Photo by Shawn Honnick

I was having lunch with Ibtisam at Paolo’s in Georgetown.  At around 2pm, in mid conversation, my heart started racing at an alarming rate. I excused myself to the bathroom, I felt dizzy. At first,  I thought my pacemaker was malfunctioning.  I called Kaiser and was instructed to call 911.  I felt embarrassed by the commotion my condition caused.  The paramedics came in with a stretcher, soon after, I was on my back being rolled out of the restaurant. I felt the rain drizzles on my face. The lady paramedic was very sweet, comforting me with gentle words. She said I was lucky I called when I did.. the local ERs are filling up quickly due to a pileup on 495.

The ambulance took me to Georgetown University Hospital ER. During the ambulance ride, I thought of how my father must have felt going through his heart attack.  The thought was both sad and frightening; to think I was doing to myself what he did to himself. But with all the pain, shivering and horrible symptoms I was going through my mind wasn’t being rational, and my thoughts would jump from one place to another. Kids, home, last course project, work, mom, siblings..

In the midst of the chaos in the ER,  I was rushed into a room, and wired up.. a nurse placing breathing tubes in my nose, another attaching EKG leads over my ribs and on my ankles, a third checking vitals. An attending physician comes in to read my charts, she looks at me and says “Rama, Oh my God.. what are you doing here sweetie?” It was Heggy a friend from college.  It was comforting to see a friendly face. The thought occurred to me that here she is starting her medical career, and here I am struggling to stay alive, maybe leaving behind two kids and a family who need me. Again, my thoughts were rapid and distressed. I looked up again and saw Ibtisam, who was with me at the restaurant. She told me she had contacted Emad.

Over the next few minutes, which seemed like hours.. a stream of doctors and nurses came in and did their part; examined my vitals, looked at my chart, spoke to each other.. and walked out.  At one point, I remember a nurse coming at me with scissors, I asked her what they were for and she responded “cutting your shirt honey, we need access”  I looked around and realized I couldn’t take it off.. I was wired up in both arms and on my head.. and there went my new baby blue banana republic t-shirt, into the ER dumpster.

When Emad came to the ER I was still experiencing a rapid heart rate. My heart would jump to 200 bpm and back to 70 in a minute and kept doing that for what seemed like eternity.  I was trembling all over, my teeth, shivers down my spine down to my toes. Every muscle in my body ached and it didn’t stop. I felt I had to go to the bathroom, but the bed pan wouldn’t do it.

The nurse put a catheter in and that helped. Soon I was seen by a cardiologist, Dr. Cynthia Tracy. She spoke to Emad, Dr. Del Negro, Dr. Sidawy and a Kaiser Dr. who I later heard from a nurse “Bobbie” asked that I be transferred to Fairfax.

The initial diagnosis was ventricular tachycardia, they gave me a shot of something.. I heard Lidocaine, but I could be wrong; I could feel the medicine flow through my vein, up my arm, into my temple, where a heavy quiet numbness took over. From there it traveled to my chest, where two forces collided, a heavy slow force caused by the medicine met the rapid pulsating heart beat.  Thankfully, the medicine took over and that seemed to stop the v-tach.  Dr. Tracy put a drip of that cocktail and admitted me and under observation until further notice. After removing the catheter, I went to the bathroom 13 times, heart still racing, I have shortness of breath at various times during the day.  It was my first day in the Georgetown Cardiac Care Unit. I felt safe.

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