Friday, August 28, 2009

SVT. And This Post Has Nothing To Do With Stellan.

So, once upon a time, I was 14. It had been a rough week, involving some pretty intense emotional issues and surgery on my knee. It was a Saturday, and it felt like my heart was literally about to explode.

Went to the hospital. Received fluids and a medication through an IV. Heart rate slowed down. Doctor's concluded it was an anxiety attack.

Happened a few more times. A couple of them, I passed out in the middle.

As I got older, it started happening more frequently. Instead of once or twice a year, it was every couple of months or so.

And then every month.

And then a couple times each month. And then nearly every week. And then often times twice a week.

And now, every day. Sometimes several times.

I brought it up a few months ago with my "temporary" family doctor (my "regular" family doc is still not seeing patients for most things, following his head injury). He kind of dismissed it - I've been struggling in the stress department, and I think we both figured that was it. I didn't go into detail about how long or consistently it's been going on - I just wasn't concerned.

A couple weeks ago I saw him for something that has NOTHING to do with my heart, and he noted that it was going just a little fast - about 120. Nothing too bad, just faster than "normal." I mentioned that it often times went a lot faster than that. He asked how fast. I truthfully told him that 160 wasn't uncommon. He didn't really like that answer. Said he wanted me to wear an event monitor for 30 days and see if we could get some ECG strips of the "abnormal rhythm."

Picked up the event monitor on Wednesday the 19th. First five days or so were great. Day six, I had an "almost event" where I thought it was about to take off, so I pushed record. And it (my pulse) promptly went back down to about 90.

Wednesday of the next week (the 26th), I felt miserable all day. I came home to sleep while my husband went to church. I noticed my heart felt awfully strange - heavy, and very much pounding and feeling kind of "fluttery." Recorded the event, then checked my pulse - 170. So pretty fast. I did what I figured out years ago, by accident. Gave myself a firm massage just under my jawbone. Today I found out that that's actually something that doctors will do with patients to try and slow their pulse down. And of course took the obligatory Metoprolol.

Thursday, I called in the monitor recording from the night before. Guy at the testing center was pretty concerned, said he'd send it to my doctor right away. I figured nothing would come of it. Ten minutes later, we were on our way to a funeral, and the phone rang. My doctor, calling to say he got the test results. Needed me to check my pulse right then. Lots of questions about how I was feeling. Suggested that I should really come in so he could evaluate. Decided not to do so, provided I was willing to come in the next day (Friday the 28th) if the fast heart rate came back at all. That was easy to agree to.

Well, it came back. Got a phone call from my doctor about 20 minutes after I sent the recording off. More questions. Had me take another Metoprolol, said I needed to see cardiology right then - that it was medically necessary.

I ended up leaving work 5.5 hours early to go to the cardiology clinic. Met with the cardiologist. He asked a lot of questions. Informed me he could tell I wasn't a smoker or a drinker. Asked if I wanted to be cured of the problem with my heart. I said yes to that, of course.

He did an exam, talked to me a bit about cholesterol (mine is ridiculously high, and it's not because of a weight issue). His nurse came in. He asked her to schedule an echo for a patient who would need an ablation to treat her SVT. I honestly believed he was talking about some other patient. Especially when he said he wanted a doctor from across the state to come see "her" and do the ablation. I've brought up the rapid pulse so many times before, and every time it's been dismissed as anxiety. There was no way he could be referring to me, and I knew it.

She nodded, and left the room. He then proceeded to show me my ECG strips from the monitoring I've done. I was honestly expecting to see just a plain old sinus rhythm (normal, healthy, and good) that was chugging along more quickly than normal. I was prepared to maybe see a couple blips of atrial fibrillation, since it seems to run in our family. This first picture is a pretty good depiction of what numerous ECG's I've had in the past showed. A nice, normal sinus rhythm of about 60 beats per minute.

And that is what I expected to see.

But, it was not to be. The heart rate on those strips was foreign. I've had lots of ECG's done in my life - each time I had an episode that I told a doctor about, they would do the ECG. Of course, it was always way too late to catch the abnormal rhythm, and they would tell me it must just be anxiety or something. But those strips from the event monitor? They looked like this:

I'm no professional, but I do know that an ECG is supposed to show a P,Q,R,S, and T wave. I also know that my normal resting pulse is between 55 and 65. The test strips proved that my initial statement that my heart sometimes goes up to 160 beats per minute was not quite accurate. During most of the monitors, my pulse was like the picture above - about 180 beats per minute. During some of them, though, it was "well over 200."

I'd like to pretend that I have this great, unshakable, unwavering faith. And I'd like to tell you all that I stayed calm, there was no fear, and I resolved to move forward. But, truth is, I was afraid. As the doctor explained that I was that patient he was talking to his nurse about, that it was me who would be seeing the doctor from across the state next week, and it was my heart that was going to have an ablation, I started to freak out just a bit.

I was a little hard on my husband. I told him what was going on via text message - the reception in the clinic is horrid, and I wasn't sure I could speak coherently. I left the office, and went downstairs for blood work. As soon as I was done in the lab, I found a quiet corner near the skywalk, where the reception was somewhat better. I called one of the sweetest, most level-headed people I know. She got details out of me. Reminded me of Who is really in charge of my life. Prayed with me.

I left, and spoke a bit to my husband on the phone as I drove to our church. One of the office staff was there. She prayed, anointed me with oil. Gave me an amazing hug. Instilled and spoke peace. Reminded me that the "SVT" is just a name. And that Jesus is a name above all names.

I would be lying if I told you I am no longer surprised, or that I'm not nervous at all. I am nervous. I don't like what I was told. I want to pretend it isn't so. But even now, with more medication in my system than there has been for a long time, I can feel that something isn't right. With the medicine, it will beat fast for only a minute or two, and then it slows down again to about 60.

And when it's going slow, and I'm blissfully unaware of its presence, it is easy for me to say that my heart is healed. It's easy to believe. It doesn't really require much faith at all. But when it starts to feel strange, and it's hard to count fast enough to calculate a pulse? It's not so easy to believe then. But I am trying. With everything in me.

If you would, can you pray for me this coming week? I've had surgery a lot of times - eight, if you don't include minor things that require only light sedation. I've never been afraid before hand. But this time is different. This is my heart. People don't tend to do well when their heart is damaged. I know that an electrophysiology study (EP Study) is a very low-risk procedure, and I know that ablations usually go very well. And more importantly, I know that my God, He is God. A faithful God, Who keeps His covenant to a thousand generations. Even so, it's taking everything I have to stay focused and grounded, and not give in to the fear that's trying to creep in.

And maybe, if you are taking the time to pray for me, you could pray for a few others as well? My husband - I can only imagine that this had to be as much of a shock to him as it was me. And the doctor who will be doing the EP Study and ablation - first name is Zalmen. I'm not going to give his last name, since I'd like to retain at least some anonymity. If you would pray, I would really appreciate it. I have an echocardiogram on Wednesday morning (I've had lots of these over the years due to a goofy valve), and see the doctor from across the state on Thursday morning.

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