An Unexpected Influence: Reader Letter

This was emailed to me recently, and I have the writers’ permission to publish it, with names changed to protect, well, whatever.

To put this into perspective, the writer and I have never met.

What Would GruntDoc Tell Me To Do?

Or, Mrs. X?s little boy Billy learns not to be afraid of looking stupid.

Short story, (the other day) I felt like crap, borderline nausea all day, upchucking a little but not a lot which I blamed on coffee (caffeinated, ran out of de-caf so I borrowed some of the ?leaded? stuff from my wife, I?d forgotten how jittery caffeine can make you.)

Finally, around 20:00, I decided to go to bed and sleep it off. Laid down, felt pressure in my chest, not much, but noticeable, shortness of breath, sweating profusely in seconds. Sat up, pressure eased, not much, but was lighted headed. Laid down again, got the same result, more pressure, more breathing problems, and sweating, lots of sweating.

At that moment two thoughts and two questions went through my head.

I?m 50ish, 20 lbs overweight, the only exercise I get now is walking the dog and all available data indicates I?m a candidate (maybe prime candidate) for a heart attack.
I KNEW I was experiencing at least 2 or 3 classic symptoms of a heart attack.

Should I do something about it? I didn?t want to look stupid, embarrass myself yadda, yadda, and yadda. It?s not that bad, I can?t be having a heart attack blah, blah, blah, and it?s only 2 or 3 symptoms, deny, deny, deny, and,

What would GruntDoc tell me to do?

And it really was that simple. GruntDoc would say;

Get your ass to the nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible.
Call 911 or get your spouse to take you if that?s faster.
Take an aspirin
DON?T PANIC (okay, the last part was an example of what ?The Hitchhiker?s Guide to the Galaxy? would tell me, but I still thought that was good advice.!!!)

There was probably some other valid advice you would have offered, but I figured 1 and 3 were probably a good condensed version.

So I told my wife I thought I needed to go to the hospital because, you know, I might be having this heart kinda?thingie. She glared at me and told me if I died she would kill me. How a good son of the South like me wound up with a mean, red headed Yankee nurse from Pennsylvania is still a topic of intense discussion at family reunions even after 31 years.

She drove me to the Hospital, got me a wheel chair with the help of a nice young man and wheeled me in and within minutes they had me wired like a Christmas tree and were sucking blood outta me like a Louisiana mosquito.

In a few minutes they determined I wasn?t having a heart attack (the relief was palpable!) but something was screwing me up concerning my lungs and my 02 levels were low even on 02.

They decided to keep me in the hospital and pumped a lot of drugs in me that ended in phrases like ?roid? ?sone? some antibiotics, lots of potassium as well as respiratory treatments.

At the end of yesterday my doctor decided that I?d had a partial collapse of a lower lobe of a lung possibly due to a mucus clot. If that doesn?t sound right to you, blame my interpretative skills, not his expertise. He let me out last evening.

So reading your website and other medicos websites, especially the EMS ones, and seeing all the precautionary tales helped me cross an important Rubicon (I?m not afraid of looking stupid!!!) and the experience has been an epiphany regarding life style, I?ve been scared smart.


P.S. That really is the short version.

The long version would include the discussion with the EMS doc when I wanted to go home and he told me my 02 levels are in the mid 80s to the low 90s and that wasn?t good enough and I said ?Heck, back in Jr. High that was a solid ?C? moving into the ?B? territory and that was good enough grade for anyone except those over achieving kids who wanted to be doctors!!? He wasn?t swayed.

Or my wife, sitting in the hospital room commenting that the amount of my insurance deductible and the 15% I?d pay afterwards would have bought a really nice membership at a decent health club (Nurses, especially former military nurses are so, so?well, YOU know what I mean!)

Or when I called to order lunch and the recording announce ?Food on your schedule, not on ours, Please wait?

Or?.well, you get the picture

It’s great to have readers like this one, and thank you for sharing your story! I’ve told him a couple of times he needs his own blog, maybe seeing his prose on the screen will help push him that way.

I, and every other ER Doc on the planet would rather see you 10 times for chest pain, and then send you home, than have you stay home with your MI.


  1. I hope that Grunt Doc would tell you to call 911 and not to have your spouse drive you to the hospital.
    If you were having an MI and went into ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation in the car, even though your tough red head Yankee nurse wife sounds competent, I doubt she could drive and do CPR at the same time. And if she had to stop and pull over to do CPR while trying to call 911 on the CELLPHONE, odds are you’d be dead before they answered.
    I tell ALL of my patients (who are veterans and don’t want to incur the cost of a private ER visit) that the are NOT to drive themselves to the ER if having chest pain unresponsive to nitroglycerin, nor are they to get their significant other to drive them. Rather they are to call 911.


  1. Listen To Your Doctor

    I, and every other ER Doc on the planet,