Friday, April 7, 2017

When Blood Pressure Ruins Your Lunch Date

Jeff had to be at the doctor early today for a check up appointment following his surgery. His appointment was at 10:30. (When it takes at least 2 hours to get someone out of bed and ready to go, believe me, 10:30 am is early.)

Here's the good news. When I got him into his chair at 8 am this morning, he was feeling great. He couldn't believe it! But about 30 minutes later, his body was struggling to keep the blood pressure up. It was staying steady at 87/50. So he took half of one of his blood pressure pills (the one that raises it). By the time we left at 9:45, he was at 116/70. Perfection!

We made it to the doctor's office just fine. We were actually looking forward to this appointment. The office was 15 miles from our house. But it was only 1 mile from the new Chick-Fil-A that just opened in Vegas!! We hadn't had the chicken goodness in over 2 years since we moved here from CA. So we had a lunch date planned.

The nurse called us back into a room. She took his vitals, and told us his blood pressure was 135/90. Jeff and I looked at each other with furrowed brows. "That's a little high for him," I said quietly, more to myself than the nurse. As soon as she left the room, Jeff said, "My body feels tingly."

Something wasn't right.

I jumped up and lifted up his shirt. His skin was blotchy. I could see the redness creeping up his neck as well. This meant his blood pressure was continuing to climb.

I gently shook his catheter tube. Sometimes it can get kinked and cause a rise in blood pressure. But it was flowing fine. I checked his colostomy. All fine there too.

Something else was going on.

"Get our blood pressure cuff," Jeff said. I hadn't brought it in with us. It was in our emergency backpack in the van. I didn't want to leave him, but I didn't have a choice. I needed that bag. I hadn't ever needed it at the doctor's office before.

I walked briskly out of the office, smiled at the receptionist, then ran to the car. I was back at Jeff's side within a minute.

His blood pressure was now reading 150/100.

"You're okay," I said calmly, my face close to his.

"Do you want to flush the catheter? Just in case?" I asked.

"Can you do it in the chair?" he asked me.

I pushed the leg of his sweat pants up and wriggled the fabric up his thigh to expose where the catheter and leg bag connected. I had just enough room.

"Yes," I said quickly.

I pulled a flush kit and saline from the emergency bag and gently pushed the saline into the catheter. It went it without a problem. We definitely were not dealing with a clogged catheter.

I kept taking his blood pressure and it was ranging from 138/90 to 155/105.

"Do we have a nifedipine?" Jeff asked. That's his other blood pressure medication. The one that makes it go down.

I'd never had to give him both in one day. But he was struggling. His face was red, and I could hear in his voice he was doing his best not to  panic.

I fumbled for the pill bottle. My hands were shaking. "Here it is," I said dumping it into my hand.

"Give it to me," he said.

I did.

"If the doctor doesn't come in in 5 minutes, we're going to have to leave."

"Do you think we should go to the ER?" I asked. "There's a hospital right across the street," I reminded him.

He thought for a few seconds. We both did.

He shook his head, "No. I just want to get home."

I thought the same thing. We had everything we needed there to handle something like this.

We spent a few more tense minutes with me checking his blood pressure and making sure his pants weren't too tight (another potential cause of high blood pressure in quads).

And just as we were about to call it quits, the doctor and two assistants walked into the room.

The blood pressure cuff had just taken another reading. This time it was 187/130. I didn't even want to say the numbers out loud. I knew they would terrify Jeff.

But I couldn't hide something like that.

I quietly told him the reading and followed it with, "That can't be right." More hoping than anything.

"I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I'm not feeling well," Jeff said to the surgeon who was immediately concerned. We explained the blood pressure issue. How it wasn't related to the surgery, but to his injury. We made it clear we were able to handle it, but we needed to be on our way.


The doctor was accommodating. It had to have been the fasted follow-up visit in the history.

Before long I was loading Jeff into the van. I chucked my purse and the emergency backpack into the passenger seat, then I climbed to the back and sat next to Jeff in the cramped quarters. I hit the blood pressure monitor button again. I was scared of what it would read. My mouth was dry.

Jeff said he was starting to feel a little better.

His blood pressure was down to 150/100 again. Still too high, but better than the last reading.

"Do you want the nitro paste?" I asked. I'd already gotten it out of the backpack and was ready to apply it.

He looked at me and said, "Let's just go. I can manage. I'll be fine."

Once we finally got to the freeway, I was relieved it was relatively open. I drove 75-80 mph the whole way home.

My eyes kept darting to the rear-view mirror to check Jeff.

"Are you ok?"

"I'm good," came his answers. Now it was his turn to keep me calm so I could get us home safely.

I backed into the driveway and got Jeff out as quickly as I could. I left everything else in the van. We made our way to the bedroom. I took his blood pressure again.

I don't remember what it was, but I remember it was close enough to normal for us both to let out a huge sigh.

I laid back in exhaustion on the ottoman while Jeff reclined in his chair.

My god, it felt like we'd just been through the wringer.

What caused this wild blood pressure fluctuation, you ask? It probably started with the medication Jeff took to raise his BP before we left for the doctor. It's just that it doesn't usually raise it that high. Or maybe it was because he was feeling bloated from eating Pop Tarts the night before (sounds silly, but something like that could definitely contribute to this). I also am realizing we should probably re-think our eating habits at this point.

Either way, before Jeff's injury, I always thought blood pressure issues were something people with heart problems dealt with. But it turns out that people with spinal cord injuries deal with them as well.

Just another day in our never-a-dull-moment life.

Here's the latest blood pressure reading I took:

 Ahhhh, that's more like it.

And here's the face of a worried, worn out wife.

Who's also a little bummed that she missed out on Chick-Fil-A today.

Here's to a non-eventful weekend!!