View Full Version : 'fake' heart attack - or other ideas

08-28-2011, 05:08 PM
I have a male character, early-forties, fit and healthy, but under a lot of stress. He handles the stress well, usually, but he's been internalizing a lot of it, trying to seem calm for those around him.

I want him to have a health scare. Something sudden (like, not cancer), and that can be resolved within a few hours of getting him to the hospital.

I was thinking of 'indigestion that feels like a heart attack', but from what I've read, it seems like indigestion bad enough to confuse with a heart attack is usually an on-going thing; my character would have been having stomach trouble for a while. I'm writing a Romance, and the character is my leading man - I'm all for giving MCs physical quirks, but 'chronic indigestion' just isn't all that sexy.

Is there anything better that I could go with? Again, it needs to be:

- something that would suddenly attack an otherwise healthy man;
- something that would seem life-threateningly serious;
-something that would require a trip to the hospital and serious medical investigation;
- something that could be conclusively diagnosed and dealt with within a day or so;
- something that would be SEXY (or at least that wouldn't make the guy seem pathetic or weak or otherwise non-leading-man-esque).
- ETA: bonus if it's stress related, but still 'manly' - like, not a panic attack, but something that would make the stress-causers feel guilty would be great!

Thanks in advance for any and all ideas.

08-28-2011, 05:15 PM
Kidney stone? It can come on suddenly and unexpectedly, and it would certainly feel like he was dying, while he was passing it. Afterward, he'd be fine.

My otherwise perfectly healthy dad certainly gave us a scare a few years ago when we found him unconscious in the bathroom. It turned out he'd passed a kidney stone, and the pain was so bad he lost consciousness. Of course he had to be hospitalized, but he was fine the next day.

Kidney stones aren't terribly "sexy" either, but I can't really think of any (minor or major) ailment that is; they're certainly dramatic, though... and over fairly quickly, as long as the patient is able to pass the stone on his or her own. If not, surgery or other treatment may be required.

08-28-2011, 05:28 PM
Hmmm. Kidney stone story is interesting, but, yeah, possibly even less sexy than indigestion.

(I know, you're right, it's going to be pretty hard to find something that's sexy.)

I'm keeping the kidney stone as a back-up plan. Thanks!

08-28-2011, 06:57 PM
Heartburn isn't called that for nothing. It produces prolonged and intense chest pain and you ignore chest pain at your peril.

Gastric reflux is all too real, hugely painful yet fairly easily treated.

08-28-2011, 07:41 PM
Certain types of food poisoning - can be very serious, but in most cases, easily treated. Especially interesting if because of food prepared for a very romantic dinner. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon7.gif

L.C. Blackwell
08-28-2011, 07:47 PM
Undiagnosed allergies aren't sexy either, but the resulting anaphylactic shock can be very dramatic. Likewise food poisoning--serious, but totally not sexy.

I guess you could go for heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, brought on by overexertion. Poor guy is being physically overworked, out in the hot sun, collapses. That's macho enough, since a lot of guys won't admit they need to rest, even if they do.

08-28-2011, 08:30 PM
Dehydration? Highly stressed and overworked people sometimes skimp on water, drinking way too much coffee, soda or energy drinks. However, once you're in the emergency room, the condition is quickly diagnosed, and usually treated with a round of intravenous liquids - liquid put into the body through an IV. I once walked into a doctor's office complaining of dizziness, apparently talking somewhat incoherently, and within five minutes, a nurse or aide had walked me across the street into the hospital. The doctor had almost instantly recognized the symptoms of what turned out to be severe dehydration. I think I was hooked up to an IV for three or four hours.

08-28-2011, 08:46 PM
Heart murmur? I know someone healthy who went into hospital with chest pains, they ended up keeping him in, doing tests etc. Turns out he has a heart murmur, which has given him no trouble since, but it was worrying at the time.

Linda Adams
08-28-2011, 09:30 PM
Passing a gallstone. My mother passed a gallstone, and she had chest pains and was throwing up. We took her to the emergency room, and they gave her angina medicine. Second time it happened, we got her to the hospital faster and they figured out it was gallstones. She had not idea until that point.

Anxiety is another one. Coworker quit smoking. About two weeks later, she's driving home from work and has what she thinks is a heart attack. Turned out to be an anxiety attack.

08-28-2011, 09:56 PM
Heh, having to go to the ER/hospital just isn't that sexy, no matter how you spin it.

I'm with JuliaHowe, some sort of heat exhaustion/dehydration combination might be your best bet. Have him overwork himself into a collapse, stubbornly ignoring symptoms. He can be rehydrated in a couple of hours at the ER, no biggie, no long term consequences except "take it easy for a few days". I think I once went through four liters of IV fluids in under four hours for severe dehydration, so something along that timescale. Apparently 2 liters is more the norm - I was chatting with my ER nurse & he told me that's what they gave drunks to rehydrate them; also, that's all I got the other time I was dehydrated - so you could definitely be in & out in four hours even with all the administrative paperwork junk.

Alternatively, maybe you could have your MC OD on caffeine? I did that once, no fun at all, but again no long term health consequences needed.