A designer, an inmate and a cardiologist walk into a bar...
Well it was more like an ER but they both have amazing ice cubes and it’s acceptable to talk to strangers. (Don’t worry, I didn’t actually have a convo with the inmate cuffed to a bed across from me with some handsome armed uniforms around him.)
I have been wanting to share my heart story for years, but what better time to finally get it out there than after waiting 21 hours in an ER hallway… (yes, 21).
At 26 I was diagnosed with Supra Ventricular Tachycardia (Yes, it’s also a symptom, but can be a condition too.) It’s essentially what our heart does in our fight or flight response, beat faster. You all know that feeling… almost rear ending someone, reading test results, running for your life… and it’s supposed to go away after it’s done its job. For me, it was a luck of the draw type condition… it wasn’t hereditary, or caused by anything in particular. It’s also sometimes caused by underlying health problems or doing hard drugs. Don’t do drugs.
Mine is sassy. She likes to wake me up with heart rates of 200+ in the middle of the night. Sassy, and a little broken, but healthy in every other way. When I am having an SVT episode I can only describe it as having a toddler jump on your chest, with sweaty little feet and too much energy. Heavy, tight pressure, non-stop pounding in your chest. It gets hard to breath and your rib cage starts to hurt and you start to feel anxious. You can imagine that this condition makes things like travel a little more stressful worrying about when and where it might happen again and if I will need to seek medical attention abroad.
When SVT happens for others, it can go away on its own after minutes or with tricks like holding your breath or bearing down. For me, the only thing that works is Adenosine, a crazy little drug that only has a life-span of 10 seconds, which is good because it stops your heart, but only for a second. That second is enough to reboot your hearts rhythm and all is well again and after your heart has been racing for an hour or two you welcome anything to just make it go away. The first time I received it I was told I would feel like I was about to die, scary but accurate. (They are stopping your heart after all.) It’s a very intense feeling like hot water flushing through every vein in your body… everything tenses up… and then it’s over. You feel like you just ran a marathon but everything feels normal again.
I’ve had my heart stopped thirteen times. Every time is terrifying but I know it only lasts a few seconds. Doctors will administer Adenosine through an IV line and thats it. Sometimes it takes a second dose but usually one does the trick. IF it doesn’t work, OR if your heart rate doesn’t come back they would have to shock you. So it need to be done in a hospital. I’ve often joked to doctors about just giving me a dose to do on my own at home… to no avail. LOL. They give an IV bag of fluids and monitor you for a couple hours and then you’re free to go.
After seeing three cardiologists, we discovered my specific condition was caused by hormone imbalances. Lack of sleep, dehydration, that time of month, pregnancy… anything out of whack and that would trigger my heart to go crazy. I’ve spent the last five years focusing so hard on fitness and nutrition and it started to happen less frequently, OR would only last couple minutes and go away on its own. There was a time when it was happening MONTHLY! Sadly, this year it’s happened four times so it’s time for a more permanent solution.
There are two options. Beta blockers, which can help by reducing the effect that adrenalin has on the heart, but then you’re taking meds everyday forever, and it doesn’t mean it won’t happen again for sure. Catheter Ablation. A procedure through your groin to the heart that will trigger your SVT to find where your heart “misfires” and essentially cauterize that spot. It’s day surgery and lasts only a couple of hours and is apparently almost guaranteed to fix the problem forever.
That’s what I’m now waiting on. Nerve wracking and scary but sounds like a quick and easy procedure.
MY DRAMATIC WEEKEND
This past weekend was a scary and very low point for me. Sunday I had a heart rate of 170+ for several hours (yes, I waited too long but really thought it would go away on its own). I was admitted to the Perth ER and some tests showed high cardiac enzymes (490!) in my system, which surround your heart, and are only supposed to be around your heart. When they escape it means one of a few things; a) heart attack b) blood clot c) SVT. I was sent via ambulance to KGH for concerns of heart attack for a CT scan. I did not have a heart attack; my CT, Echocardiogram and dozens of bloodwork (my arms look like pincushions) and heart rate tests came back perfect. No heart disease, damage or concerns. Phew. SO SO GRATEFUL.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t spend 21 hours in a hallway waiting to get to cardiology. That is too much time to think about all the scary possibilities and outcomes… and generally reflect on life. I admit I cried a lot. Like a lot. I was angry at myself, at my scenario, at how much my kids and husband were worried beyond belief, at our hospital system… I must say I was so incredibly well taken care of by the Lanark County Paramedics (above and beyond), and all KGH staff, every single one of them. They took such good care of me and felt really bad for my situation and how our health care (ahem, symptom care) system needs work.
There you have it. That’s my story. I’m home, feeling good, still tired but grateful beyond measure for all your messages and calls of concern and support. Truly. I have the best people in my life. Until my procedure, I’m just going to let my Fitbit continue to think I’m an elite athlete.
Ps. I am more that happy to share and talk about my health. Please reach out if you have any questions at all.