The Wal-Mart Heart Attack


They say you don’t really know what will run through your mind, or what you will do in a really scary, emergency-type situation. They are correct. I recently had such a situation, right in the middle of the Wal-Mart, wedged between baby goods and pet supplies.

I had a late physical therapy appointment in town, so decided to make an afternoon of the trip, and eat lunch at one of my favorite places, the Chinese buffet, do some shopping, and head to my appointment. I gorged myself at the buffet, and headed to the Wal-Mart for some household supplies. (I know, lots of people say not to shop there because of the way they treat their employees…sometimes I don’t, but this time I did.) I used the rest room, got a cart, and headed off to find the pet food. I was just about there, when suddenly, my head started swimming. I was lightheaded to the point of almost passing out…you know, when your vision is blurring around the edges, and you need to sit down before you fall down.

Realizing I had no desire to collapse onto the floor in the middle of the Wal-Mart, I found a nearby bench, and planted myself. My mind immediately rushed to the worst possible scenario…I was having a heart attack in the Wal-Mart. I would die right there on the bench, and they’d cart me out, notify my kin, and everyone would say, “If only she hadn’t gone to the Wal-Mart, she might still be with us.” My mind was racing over the symptoms of a heart attack, which I had read about often. My heart was pounding, and I was lightheaded, but I didn’t have any pain, or shortness of breath, or tight feeling. I did have a serious case of indigestion from the massive quantities of Chinese food, and it was hard to distinguish between that and what could be my heart fluttering away, squeezing out its last few beats.

I got my cell phone out of my pocket, and was ready to dial 911. This is when the grand debate and long list of strange thoughts started going on in my head. First, I thought I should call 911 to save my life. Then I thought, no, it can’t be a heart attack, and it would be so embarrassing being carted out of the Wal-Mart on a gurney. Then I thought I’d call my friend, but I realized he would only scold me for even being IN the Wal-Mart, let alone gorging myself on unhealthy Chinese food. I went back and forth, thinking about my options…which would be the least embarrassing, and which would save my life. Was it totally ridiculous to call 911 if it WASN’T a heart attack?

I decided to get up and see if I could shake it off. I stood up and realized I wasn’t going anywhere just yet. I sat back down, and the great debate started all over again in my head, phone still in hand. I started to look up heart attack symptoms on my handy smart phone, and tried to talk myself out of each one. I finally got to the point where I could get up and walk a bit, but I only made it to the next bench, in the shoe department. I was heading towards the front of the store, so that maybe I could get to the door to go outside for fresh air, or at least be able to be hauled away from OUTSIDE the Wal-Mart, if I ended up calling 911. At this point, a friend called me. I told her what was going on, and she suggested maybe it was some sort of allergic reaction to the food. That made me feel a little better, but I kept thinking, she has no idea how dizzy I am! Didn’t she even THINK of a heart attack?? I was ready to call 911, and she was talking Benadryl.

Her diagnosis of a simple food reaction made me think it was no big deal, and try to forge ahead. I got up, and started walking, hanging onto my cart for dear life. I felt much better after walking a bit, and went ahead and got what I needed, and got out of there. I was still a bit freaked out about the whole thing, and debated driving myself to the hospital, or at least the clinic to get checked out. But I felt fine by this time, so I decided to just head to my physical therapy appointment. My PT, upon hearing the story, was shocked, and asked if I had heart trouble. This sent me into a whole new panic mode! SHOULD I have called 911? What should I do now?? It seemed ridiculous to go to the hospital now, so long after the incident.

I still felt ok, so I decided to just go home. But the next day, I did call my nurse practitioner, and went in to get checked out. Turns out I did NOT have a heart attack. I had an attack of indigestion, coupled with a reaction to MSG or sodium in the food I’d consumed. I was going to live! On a serious note, it made me realize that you really could be snuffed out in seconds, even in the middle of the Wal-Mart. I also realized that if it had been a friend who I was with having these symptoms, I’d have called 911 in a heartbeat (no pun intended) for THEM, but not for myself! I guess it was the Universe telling me not to go so crazy at the Chinese buffet, and not to shop at the Wal-Mart!


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