chest pain

What pericarditis feels like: Chest pain, signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment

Table of Contents1 - Initial signs and symptoms of my pericarditis2 - At the hospital emergency department3 - In the cardiac wing4 - Pericarditis diagnosis5 - Pericarditis treatment6 - Pericarditis hospital discharge information7 - Pericarditis recovery8 - More on the pericarditis symptoms9 - More on the pericarditis treatment

WARNING: Chest pain is a serious life or death matter. If you’re experiencing chest pain right now, don’t waste any time reading this article — get yourself to a hospital.

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Initial signs and symptoms of my pericarditis

On Sunday, November 3, 2019, I had just finished lunch, looked at the clock, and saw that I could fit in about an hour of work before the Denver Broncos game started. Despite Denver’s 2-6 record, I was looking forward to see how Broncos’ quarterback Brandon Allen would do in his first career start following Joe Flacco’s neck injury.

A minute later I had severe chest pain. It wasn’t in the middle of my chest, but it was on the left side of the left chest/breast area. To the best of my memory, I went from feeling perfectly fine to having severe pain in a matter of moments.

The Pericarditis incident

On Sunday, November 3, 2019, I had just finished lunch, looked at the clock, and saw that I could fit in about an hour of work before the Broncos game started. I was looking forward to see how Broncos’ quarterback Brandon Allen would do in his first career start.

A minute later I had severe chest pain. At first I thought I was having an allergic reaction to lunch — Wolfgang Puck’s potato soup, which I’ll never eat again — but I quickly realized it was something heart-related.

So I eventually got myself to the hospital. Because of the way the pain instantly came on I was guessing blood clot, but the doctors think it’s something called Pericarditis, as explained in this image.

(The last song I heard before going into the hospital was Someone Saved My Life Tonight, and while the lyrics don’t fit the event, I was hoping the title would be a good match.)

Kounis syndrome (allergic angina)

Per Wikipedia, Kounis syndrome, also referred to as allergic angina, is “a group of symptoms that manifests as unstable vasospastic, nonvasospastic angina, or acute myocardial infarction and is triggered by the release of inflammatory mediators following an allergic insult.”

Lisa Klimas adds this: “The phenomenon we now called Kounis Syndrome has previously been called by names like morphologic cardiac reactions, acute carditis and lesions with basic characteristics of rheumatic carditis. It is sometimes still referred to as allergic angina or allergic myocardial infarction/heart attack depending upon the presentation. Allergic angina, which affected patients as microvascular angina, was first noted to progress to allergic heart attack in 1991.”

From my perspective as someone just learning about mast cell activation disease, it’s interesting to see that this was known in 1991, but mast cell activation diseases weren’t really recognized until 2007 to 2010.

Pay attention as if your life depends on it

I really like this quote about “paying attention as if your life depends on it.” One night last spring I laid in bed, unable to move because of severe pain in my chest. Any time I tried to move the pain got worse, so I laid as still as possible. I was laying on my right side, looking at a bedside table, and all I could do was breathe and look at that table, what was on the table, and see the light coming in from outside. At the time I was going through tests to see if there was a hole in my heart, and at that moment I thought I was going to die, so I can tell you, I’ve never ever focused on my breath like I did at that time. I kept that state of mind until I passed out.

This quote comes from a book titled, “Mindfulness for Beginners,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.