Me and My Heart, an update
I’ve been asked by many about how I’m feeling now, two weeks after my latest surgery, and the truth is, I’m really good! I feel like I need to learn how to live again! I’m still a bit sore and activity restricted, but I’m really really good!
In case you’re just joining me, my problems with my heart started years ago. I struggled with ordinary activities, was sweating an extraordinary amount and even struggled just going up stairs. So, three and a half years ago, I wanted to be my own best advocate and made an appointment with a cardiologist. I told him my heart rate often dropped to 40 and I felt like something was really off. He ordered an echocardiogram and a stress test, both of which were determined to be normal, but he did not think a halter monitor was warranted. He said I was overweight [really, like that isn’t something I’ve been struggling with for years] and I needed to get the weight off and then I’d be better.
Okay then, I continued to work out [I hadn’t been sitting around eating bon bons] and a year later was in a TRX Yoga Class when I collapsed, was struggling to breathe and was going into cardiac arrest. Thoroughly grateful for the doctor that was taking the class and realized what was happening and got the ambulance there quickly as the facility had no AED and when I arrived at the hospital I was shocked, twice to get me back.
The next morning I was transferred to another hospital and had surgery to receive an implanted defibrillator. What followed was multiple drugs, multiple reactions to the drugs, more intense struggles with going up stairs and was always exhausted. I tried to work out and get the weight off. It was slow but once off all the meds it started to come off very slowly. I had made some progress when the tachycardia arrythmias started heating up again and I went on new meds that packed on the pounds again. It felt pretty hopeless. The meds were stopped and I received a referral to discuss my health with an electrophysiologist and that’s the beginning of things turning around.
After a consultation I switched to this electrophysiologist as my primary cardiologist. He explained things so thoroughly and put my husband and I at ease in understanding the variety of arrythimias I was experiencing and I was becoming quite aware of when things would heat up and was dealing with issues on what felt like a daily basis.
Then came the flu shot. O.M.G. Now, keep in mind, I had been having the shot for years but now with this underlying condition and every year being a different mix of drugs, this year proved to be quite problematic. I felt it within hours of having the shot but felt like I was overreacting and hoped it would just go away. But I was slow, exhausted and felt like I was fading and nearly passing out. Finally 48hrs later, I used the home monitoring to transmit to my dr. who called almost immediately and had me take meds and said if it got any worse I needed to get to the emergency room. Hours later we were on our way to the hospital where I stayed in Critical Care for three days, leaving on medication and hoping things would get better. One of the things they wanted me to do was a sleep study because sleep apnea can strain your heart. So a couple of weeks later I did that and then got a call from my dr. I did not have sleep apnea but my heart rate dropped to 40 while I slept and I had nocturnal hypoxemia [a lack of blood oxygen]. After a discussion it was determined that my device should be upgraded to a dual chamber device that would also be able to pace my heart up to a regular resting heart rate of 70.
A call the following Monday telling me there was a cancellation and I could get in on Thursday so it was scheduled and upgraded. It went relatively smoothly and I was able to go home to same day. At a check up a week later they told me that the device was pacing me 80% of the time :O Apparently I really needed it! And here i am two weeks later and feeling so much better. Although I’m still activity restricted for a couple of more weeks, I’m not restricted from walking etc and am back to walking each morning at a pace I hadn’t hit since before the cardiac arrest. I’m also going upstairs without issues and don’t feel the need to nap every day! I feel like I have my life back and can only imagine what it will be like in the new year when I’m not restricted.
I felt like I needed this from the beginning. Since I went to that doctor over 3 years ago and I still get a bit upset when I think about being brushed off as just overweight. If anything, this was a lesson that if you’re not listened to and you feel that something is off, you know yourself better than anyone and I should have gone to a different cardiologist for a second opinion and maybe none of this would have happened. I just never in a million years thought I’d suffer cardiac arrest, not ever.
But I’m a survivor. I’m a fighter. My story isn’t over and now it’s got many many more chapters to go and I couldn’t be more grateful!