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I don’t know why but I’m always surprised when something is wrong with me that’s NOT associated with RA. I mean when my liver enzymes went crosswise, the first thing that happened is that my rheumatologist took me off one of my RA meds.

But we’re actually people first then people with RA second, so sometimes stuff happens that also  happens to “normal” people.

I was minding my own business, driving to work one morning last week when I started having chest pains. First it just felt like I had tried to swallow something and it got stuck halfway down (right behind where my heart is). Then the pain blossomed throughout my chest and up my neck under my jaw. It would lessen, then it would come back stronger.

I was driving east toward a major highway. When I hit the highway I had to make the decision of whether to turn north and go to the office or go south to the emergency room. I switched lanes about four times. The pain would come back and I’d move over to the lane to turn south. Then it would lessen and I’d think I was stupid and get back in the lane that would take me north. Finally I got to the intersection and had to make a decision. I decided that if my husband were having these symptoms I would tell him to go to the ER, so I took my own advice and turned south toward the hospital.

I called my husband who stayed on the phone with me as he headed toward the hospital to meet me. (We have those neat Bluetooth, hands-free phone things that let you talk on the phone without taking your hands off the wheel.) My husband suggested that I pull over and call 911, but I pointed out that by the time the ambulance could reach me that I could already be at the hospital. I did finally reach a point on the highway where I could pull off to the access road where I could pull into a parking lot if I felt like I couldn’t drive any more.

I got checked into the ER immediately and whisked back to a treatment room where a flurry of activity took place almost all at once: an IV started and blood drawn, hookups for an EKG and heart monitor, and a chest X-Ray. My blood pressure and heart rate were all over the map. The doctor came in and checked me, then the nurse came in with drugs. They administered morphine as a vasodilator which reduced my blood pressure, Zofram for nausea, then, as a precautionary measure, nitroglycerine and an aspirin.

Four hours later they finally released me. Everything came back perfectly normal.

I know, that’s good news, right? But it’s hard to go through all of that and be “normal”.

So I had a follow-up appointment with my PCP yesterday. He suspects a specific type of esophagus spasm. One of the common causes/triggers of this is a hiatal hernia, so I get to go in next week for an upper GI. (Can you say barium milkshake?) I was already scheduled for a liver ultrasound because my liver enzymes (while better) are still not where they should be and my rheumy wants to get a baseline before we start Actemra. At least I was able to schedule the two appointments back-to-back so I only have to go to the imaging center one time (and only fast once!).

So it wasn’t RA and (thankfully) it wasn’t a heart attack. But honestly, I really don’t want any new health issues in my life at the moment. Sigh. Fingers crossed that the liver test comes back good and that they find something really, really simple with the upper GI.

I hope that whatever excitement you have in your life today doesn’t involve the emergency room. Thanks for checking in.

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