So, I didn’t have a heart attack after all, but I still did something about it Part 1

Posted on Updated on

So, imagine this building in the Boca del Rio area of San Pedro is your heart. And those three very pissed off creatures inside it are the weird sensations you are feeling when you least expect it ....  Got it? Good. Because I haven't the slightest idea where to go with that except that if those dogs felt like jumping off the second floor, a heart attack would have been the least of my problems.
So, imagine this building in the Boca del Rio area of San Pedro is your heart. And those three very pissed off creatures inside it are the weird sensations you are feeling when you least expect it …. Got it? Good. Because I haven’t the slightest idea where to go with that except that if those dogs felt like jumping off the second floor, a heart attack would have been the least of my problems.

The pain started somewhere low in my throat. My breathing became shallow as the pain slowly oozed like black molasses across my chest and down my left arm.

My first thought was: “OK, this isn’t in our Belize Playbook.”

Again, not reaching for metaphors or even relevance here. This is just one of a number of extremely beautiful sunrises which we have been blessed with in the past couple of weeks. Not to distract you from the story but ... isn't it a pretty way to wake up?
Again, not reaching for metaphors or even relevance here. This is just one of a number of extremely beautiful sunrises which we have been blessed with in the past couple of weeks. Not to distract you from the story but … isn’t it a pretty way to wake up?

Somewhere in the dim recesses I knew these symptoms were a checklist for something, warning signs, I just didn’t want to acknowledge it. Besides I was on my bicycle, far south of home.

So I kept pedaling. Slower than before.  My left arm started feeling on the useless side and dropped from its grip on the handlebar. And when the pain reached a level I refer to as disturbing, I stopped, sat down and stared at the crystalline blue-green sea.

I have always been a fan of irony but I found nothing amusing in the idea of retiring to this beautiful Ambergris Caye, only to drop over inches from the sea of a heart attack.

The pain subsided. I got on my bike and pedaled home. Very slowly.

Naturally it all went away – even the anxiety – as I rested on the bed.

And naturally it all came back the next time I got on the bike. The difference this time is that Rose and our friend Karen Kelly, a surgical nurse, were along for the Sunday ride. We’d all done yoga at Ak’Bol and were headed north for a late breakfast.

Something about me clutching my chest in discomfort in front of the Capricorn Resort signaled that particular beachfront restaurant as a good place as any to stop. Rose and Karen peppered me with questions and distressed looks as my body quickly flipped back to normal.

“Just a thing,” I assured them.

No, bless their hearts. I didn’t assure them at all.

I have to say that once I strap on fins and a mask, the real world concerns just melt away. Lately we have enjoyed a number of snorkel trips with our friends here and each is a fresh discovery.  I am so looking forward to sharing this with my son, Ryan, when he arrives next week. OK, sorry for the distraction. Read on.
I have to say that once I strap on fins and a mask, the real world concerns just melt away. Lately we have enjoyed a number of snorkel trips with our friends here and each is a fresh discovery. I am so looking forward to sharing this with my son, Ryan, when he arrives next week. OK, sorry for the distraction. Read on.

By the way, If you are up there (three miles north of San Pedro), Capricorn serves one heck of a great breakfast. Every table has a little mini-kiosk on it touting the fact that the little resort is for sale, too. So you can indulge in a side of fantasy along with your eggs and pancakes.

True to her calling, Karen had a blood pressure sleeve in her kit back at the condo and she slapped it on my arm like a set of handcuffs as soon as we walked in the door.

“Do you have any blood pressure medication?” she asked a bit too sternly for someone who should be on vacation.

“Why yes,” I replied. “I have two.”

“Do you take them?”

“Not in the last couple of years,” I replied, throwing in my best “chastened and humble” look.

I knew what was coming.

“Well, start taking them. Now!”

There it was.

Every time some doctor prescribes meds for cholesterol or blood pressure I eventually screw the cap on and vow to myself that I shall beat this curse fair and square, and naturally, with lots of exercise, healthy diet, meditation and good clean living.

It worked pretty well when I was running lots of marathons and half-marathons. Not so well in the (insert a large number)  years since.

So, I started back on the meds. Rose and Karen insisted that I get to a doctor and get the pipes checked out.

Which I did.

Eventually.

After our other friends, Brian Connors and Susan Shors, arrived from San Francisco.

The San Pedro PolyClinic, a state-run facility that tries hard to meet the needs of many San Pedranos.
The San Pedro PolyClinic, a state-run facility that tries hard to meet the needs of many San Pedranos.

The morning after Brian and Susan were settled in at Ramon’s Resort Village and Karen and Rose were off doing yoga somewhere, I quietly slipped into the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro PolyClinic II and took a seat.

One absurdly high blood pressure reading later and a consultation with Dr. Harrison and I was up on a gurney with probes being stuck to my body in preparation for an EKG.

Only the machine was broken. So I walked down the street to the private Clinica los Pinos and walked out 30 minutes later with a crisp EKG printout and $50US less in my wallet.

If you were to ask me what book I am reading currently, I could name a few. But the one that I am opening the most is "Birds of Belize" by H.Lee Jones. High season is about to begin in Belize and heralding its arrival are gorgeous birds, like the Roseate Spoonbills. That's the thing about Belize -- there is beauty in the air, on land and under the sea and it is here for the gaping.
If you were to ask me what book I am reading currently, I could name a few. But the one that I am opening the most is “Birds of Belize” by H.Lee Jones. High season is about to begin in Belize and heralding its arrival are gorgeous birds, like the Roseate Spoonbills. That’s the thing about Belize — there is such casual beauty in the air, on land and under the sea  in Belize. You need only stop and look. Again, nothing here to do with chest pains or heart attack warning signs.  Just thought you needed to know this.

Back at the PolyClinic, Dr. Harrison drew a practiced eye over the rows of squiggles, jotted with the point of her pen here and there, but found nothing extraordinary. Just the same, she ordered up a slate of blood tests and made sure I had access to my daily aspirin. She also echoed Karen: “Get back on that blood pressure medication and drop in every other day for a reading to make sure the meds are still doing their job.”

My next step, she said, is to make an appointment with a cardiologist in Belize City.

Sooner, rather than later.

She wrote up a referral to the cardiologist in Belize City’s busy public facility, The Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. But, she noted, there are private-practice cardiologist in the city from whom I might get an appointment more quickly.

Not bad. Good hard information, some direction and a decent referral in under two hours. I walked over to the receptionist and asked what all this would cost me.

“Nothing,” she said, then nodded toward an old box that looked as if it had been lifted from in front of a plaster statue of a saint in the church. “But we do take donations.” Rose stuffed a bunch of bills into the box. With gratitude.

I had no idea. I mean, just because it is a government clinic, it never occurred to me that a country as small and poor as Belize could provide free basic medical care to all. I thought for sure there would be a sliding scale or a gringo rate.

The PolyClinic has its limits – and next month those will be stretched as the doors are to open 24 hours a day for the first time – but for emergency care and basics, it seems to be a darn good facility. I’ve heard as much from others who have dropped in with broken arms, cuts and fevers and the like. The lines can grow long, the equipment does break down. But good people can compensate and I have had a run of good people there.

Now I’m left wondering if there is a support group that raises funds for the clinic. It could use a paint job. And the EKG machine is broken. So, too, apparently is a lot of the equipment used to analyze blood samples, as the lab could only do two of the 10 requested by Dr. Johnson.

We have fund-raisers for the Humane Society, Red Cross, barrier beach and myriad worthy causes. I don’t recall one for the PolyClinic.

Anyone?

In Part 2, I will discuss how I still haven’t had a heart attack but did get some terrific answers in Belize City.

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “So, I didn’t have a heart attack after all, but I still did something about it Part 1

    Belize Blog (@SanPedroScoop) said:
    November 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Phew. NOW TAKE THOSE MEDS DUMMY 🙂

    Like

    Cheryl said:
    November 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    So glad that it’s not a heart attack, but it is a BIG warning that you need to make the lifestyle changes AND take the medicine until it is all under control. We want you around for a long time.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      Thank you Cheryl. I think I am finally mature enough to do as I am told!

      Like

    Emily said:
    November 15, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Hope you’re okay…those symptoms don’t sound so good, so I am glad to hear you have meds and hopefully you are taking them! And as far as the Birds of Belize book, it is the bomb, no?! Definitely our most used and beloved book while on the island. Roseate Spoonbills are amazing as are so many of the lovely avians on the island and beyond — we especially enjoyed the birds in Crooked Tree and near San Ignacio. Stay well!

    Like

    woof4treats said:
    November 15, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Sounds like they could benefit from a good old fashioned Bake Sale. With the holidays around the corner, I hope a lot of people will “bring a little cheer” to the clinic. Feel better soon.

    Like

    Bruce Krietsch said:
    November 15, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    good blog. bob. actually wondered why I hadn’t see anything from you lately. now I know. good to know gringo can get good care there as I probably be there semi- permanently soon. yea…. got to take those meds till you get the upper hand. oh. if you recall, met you at Legends and mentioned I read your blog,,, whenever you send it out. Thanks Buddy. Bruce

    >

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 8:28 pm

      Thanks Bruce! I do recall! Give a shout next time you are here.
      Legends has a new owner and she has added Texas smoked BBQ to the musician jam night lineup.

      Like

    Ani {@afotogirl} said:
    November 15, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Wow. That’s scary. Glad that you’re OK and hope that you get yourself back on those meds. 🙂

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      November 16, 2014 at 6:24 am

      Thanks, Ani! Going to be a good boy, this time around. Do what the doctor says.

      Like

    Susan said:
    November 16, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Phew! We were so worried!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      November 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      So sorry you guys walked into all that, Susan. But you got to see a real slice of San Pedro life at the PolyClinic, huh?
      We so enjoyed our time with you. Please come back any time for any occasion!

      Like

    Pete said:
    November 16, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Glad to hear you doing fine. I know from experience how ease it is to forget to take your meds.

    Like

    Robert Chodowski said:
    November 16, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Bob, Riki & I sat in our living room “stunned” as we read your blog last night. For a guy who is so active, physically fit, and living the lifestyle that is stress free and healthy, your “episode” comes as a shock to us. You’ve got enough advise from everyone else who reads and loves your writings, so, I will limit mine. We live “vicariously” through your writings when we are not in Belize, so we can’t afford to lose you now! Being a little older than you, I’ve discovered that “genetics” is plays a major factor in our health tendencies after “lifestyle” choices, so like you, I take meds for cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. We are looking forward to visiting with you and Rose the first of the year, so please stay healthy! Rob

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      November 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

      Rob, you are so kind. Thank you and yes, I fully expect to see you guys when you return!
      A cousin sent me a note this morning that kind of sent me reeling: “”Our family (relatives), all die of heart or stroke. Do something more exciting like jumping out an airplane, gunning down Chicago gangsters, etc :)”
      I had no idea. Also, very surprised that people still think of shooting Chicago gangsters. Guess I need to dig deeper into family history.

      Like

    […] So, I didn’t have a heart attack after all, Part 1 […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s