I should have known better
I didn't expect to be spending my Tuesday night/Wednesday morning hooked up to wires and monitors with an IV drip piercing into my right arm. Yet I couldn't be surprised when my ER nurse at Mount Sinai was quick to diagnose the cause of my heart doing what felt like an impromptu drum solo in my chest.
I hadn't done anything out of the ordinary that day. The order at which I did everything, however, was not in sync with my daily rhythm.
Ryan and I have often mentioned how we participate in what feels like a sort of team-building exercise before the show. First, we venture out for a meal. (Sometimes we agree on what to eat for dinner, sometimes we go our own ways.) But on Tuesday, my schedule was off, and I had to grab a bite earlier than usual. My other pre-show routine went undisturbed. I cracked the tab on the can of my usual 500 ml dose of whatever sugar-free energy drink happened to be on sale. It had been a particularly warm that afternoon, so I took an especially long swig.
Most of the contents of the can were gone in a few short minutes. It didn't take long for the effects of that much caffeine to kick in. What also joined the practical rush was a most unwelcome fluttering of my heart. The occasional palpitation is nothing new for me - stress or exercising will sometimes trigger an abnormal rhythm - but this time, the pounding was unrelenting.
It continued straight through all three hours of Friendly Fire and followed me on my subway/streetcar ride home.
Once on my couch, the head rushes and sweating began. At the urge of my lady, I called Telehealth. After just a few short questions they were ready to call me an ambulance. "Whoa!! That won't be necessary," I told the nurse on the other end.
She replied with something along the lines of: "Mr. Downs, I have to tell you that any delay to you receiving treatment could be a significant risk to your health." (It did sound as if she was reading off a script to clear herself from any liability if I were to happen to drop dead in my living room.)
We waited a few minutes, and a few more head rushes and drum solos later, I decided it was time to get to the hospital. We took the TTC. (What?! Cabs are expensive in Toronto!)
Mount Sinai for emergency situations was the recommendation of a cabbie who once insisted he take me there instead of St. Mike's, which is closer. He was right. It's the difference between taking Porter to Montreal versus a Greyhound. (No offence, Greyhound ... or St. Mike's)
Within minutes I was in an ER bed receiving a scolding from nurse Jackie (seriously, her name) for pounding an energy drink on an empty stomach. The doctor gave me medication to make my heart stop spazzing out and I was sent home few hours later.
This is in no way an indictment of the energy-drink industry. It is an eye-opener that, under certain circumstances, these drinks - even just one - can have a serious and potentially dangerous effect on an otherwise healthy male heart.
These drinks need to be recognized for what they really are: medicine. And we all know that a doctor will sometimes tell you not to take certain prescriptions on an empty stomach.