I participated in drug-study some time back. I had done it a couple of times to pick up a little extra cash for something, and I had a lot of free time. The list of possible side-effects was minimal and pretty harmless.
A couple of days in to the study, I was laying in bed reading a novel and got up to get a drink. My heart started pounding. I mean I could FEEL it hitting my ribs.
This didn’t alarm me overly much, as it has happened to me on occasion for years. Generally when I’m doing something strenuous and get overheated. Occasionally in my martial arts class, or when snowboarding. I generally just sit down/lie down, and take off any overly warm clothing I might be wearing. Heart generally regains a normal beat after a minute. When this happens, I can feel that the heartbeat is irregular, some beats closer together, some not. If I remain standing/working it beats VERY hard. Somewhat alarming the first couple of times it happened, but as I could get it to regulate itself pretty quickly by just sitting/lying down and cooling off, I just got used to it. It didn’t happen all that often.
(Meanwhile, back at the ranch…) So when it happened at the drug-study I just sat back on the bed and slowed my breathing, trying to relax. Still pounding. I lay back, willing my heart to slow (generally very effective). No luck. The nurse is walking by and asks how I’m doing. I tell her what’s going on, and she and another nurse take my pulse/blood-pressure then hook me up to an ECG machine.
My pulse was very erratic, and my heart was still trying to beats it’s way out of my chest. They took some blood samples and continued to monitor me. The head doctor was called in and he told me my pottasium was a bit low. They gave me a banana and some water, and called the paramedics just to be safe. They wanted to monitor me at the hospital. I get strapped to the gurney, put on oxygen and wheeled out in my own personal RESCUE 911 (sans William Shatner).
At the hospital they kept me hooked up to a monitor and took what had to be 40 or 50 ECG readings. A few hours passed and my heart still had not regained a normal beat. They called down the chief “Cardio Specialist” to talk with me. He told me that the condition was called atrial fibrillation and wasn’t an immediate danger. One of the chambers of my heart wasn’t pumping the way it should and was just kind of quivering. The rest of the heart was trying to compensate. But if it continued too long the blood in my heart could start to congeal and form a clot, which WOULD be dangerous. He said that he wanted to force it back into a normal rythym. Sure, okay, whatever. I just want it over. I’m having trouble standing up without getting faint, or feeling like my heart wants to explode.
He gives me some waivers to sign (thought I had signed those already… No wait… these are new ones. Its a special procedure). He then tells me they’re going to “Restart” my heart, as a nurse wheels in the DEVICE. You know the one. You see it on ER all the time… George Clooney rubs the paddles together and… “CLEAR!”
He tells me that they will administer a shock to my heart which will cause it to stop momentarily, and that it should resart at its normal rythym.
“You want to WHAT???”
“Its really a pretty common procedure…”
“But my heart will stop?”
“Technically yes, but just for a moment. Then it should beat normally.”
“Is it dangerous?”
“There are of course some risks. But as I said, its not an uncommon procedure in these situations. The risk is minimal.”
“Are there any side effects? Will it Hurt?”
“You might have localized burns from the paddles.”
“Does it hurt though?”
“Well, I’m not going to lie to you. It WILL be painful. But its just for a moment.”
“Your going to give me a painkiller, right?”
“Not exactally. Its still going to hurt, but the drug will make it so that you don’t remember afterwards.”
The nurse started the machine. Found some sort of lube. Asked me again to sign the forms. I sat up on the edge of the bed, heart pounding harder and harder. Then SWITCH. It went back to a normal rythym. The doctor watched it on the monitor. One moment beating out of control, the next a slow, regular rythym. Guess he scared it back into line.
But how F’d up is that? He’s going to give me something so that I -DON’T REMEMBER- the pain? Its still gonna hurt like a sonofabitch, but I won’t remember afterwards. Does that really sound humane to him? I guess so. I mean afterwards, I’ll thank him for helping me, none the wiser. But what about the fact that the procedure hasn’t happened yet. I’m about to experience this procedure, and I KNOW that I’m going to feel it. Its going to happen, and its going to hurt.
Does that seem wrong to anyone else? What if I were to rip out his nose hairs one by one, then zap him with the Men-In-Black-Forgeto-Ray? Shove needles under his fingernails, then give him the amnesia pill? Is this really acceptable? What does it matter, if I REMEMBER it? I don’t want TO FEEL the damn thing. Once its over, what does my memory of it matter, other than how it affects my feelings towards him personally? Some weird medical practices out there my friends.