March 28, 2014

The First Day Under My Taxi-Not-Car Rule Damn Near Killed Me!

A bit of hyperbole, but nevertheless not a day I want to repeat. This past week, after a lot of thought -- and talks with housemates Nimesh and Bhawana -- I decided to cut out virtually all my driving -- a decision I discussed in a post on Tuesday. Among my new guidelines, I resolved to travel to and from engagements in downtown DC via cab, and not by driving myself to the nearest Metro station to catch the subway.

The next day, Wednesday, I had a chance to apply that guideline. I have lunch downtown once or twice a month with a good friend whom I've known since our college days in the early 1950s. We'll call him Newt (everybody will immediately think Gingrich which will annoy my pal). On Wednesday, we were scheduled to have lunch at 12:30.

Taxi to Lunch and Almost to Emergency Room
Not wanting to break my brand new taxi-not-car resolution, I called a cab. I'll use entries from my blood pressure log to tell the rest of the story. Here goes:

  • 11:30 -- I take a bp reading: 148/74, within the 150/90 guideline for someone my age.
  • 11:45 -- I call the cab company (Diamond for Washington, DC readers). The drive from my house to the restaurant normally takes about 15 minutes.
  • 12:30 -- No cab. My blood pressure: 178/92. I call the cab company and ask: "Where the hell is my cab?" I call Newt on his cell phone to say I'd be late.
  • 12:45 -- Cab arrives. I toss my bp wrist monitor into my backpack, and climb into the cab. I'm already thinking, "This has the makings of a good blog post."
  • 12:50 -- In the cab, I take another reading: 217/120 -- stroke/coronary territory. Trying to tamp down my anxiety -- which is rising in tandem with my blood pressure -- I think, "This is going to be an even better post!" I don't add "assuming I survive to write it."
  • 1:00 -- In the restaurant, I check my wrist monitor: 240/122!!!
  • 1:00-2:00 -- We eat and chat; Newt does most of the chatting. I periodically check the monitor which no longer produces a reading, making me think my pressure has escalated beyond the monitor's ability to measure it. Newt seems unconcerned that his lunch mate keeps putting his hand with the monitor over his heart to try to obtain a reading. If Newt is merely trying to look calm so he doesn't add to my increasing anxiety, he's doing a great job of acting.
  • 2:00 -- Anxiety wins out. I tell Newt I'm passing on dessert and coffee so I can flag a cab and head for Sibley Hospital's emergency room.
  • 2:15 -- In the cab, I calm down enough to remember what happened when I went to the emergency room several years ago with a similar episode of high blood pressure. The ER team had me lie down for a couple of hours while they monitored my bp. When it came down, they discharged me and offered the advice I was glad to remember now: blood pressure spikes like this aren't all that dangerous unless they're accompanied by chest pains or other scary, unusual sensations.
  • My house is on the way to Sibley, and I begin debating in the cab: Should I go to Sibley, or just go home and relax? Home wins out.
  • 3:00 -- After resting for a while at home, the bp reading comes down to 178/92.
  • 4:00 -- After my nap, the reading returns to the safe zone: 149/81.
Luckily, the experience ended well. But it adds to the debate I've been having -- with my internist and myself -- about how to handle my bp issues. It also prompts more thoughts about alternatives to driving.

Stay tuned for more on both next week.

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