I had an emergency visit to the hospital for my 14 years old son on Wednesday evening. I can’t remember the last time I had to go to ER for anyone in the family. It must be several years ago.
Here is what happened and the lessons learned.
After dinner on Wednesday Andy went out to play some basketball outside as he usually does, for about half an hour. Then he came in and worked on the computer for a while. I was working outside in the garden when he told me that he didn’t feel well. He just noticed that his heart rate was very fast. He had some stomachache and was dizzy/weak. At this time his heart beat was about 120 a min.
I thought it might be food related. He had ham for dinner. The ham had been in the fridge for a while.
So I took him to Woodbury HealthPartner Urgent Care around 8:45 pm, shortly before it closed at 9 pm. The doctor ordered an EKG test to measure the heart rate. The result showed regular beat, but higher than normal at 108. The doctor recommended us to go to ER.
So we moved on to the ER at Regions Hospital in St. Paul and arrived at 10:10 pm. There were over 10 people in front of us. Andy’s situation was not life-threatening. So we had to wait.
We waited for more than 2 hours before we were seen by a resident. At this time, Andy was feeling much better. His heart beat has slowed down to about 90. The resident doctor ordered the same EKG test and also a blood test.
Then more waiting for the result.
Meanwhile a doctor stopped by to check and talk. His diagnosis was Tachycardia, abnormally fast heartbeat. The doctor said it is not uncommon for kids between 5-20 to have this condition. It’s not life-threatening. If it happens again and the heart rate is less than 150, just relax and rest. There is no need for panic.
I asked what caused the sudden heartbeat. It was the first time that Andy ever experienced this. He is healthy and has no medical issues.
The doctor didn’t point to any specific causes, besides saying that it was not unusual for his age.
I was glad that nothing serious was going on. By the time we left ER close to 3 am, Andy’s heart rate was normal. He felt fine, just tired. We were in the ER for 4.5 hours, mostly waiting.
When we got home, it was shortly after 3 am. We slept in the next morning, missed school and work.
Today I updated a co-worker on my ER experience. She said it sounded like dehydration.
As soon as she mentioned the word dehydration, a light bulb went on in me.
From the time we got in the car to drive to the Urgent Care, till we got home, Andy had been drinking water constantly. I had never seen him so thirsty. He drank two bottles of water. He had to refill it from the hospital water fountain.
It made sense now. Andy’s condition could be caused by dehydration. For kids in the 5-20 age group, they are usually very active physically, playing sports. They can easily get dehydrated if they don’t pay attention to their body’s need for water. By the time they feel very thirsty, they can be already in the very serious condition. We are supposed to drink water before we feel thirsty.
I did some research on the Internet. I found that Tachycardia can be caused by exercise or stress. This fast heart rate usually returns to normal range with rest and relaxation. Dehydration also can cause tachycardia, when the dehydration is treated, the heart rate usually returns to normal.
I know the importance of drinking water. Almost every day I remind my kids to drink water. I once read a book titled “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” by Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj” and also wrote an article on the healing power of water.
So what are the lessons learned for myself?
Drink more water, especially for kids during and after their physical activities.
Skip Urgent Care if it’s not a minor issue. Anytime it involves heart or other important parts of the body, go to ER directly, to save the extra time and money. The UC doctor will most likely refer the patients to ER anyway. They don’t want to take risk and get in trouble. Better safe than sorry. It’s the patients who have to pay, not them. I can understand that.
Have patience when visiting ER, especially at Regions Hospital. A friend commented on my Facebook that Regions is the slowest around here. I was glad to find two computers in the waiting room. I was able to go online, check my email, post on my blog as planned, and update my Facebook page.
I didn’t feel the doctors gave me a satisfactory answer to my question about the cause. I remember mentioning the fact that Andy had been very thirsty and drinking a lot of water, but I don’t remember anyone mentioning the word dehydration. It seems so obvious now that it was dehydration. Once Andy started drinking water and drank constantly, his condition got better and the heart rate slowed down.
So most importantly, learn and be informed. Take good care of our bodies by drinking more water and eat healthy. And don’t rely blindly on anyone else. Even the doctors don’t necessarily know all and give the best advice.
The instruction on Andy’s discharge sheet reads: “Please follow up with your primary care provider in 3-5 days.”
No, thanks. I don’t think it’s needed now I really know the cause of the problem. I can save the time and money this time.