My excessive drug use: The ER trip
The ongoing adventures of my heart surgery.
I had no control over my own damn body.
My feet were moving in every direction, and my hands were constantly rubbing each other in spite of me trying my best to stop them. It was like I was trying to win the Olympic gold for fidgeting. And I had even less control over my breathing. I wasn’t panting like after a major workout, but gusts of air were entering and exiting my mouth in quick, interrupted bursts. It was the heightened anxiety you’d feel if you were about to get on stage at Carnegie Hall to perform in front of an audience for the first time in your life. Except I wasn’t backstage, I was lying on an emergency room bed, surrounded by a host of monitors. They all had something to say, but one of them stood out above the rest.
Heart Rate: 220 BPM
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my heart was racing at a speed I didn’t even know was possible! Tachycardia is when your resting heart rate exceeds 100 BPM. Super-tachycardia is when your heart completely blows that out of the water. Sure, I totally made that second one up, but I think it’s important to label achievements. If you’re wondering what it feels like, kind of like this:
“Hello Monty, I’m Dr. Murphy, I’m the ER doctor on call tonight. So, it looks like we’ve got a pretty high heart rate. And the nurse told me that you had a bit to drink along with a small amount of marijuana consumption. Were there any other drugs involved?”
He wore a friendly skepticism on his face, but it was the truth. I’ve probably had pot like 5 times in my life and have boringly never done any other drugs. But I imagine an ER doctor in San Francisco wasn’t likely to believe that.
“Well, it’s not likely those alone could have caused your heart rate, so let’s worry about that later.”
I liked the idea of worrying later, mostly because it implied there would be a later, which was a comforting thought as my heart raced at supersonic speeds. Actually, he seemed pretty calm and even had a hint of a smile that gave off a ‘been there, done that’ look.
Heart Rate: 209 BPM
“Okay. So, is this normal, Dr. Murphy?”
“No, not at all.”
“We need to get an EKG reading to see if there is an underlying issue with your heart. The problem is that your heart rate is too fast. So we have to do something about that.”
Great, so we just needed to slow my heart down. That’s what beta blockers do, right? It seemed like a no-brainer, except that he paused. And like a dramatic pause. People don’t dramatically pause before saying something trivial, right? I mean, you don’t say to someone in the car, “I need to slow this car down,” and then stare at them for 10 seconds before saying, “I’m gonna press these brakes now.” Why did he pause!? Dramatic pauses should be banned in emergency rooms.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have time to bring your heart rate down through conventional means. We need to be a bit more… aggressive.”
I had a feeling he wasn’t talking about playing sounds of the rain forest.
“We need to stop your heart.”
WHAT? I should probably ask that out loud.
“WHAT? No way!!”
Heart Rate: 231 BPM
“It’s only for a few seconds. And we’re not technically stopping your heart.”
“Really? Because your exact words were ‘we need to stop your heart.’ That sounds a lot like you ARE technically stopping my heart!”
“Well, that’s just the quickest way to explain it. Perhaps not the best way. What we’re doing is bringing your heart to a very slow crawl, nearly stopping it. To do that, we need to inject you with 6 milligrams of adenosine. The whole thing will only take a couple of seconds. Unfortunately, there is no other way. It could be hours for your heart to settle on its own and if there is some underlying issue with your heart, it could… well, it would be careless to miss it.”
Heart Rate: 224 BPM
“Okay. Okay. Fine, let’s do the deeno-zeeno whatever the hell drug you said.”
For some reason, I closed my eyes and tried to control my breathing even though that hadn’t worked for the past hour or so.
“Great. So Monty… it’s going to feel… it’s going to feel really weird.”
I opened my eyes and stared at Dr. Murphy. Important information seemed to be parceled out in small amounts that night. Just as I was about to ask if I should expect some sort of out-of-body experience, I saw a small dark fluid crawl towards me in one of the IV lines above me. It was on the hunt, like an alien looking for a host. I immediately got pretty pissed off at everyone in the room. That was definitely not the best way to administer drugs to a patient! There HAD to be a way to move those IV lines to the side so… wha…
Heart Rate: — — —
WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT? It felt like I was body slammed into a bath full of ice water! Everything went black. And then white. I froze in time and saw what seemed like minutes, hours, and days pass before my eyes, but then everything was as it was seconds before when I was coherent again. Did I just have a religious experience? Did I tap into some alternate reality? Did I know kung fu?
“How was it, Monty?”
“You were right. It was really weird.”
“You did great…”
Dr. Murphy’s matter of fact tone combined with one of the fakest smiles I’ve ever seen on a human being told me that something wasn’t entirely right.
“…unfortunately, it didn’t take.”
“We have to do it again but this time, with twice the dosage. 12 milligrams.”
I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see that alien symbiote come for me again. I took a couple of deep breaths and then… and then… nothing…
That’s weird. Did something go wrong? Wait, how in the hell did I get to this grassy field? And why is it so bright out? I came to the ER at like 11 PM. Where am I? And who the hell is that girl dancing around in the grass?
“Uh, hello? Hello?!”
The mystery girl just looks at me, smiles, and keeps dancing around in the grass. But why is that when I walk towards her, she doesn’t seem to get any closer? I look around again, but there isn’t anyone, or anything, else. There is something familiar about her. I can’t exactly place it but I’ve definitely seen her before.
Well, it is pretty calm out here, almost meditative. Maybe I should just lie down and chill out. She — whoever she is — is certainly enjoying herself. No reason that I shouldn’t do the same. I’m feeling pretty wiped, anyway. Let me just close my eyes for a few moments then I’ll figure out what’s going on.
I woke up back in the ER room. The lights were turned down, and I could hear a few staff milling about outside. I had no idea what time it was.
Heart Rate: 87 BPM
Then I looked past the door and saw my mystery girl.
My roommate who brought me into the ER was sitting next to me.
“What time is it? What happened? I don’t remember anything after that second shot.”
“Haha, that was 2 hours ago. Dude, you were HIGH AS SHIT. The doctors have been grilling me all night about fucking drugs, man. Did you eat the other half of that brownie? That thing tasted like ass. I figured there wasn’t enough pot in there because nothing happened to me. Anyway, after finally convincing them that we didn’t take anything else, they said it was possible that those meds they shot in you might make the pot stronger. So how do you feel?”
“Fine. Uh, did you bring that ‘say no to drugs poster’ here?”
The big dumb ass grin on his face answered that question.
“I found it out in the hall. They told me that I should strongly encourage you against ‘excessive drug use.’ Clearly they think you’re a real pussy. It’s right here on your discharge form. Anyway, they said they couldn’t find anything with your heart and that I can take you home after you wake up. They also said that you need to schedule a follow-up with your cardiologist, though. You ready?”
“Wait, so it’s on an actual official record at the hospital that I do a bunch of drugs?”
“And that you’re a pussy, which is accurate enough. Can we go now?