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I Had To Take My 25-Year-Old Boyfriend To The ER For A Heart Attack During Sex

Photo: Getty
panic attack vs. a heart attack
Love, Sex

It was traumatic.

With a significant other, your sex life can skyrocket to heights you’ve never imagined. When every touch sends an electric shock down your spine, you know that’s some good sex.

But as far as cliched "good sex" metaphors go, I might just have to take the cake on this one. I’ve literally had sex so good, so mind-blowing, so stimulating, that it sent my boyfriend to the emergency room.

Of course, it wasn’t on purpose. I don’t have a pain fetish or anything like that, I swear. It all had to do with being unable to make the distinction between a panic attack vs. a heart attack.


RELATED: I Went To The ER Because A Condom Got Stuck In Me


On this particular day, my boyfriend and I were both working from home on our laptops. To sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the person you love all day, while being laser-focused on work and resisting the urge to climb into their lap and kiss their face, takes a lot of willpower. After 8+ hours of staring at computer screens, we had a lot of sexual tension built up.

So naturally, we moved our "work" from the kitchen table to the bedroom. We were dying to get each other’s clothes off. Hands intertwined, bodies touching, his eyes looking into mine, it really was that "I never really knew what sex could be like until I met you" kind of sex. Slow, sensual, I felt it in the pit of my stomach and in the tips of my toes.

He was running his hands down my hair and then all of a sudden, his expression went from euphoric to panicked.

He immediately stopped everything he was doing. Standing naked in our bedroom, he backed away from me and clutched his hands to his chest. He looked at me with wide eyes and through jagged breath said, "Babe, I think I’m having a heart attack."

At the age of 24 — or any age really — this is one of the most terrifying things you could ever hear come out of your partner’s mouth. What on earth am I going to do if my boyfriend dies because we had sex? What do I tell his mom? What do I tell my own mom, who doesn’t even know I’ve ever had sex? How am I going to live with myself?

All these thoughts crowded my mind at once, but the only thing that came out of my mouth was, "Do I need to call 911?" Gasping for air, he nodded yes, and tried to sit down to catch his breath, still naked, his face pale.

I felt like vomiting while I called for help, so nervous I forgot our address. Members of my own family had died of heart attacks, but they were in their 70s or 80s. He was barely 25. But I had to stay calm while I waited for the ambulance to arrive; I had to dress us both. As long as he had pants, a shirt, and at least socks, that was good enough. I don’t even think I put a bra on that day.

I tried to keep him awake and talking, asking him what he was feeling. He told me his heartbeat felt irregular, pounding fast in his chest as if he had just been sprinting for hours. He could talk but each sentence was broken by gasping for air. He said his heart was full of energy but the rest of his body felt exhausted. He described numbness in his arms, chills, and tingling in his fingers and toes.

He was in so much pain, and neither of us could do much about it but wait for help. At least I made him smile and laugh a little when I said, "Well, I guess I have to tell the EMTs what we were doing before this happened ... and call your parents to tell them to meet us at the hospital."

Meanwhile, I desperately tore through pairs of jeans looking for the back pocket that held his keys, wallet, ID, and health insurance card. We had made such a mess getting hot and heavy that I could barely find anything. I found his phone and called his mom, a pit of shame and fear forming in my stomach.

I felt embarrassed and ashamed as I tried to delicately say that we were having sex, and now we were waiting for an ambulance to come get her son.

Up until this point in my life, I had never experienced a medical emergency before, let alone been in the back of an ambulance. But yet, there I was opening the door for two medics and watching them strap the man I love to a gurney and rush him out the door. I sat in the back of the ambulance holding my boyfriend’s hand, heartbroken and praying that traffic would move faster.

As we sped through New York City streets, his heart rate seemed to slow, a sign that things were getting calmer in the middle of all the chaos. The more relaxed he seemed, the more they doubted it was really a heart attack.


RELATED: I Almost Died While Having Sex On A First Date


When we got to the hospital, his parents were both already at the entrance to the emergency room. They praised me for knowing what to do in a moment of crisis. Yet in front of them I felt like the scum of the earth, holding back tears while doctors repeatedly asked me to describe exactly what happened before we got there.

It was beyond awkward as I admitted to having sex in front of his parents.

We sat in the waiting room while they rolled my boyfriend in to see a doctor. Then we ate cold Mexican food to celebrate the good news when his X-rays came back and it turned out it was just an extreme anxiety attack. From "being overstimulated in a way he had never experienced before," the doctor said to me with a wink.

I was mortified. I couldn’t even look my boyfriend’s parents in the eyes.

The doctor went on to explain that everything my boyfriend had experienced — the pounding chest, the numbness, the tingling — were not at all normal for somebody in their 20s to be experiencing. Those symptoms really were signs of a heart attack — in most people. But considering my boyfriend’s medical history of anxiety, it was attributed to that.

This was my first taste of what it meant to have a real, intimate, and genuine relationship with someone who experiences anxiety in completelely different ways than I do.

It took me a while to come to terms that my partner will likely exhibit heart attack symptoms that aren’t life-threatening in the future. For a few weeks following the incident, I was hesitant to excite him in any way, fearful I might put him back in the hospital. I didn’t want him to workout at the gym, watch a scary movie, or even kiss him too passionately.

It created a physical and emotional distance between us for a bit, one that I was only able to combat by going with him to various therapist and doctor’s appointments. Some people might see this as a burden or "too much work" just for a relationship with one person, but understanding his perspective on what these moments made him feel, both physically and emotionally, let me see how his body and mind work with each other.

When your partner suffers from anxiety, it’s important to know what causes their stress and how to support them. His sex stressor example is pretty literal, but when other anxiety triggers came up, I listened to what he was experiencing, made sure he was okay, and then did my due diligence by reading up on his symptoms and accepting his invitations to join him in therapy appointments.

This meant — and still means — sometimes feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable in front of doctors and his parents, but it also means he's safe and our relationship is, too.

Whatever the state of our physical or mental health, we all want someone who will look out for us and love us unconditionally, even through super-good-sex ER trips and moments of anxiety. That, and somebody who wants to make you laugh, even in those scary moments.


RELATED: What It's Really Like Having Sex During A Panic Attack


Felicia Marcano is a journalist covering pop culture, beauty, sex and relationships. She most enjoys writing about topics that she would definitely never tell her mother about, but that you've probably experienced too. When she isn't writing, she enjoys snuggling with her cat and rewatching The Office. 

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