The last time I took a CPR class I was a sophomore in College so there is no doubt that things have changed a bit. I’ve been meaning to take the class for a while now but finally have the time. I figure given the age and activity level of my group of friends at least one of us should be in the know! My father was younger than a majority of my current male friends when he had a heart attack. At the time the family was on vacation and we were at the pool of the Circus Circus RV park. I remember very little about what happened. I remember my mom ripping down the motorhome’s awning so she could drive to the hospital. I remember my dad laying down during the drive. I remember sitting in the hospital with my younger sister and being given hospital coloring books to keep busy. I remember my mom calling other people and not being able to talk since she was crying so having to hand the phone to me even though I had nothing to say. Mostly I remember spending time at my Grandma’s house where my cousins and aunt came to visit us and having a blast!
It’s no surprise that during my high stress career I’ve managed to have my own chest pain scares. At one point I realized I had been experiencing chest pains for over a week and was nearly blacking out on the hill that weekend. My mom forced me to make a doctor’s appointment where my blood pressure was so high they didn’t believe the machine was working correctly. The next day driving to work I thought “Something isn’t right I should go to the ER”. It was followed by the thought, “Sigh. I don’t want to go to the ER. What a drag.” That was followed by the thought, “If I die of a heart attack at work my mom is going to kill me.” So I mad a u-turn and headed back to the Emergency room close to my house. After a very quick chat with the admitting nurse I was rushed to a bed. Apparently they take “I’ve had chest pain for a week and it has gotten severe” very seriously. Once again my blood pressure was crazy person high. I wasn’t having a heart attack but they were extremely worried. I made a pact and promise with them that if they didn’t admit me I would go to the cardiologist the next day. I really didn’t want to spend the night in the hospital. Of course I had a HMO so getting to the cardiologist the next day was a whole different headache.
Speaking of headache … for years I had been hearing my dad’s story of how the medicine they gave them at the Las Vegas emergency room caused him the worse headache of his life. Unlike me my dad doesn’t get migraines and doesn’t even really get headaches so I figured he was exaggerating. Just like a man … right? My dad just happened to be sitting next to me when the nurse rubbed nitroglycerin on my chest. Eager to show his knowledge and help me my dad explained that nitroglycerin is what had given him the worse headache of his lifetime but did help the whole “having a heart attack” problem. Again I rolled my eyes. Come on. How bad could it be. HOLLY FUCKING SHIT (excuse the language but it is necessary to convey the pain). Headache is not the right word. Alien beings trying to eat my brains and claw their way out of my head … that’s what I experienced. It didn’t go away fast either. My cardiologist (when I finally got in to see him the next day after a number of long dramatic phone calls) gave me nitroglycerin pills to carry with me. Whenever I had chest pain I had to weigh the option of death due to a possible heart attack vs. mind numbing headache pain.
The most fascination thing I learned in class last night? Nitroglycerin plus Viagra equals death. So there you go gentlemen. Don’t get all shy and embarrassed when asked what medicines you take by the paramedics. If you take Viagra you better tell them or you may die from a teeny tiny little white pill slipped under your tongue. In fact to be safe you should probably get a medical bracelet saying you take Viagra. You know … just in case.
(Everyone should know basic CPR. I took my CPR class at the local community college. To find a class near you go to the American Heart Association website http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/CPRAndECC/CPR_UCM_001118_SubHomePage.jsp)