Thursday, February 7, 2008

Heart to Heart

American Heart Month

Glitter Graphics
Take care of your heart!

Bionic Woman? Terminator? E.T.? That’s what I think I’ll feel like this month when my shiny new device is implanted under the skin in my chest, to monitor my heart.

A little background history here – I have had “episodes” as I like to call them because they do not have a name as of yet. Episodes of my heart doing some weird Salsa Dance in my chest, possibly the Pasadoble, or maybe even the Conga! Whatever it is, it sucks and it’s scary, and it’s still undiagnosed on paper. This has been happening to me since I was nearly 17 years old. Back then, in the olden days and all, my cardiologist told us it was “growing pains”. Nice. I'm glad I'm still around when medicine could be improved! We could never catch these episodes because they were always reported after the fact when I’d go to the ER or something. Although one time I did get a reading while in the hospital of my heart racing at rest about 220 beats, but it was still not the same sensation as getting an “episode”. By all accounts, I have a good heart; strong, just the right size, spitting out the proper zigzags during a routine EKG. No traces of something outwardly causing these “episodes”. As one recent heart doctor told me, ' your heart the plumbing is fine, you need to see the electrician'. And so off I was directed to a new heart contractor, in the field of heart electricity. Electrophysiology to be exact. My new electrician.

I like layman’s terms like that. Easy to understand and it makes things more human rather than using all those fancy Ivy League words they learn in Med School. So, I saw the electrician. I suppose with anything in medicine, there are specialists in all areas. But I figured the heart guys and gals would know everything about the heart from every angle, right? I learned differently, because there are way too many areas of the heart to be good at every single one. That’s why the plumber gave me the green light and passed me on to the electrician. We’ll get to the bottom of this soon I hope.

Hope – yes that’s what he gave me! Someone that gave me a reasonable explanation as to why this might be happening to me! Yay! Three little letters: SVT or Supraventricular Tachycardia. He carefully explained to me how the heart has an electrical system within it that originates from one place – the Sinus Node. That little pile of cells is the substation for the electricity that your cells generate to make your heart beat its own little rhythm through a pathway around your heart. Sometimes there’s a misfire, like when you shuffle your feet on the carpet in the winter and touch something – and then the electricity just goes ‘round and ‘round and ‘round in a crazy loop until the heart’s own pacemaker (the Sinus Node) thinks – Wait! Stop that! And resets itself.

This would explain the strange “Bang!” sensation that I get once my episode stops. I’m always wishing for The Bang once my heart starts palpitating and racing and doing those dances, because The Bang to me means it’s over. These episodes scare the you-know-what out of me. I’ve been reassured that my young healthy heart does its job for me and resets everything back to “normal” at the right time, and that I should not worry that I’m going to drop dead. What a relief – isn’t that want you want to hear?! My rational mind can take this news completely casually when I’m not in the middle of an episode. But when I am, and feeling like I might pass out any second if only that stupid Bang would happen, there’s no relief in telling me I’m not going to drop dead!

But I like my new guy – this medical electrician heart man – I have to trust him. He doesn’t make me feel stupid with all the stale, incomprehensible textbook jargon, he tells me like it is and takes the time to explain and draw and show pictures etc. I wish he was a little more jovial, and a little less ‘business’, but I’ll take it if it means he can fix me. He did crack a smile once, but his face almost broke. Kidding of course. He's probably a different person when not under the cloak of white, having to explain over and over to people what might be wrong with their major life organ.... you know, the one that determines if you are alive or dead. Guess it's not a very jovial subject - ok, I'll cut him some slack.

So after trying a handful of tests over the years without being too invasive, I agreed to finally have an implanted loop recorder installed under my skin to see if we can catch one of these episodes red handed. This will take the place of hooking myself up to a bulky portable EKG machine. This Reveal Loop Monitor has a battery life of over 1 year. Hopefully I will catch an episode nicely, so that Dr. Electrician can see exactly where and what the problem is coming from in my heart. If we can find something treatable, then he can go in there and do what’s called an EP Study where he can map out the electrical pathways in my own heart, and zap (ablation) the naughty path so that it does not receive a funky current, and hence stop these episodes.

Since February is American Heart Month, I found it appropriate to write about this little ditty, and remind everyone to take care of their hearts. I have many changes that need to be made in my lifestyle in order to be more heart-healthy, and this is just one step in that direction. Medicine sure has come a long way to be able to implant a device the size of a stick of gum under my skin to catch some waves. Who knew I'd have to wait 17 years though! Hopefully my new accessory will behave and we can have this cleared up, or at least some better answers. In the meantime, I can just pretend that I have some magic powers or attempt to signal some UFOs…. That would be fun. Beam me up, Scotty!


John said...

Welcome to the world of the bionic! Will you have airport hassles like me?

Anne said...

Yikes, I hope they catch it! I understand... I am having surgery soon to install a baclofen pump in my abdomen. Can't wait...

Jennifer said...

Andrea, I have SVT issues as well, since I was 17 too. However, I have known this since my second "episode". They want to have surgery done, but I just can't (My Mom also had this and had the surgery), so I am on meds.

Anonymous said...

Andrea, I am glad to hear you are going the extra step to finanlly have an answer! I remember those problems years ago. Having an answer certainly would ease on any anxieties related to the issue. Have you tried laying off the caffenine. I know that when I started having palpitations etc. once I layed off the caffenine they pretty much resolved
themselves but god forbid Dunkin Donuts messes up and gives me caffine it all begins and the anxiety sets in and it becomes such an ordeal.

Good luck! Todays medical technology is just incredible and so much to be thankful for.

Love ya,