Tuesday, May 4, 2010

hearty matters

I have a funny heart. It has a strange beat and has over the past twelve years given me some grief. But not anymore. It started with my first pregnancy. It would race for hours every morning. After many trips to the ER a cardiologist finally decided it was a "hormone conflict" with the baby and would go away with the delivery. Mostly, it did, but when she was about 6 months old I had a terrible episode while taking a golf lesson, I thought I might die. As I reached my peak of panic it stopped racing and I decided to ignore it.

There were no other problems until 3 months after my second was born. One scary morning, while I was alone at home with a 2 year old and a 3 month old it raced so fast I couldn't feel the beat at all. I felt faint and sweaty and panicked that I would die there and it would be hours before Darcy came home and found the babies all alone. I tried to crawl to the phone, it was so far away. When I finally got close I felt blood rush to my head and my senses came back. I counted my heart beat and it was fine. When my mom came over she told me I didn't look well, I sort of retold the story of my morning (trying not scare her) she talked me into the walk-in clinic. Naturally, they were useless.

About a year later, I was at the scrapbook store and it started to race. It was mild but frustrating and sorted itself out quickly. It was then that I decided that if it ever did it again I would seek medical advice. Well, that decision was made for me when a few months later I was working out at the rec centre. Cicely was at play school and Jack was in the little day care they had at the centre. I was stepping off the elliptical after an hour long workout and it started to race. I was already dripping with sweat and my heart beat was already elevated, this just made everything that much more uncomfortable.

I prayed it would stop. I sat on a bench and prayed and prayed. I felt like the responsible thing to do was to tell someone so that Jack would be taken care of if something were to happen. So I went to the front desk and gave them a brief run down of what was happening, gave them Darcy's cell number and explained where my two darling babies were. No matter what, I explained, they need to be taken care of.

A lifeguard came to see me and take my pulse, but there wasn't one. Not one we could find. They called 911. In all my humiliated glory the fire department, the police and the paramedics all came to my rescue. People, in all their tactless ignorance, gathered around to stare, while the paramedics put me on a stretcher with an oxygen mask and tried to figure out what was up. They decided to move me to the ambulance, where it was more private. They were so cute!

My heart rate was over 270 and my blood pressure was 70 over 0. Yes, you read that right 70 over 0. Crazy! Then they gave me the best advice. Bear down. PUSH like you've never pushed before. Push until you think your head will explode. Go, they said. So I pushed and I pushed, for as long as I could. All of a sudden my world went back to normal. My heart stopped racing, my blood pressure came back up. My lips turned from blue to pink and so did my cheeks. My two cute paramedics high fived each other. Yes they did.

They took me to the hospital where they proceeded to tell everyone how awesome they were when they saved my life. They were young and cute, who was I to begrudge them their glory?

After some tests I was diagnosed with SVT: Supraventricular Tachycardia..... a racing heart. I have three options: daily medication that will inevitably give me osteoporosis, surgery, or go to the ER during an episode where they will administer adenosine to stop it. I chose number three.

When I was 11 weeks pregnant with my third baby I had an episode I couldn't stop myself with the pushing (Vagal maneuvers). I went to the hospital where I had to wait exactly 0 seconds for medical attention (if you ever want to be seen quickly tell them you are pregnant and having an episode of SVT - they work FAST!)

After two rounds of adenosine (nightmare all on it's own) and no success things got hairy around there. They needed to shock me but doing that in the first trimester would abort the baby, most likely. There was only one other choice. A new medication that would work but may be harmful to the baby - no one knew. I had been there about 5 hours and I was feeling terrible and uncomfortable. Two cardiologists told me to take the meds. I just didn't know what to do. I was so upset. All I could think about was that my heart may stop racing on it's own and then it would be fine but if I take the meds I might harm or kill my baby. After some contemplation and a whole lot of tears a woman doctor came and sat with me and held my hand. She said that my heart was a muscle and eventually, when muscles get tired they just quit. She said, if it were her, she'd take the medication. She said my two other babies needed me, she was right. I stared at the little paper cup with those 6 pills in it and couldn't believe that this was so unknown in this day and age. Why couldn't anyone tell me I would be fine and so would my baby?

I took the pills.

One hour later my heart stopped racing and they discharged me. Good luck they said. We hope everything is all right.

Six months later everything WAS all right when Holden was born at 9 pounds and 5 ounces and perfectly beautiful. Relief.

Nine months later I had the surgery (also a nightmare). It went well, the bad beat box was zapped and I was cured.

Fast forward almost 6 years to the end of 2009. My heart starts beating funny again. Not racing and not all the time but strange uneven beats that make me feel weird. Tingly arms, heaviness in my chest, shortness of breath, disconcerted mind. I told my doctor. Before long I was at the hospital getting a Holter put on (a portable heart machine that gave me the worst rash). Not long after that I was in the ER (again, no waiting) getting an ECG because the beating was so severe. And not long after that I was sitting in a room with my new cardiologist. She was nice and told me she was 99% certain there was nothing wrong but she needed to be sure and an ultrasound was the only way. April 2010 I had the ultrasound. My heart is lovely and healthy but chooses to beat funny every now and then. Everyone has these funny beats but for whatever reason mine are extreme. "Sorry about your luck but you'll be fine," she says. I'll take it! She told me that if the SVT hasn't come back by now it never will but I can live a normal happy life with a funny heart beat. It could have been so much worse so I am happy with the outcome.

Funny thing is, it hasn't beat strange since the last ER trip. Silly heart.


  1. I remember you telling me this story when I was going through massive anxiety, which was making my heart beat really fast and funny and I would get faint! thanks for sharing again, Hope your heart stays STRONG!!

  2. wow, such an incredible story. thanks for sharing! - i'm glad that everything has been sorted out. yay for a healthy heart!!

  3. wow SCARY!!!! I'm glad you are healthy too!

  4. I was telling my friends just the other day about your heart story. I am so glad to hear that you have a "lovely and healthy" heart!

  5. Interesting! I have a funny heart to. I came to this conclusion, after spending time in the ICU because of it. The curtain between my self and another young man was broken so there was no curtain. He died 5 feet from me alone, with his family being paged. My heart now beats funny reminded me it's there and not to take it for granted. It's a gift! Enjoy that funny beat!

  6. Catherine, I had no idea you had heart issues. I do too! Shannon and I are cousins and we can blame it on the same bad genetics. Funny Rhonda also commented, her husband is my cousin.
    A cardiologist once told me, no heart was every meant to keep beating forever. They are built to wear out. We just have to take care of them enough to keep them working as long as possible.