You gotta have heart

Lemme tell you a story:

A week ago, Sunday night, we had some friends over for a BBQ dinner. (On our new Grill, a Broil King Sovereign 30!) As we cleaned up, I noticed a little tickle in the back of my throat. Hmmm…

Monday morning, I woke up and knew I had strep throat, a fairly common condition caused by an infection of the throat by the streptococcal bacteria. Since it’s a bacterial infection – and not viral – the treatment is straightforward: you blast it with antibiotics. Of course, doctors will tell you that strep will go away in 7 – 10 days on its own, but you’re much more comfortable during that time if the antibiotics help the process along.

So, Monday morning, I called the Doc and scheduled an appointment for 1:30 that afternoon. Next phone call was to my morning job to tell them I would be in late. No prob.

Call #3 was to the school I teach at in the afternoon to tell them that I would not be in that day and probably not for a couple of days. They weren’t happy, so I spent the morning at my office, miserably putting together a lesson plan for the substitute. Usually takes about 15 minutes… took me almost an hour, since I was so miserable.

Headache, sore muscles in the neck, back and abdomen, sore throat, fever… I was in a bad way. So, as soon as the lesson plan was emailed to the school office, I went to the Doc.

Long story short: he congratulated me on the clearest strep test the office staff had ever seen, gave me a jump-start shot of anti-biotics and a prescription for pills. I went from there to the pharmacy, picked up my meds, and went straight home to collapse into bed.

I don’t remember much of Tuesday. There was a short conversation in the morning with the school office… they found a new sub and he was fine on his own. Good. I also canceled the night-school classes I teach on Tuesday night. No biggie.

Oh. I slept a lot, too.

Wednesday was more of the same, though the meds were kicking in and I was beginning to feel almost human. By Thursday night, I felt a lot better and told Judi that, had there been school Friday (it was canceled due to a Jewish Holiday) I would have gone in to teach.


Thursday afternoon, around 3:00, I tried to take a nap and couldn’t fall asleep due to an annoying pain in my chest. It persisted and, since I was home alone and couldn’t get a hold of Judi or the Doc, I managed to get myself worked up a little bit over it. Scared, actually, and sweaty, feverish and chilled at the same time. And very frustrated. Finally, I climbed into the shower and sat under the water until the kids got home. I felt better (the pain was gone) and we had a nice dinner.

I headed up to bed around 10:30 Thursday night and was angry to discover that the chest pains had returned. I tossed and turned for about an hour then finally got up, quite angry, and told Judi. She and I agreed that I should call the Doc and he decided that, just to be safe, I should head into the ER and let someone look at me.

So, off to St. Joe’s I went. When you go into a quiet ER and tell the nurse you’re having “chest pains,” things move pretty quickly. Within five minutes, I found myself on a bed, in a gown, wired to an EKG and a blood pressure machine, watching a male RN named Kim draw my blood. Dr Jon Carter (really!) was my Doc and he took my history and saw to my needs.

Eventually, the doc gave me a pain killer and things settled down. All the evidence pointed to acid reflux, the abnormal backflow of stomach acid and juices into the esophagus, which runs in my family. We were getting ready to send me home when Dr. Carter burst into the room with the results of my blood work:

“It seems,” he said, “that you had a heart attack.”


According to this article, “during a heart attack (or myocardial infarction), damaged heart tissue releases specific proteins called cardiac enzymes. One way to diagnose or confirm a recent heart attack is to test a person’s blood for increased levels of these enzymes.” My blood was chock-full of those enzymes, so Dr. C was convinced that I had had a heart attack.

“Ludicrous,” I said. “I’m not even 30 years old. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs and, while I could stand to lose 20 pounds or so, my cholesterol is great and I’m healthy.”

He was unconvinced; the evidence supported him. So, I was admitted and scheduled for a cardiac catheterization Friday morning.

Overnight, they pumped me full of blood-thinners, ACE inhibitors and nitro; all of the things they give to old men who have had heart attacks. It was weird. I was admitted to the Cardiac Progressive Care Unit where I lowered the average age considerably.

Needless to say, Friday’s test showed that my arteries and heart are healthy and clean. My cardiologists, Drs. M and Gl, decided to keep me around for observation. They called in the Infectious Disease specialists, Drs. Ge and F, who swabbed every hole in my body and tried to grow whatever it was that was ailing me.

Long story short: I was kept in the hospital until Monday. The diagnosis is Streptococcus Myocarditis, which is, according to this, is an “inflammation of the muscular walls of the heart (the myocardium), [resulting] from bacterial or viral infections.” In my case, the best guess is that the strep bacteria got to my heart.

Of course, Dr Ge isn’t ruling out some other, coincidental bacterial or viral infection, but the smart money is on strep. Either way, the infection weakened my heart, and caused it to swell, leading to the pain I felt while napping.

When a normal heart beats, it pumps about 60% of it’s volume (the blood inside it) out. My heart, in its weakened state, is only pumping about 40% out. So, the docs have me on blood thinners and ACE inhibitors, to make things easier for my heart. I’ll take them for several months, and see Dr M pretty regularly so he can check my heart out and dial the meds back as we go along. He says I shouldn’t expect any permanent damage, so I’m pretty lucky.

Hell of a case of strep throat, huh?