the care of our kids should I die unexpectedly is not acceptable so some life-changing disciplines are about to begin.
I am a thankful husband, father, son, and brother today. And I will remember this feeling for a long time...