I have pheochromocytoma, which causes high blood pressure. I live a pretty normal life, knowing in the back of my mind there is an insidious disease inside me that seems impossible to find or predict. In 2000 I had a portion of my bladder removed, and since then have had several scans, treatments, and issues pertaining to my ongoing health care. I understand that my disease is very difficult for doctors to understand because it is so rare. Now that I've shared a little of my history, let me share what I went through last night.
I arrived at the North Shore Medical Center Emergency Room at 4:00PM complaining of fatigue and dizziness. When my blood pressure was taken, it read 165/97. In case people don't know, 120/70 is normal, and 140/90 is high. My symptoms that I complained about were recorded, but my blood pressure became the most immediate concern. More than two hours past before I was called, and then I was put on a stretcher in the hallway. My blood pressure was taken again, and it was now 175/101. The nurse who was in charge of my care was a great comfort, and seemed to understand what I was going through. He decided to take my blood pressure standing, and it went to 186/105. After that, he got concerned about how high it was getting and asked me to lay down. My blood pressure went down slightly, then started climbing again, this time to 191/130. This still did not bring a doctor's concern.
When a doctor did arrive two hours into laying on the stretcher in the hallway, he misread the numbers, and said my blood pressure was going down. I told him of my history, and he ordered blood work to test for the disease I am known to have. He also ordered a drug called Metoprolol to be given, which has never worked on me before. With my blood pressure maintaining at around 190/120 I finally got out of the hallway and into a room some 7 hours after I came in. In the next 3 hours I was given enough Metoprolol that my heart started to go below 60 beats per minute, thus setting off the alarms every few minutes. My blood pressure would not go down. At shift change my nurse told me he was leaving, and I was introduced to who would be taking care of me next. That was the last I would see of either a doctor or a nurse for the next two hours, until a hit the call button and asked what was going on.
When the nurse came, I had her get the doctor, who again came in and told me how my blood pressure was going down. I remarked that my blood pressure was higher now than when I came in, and I got that look you see sometimes when someone just doesn't know what to say, and off he went. I was released with my blood pressure at 175/106, higher than when I came in, and with a script for Metoprolol. Not once was I ever offered anything to eat in the ten hours I was there, nor was I even given any water. I overheard a comment when I was still languishing in the hallway, somewhere around 9:00PM, made by one of the nurses that states best my thoughts on the experience:
Nurse1, "You're almost out of here, huh?" (Referring to the shift end.)
Nurse2, "Time flies when compassion dies!"
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