I had a condition called SVT, which is not lethal. Basically, I had an extra "wire" in my heart, and it would get confused and pick up extra heart beats. I could be sitting down, and all of a sudden my heart would take off like I had just been running a race. Incredibly scary, and it could happen at any time. I have heard that people could pass out because it was so fast, but I never experienced that part of it.
I saw a cardiologist for years, and was on medication to try and help control it. Even though I was on medication it could still break through, and more times than I would like to remember I ended up having to go to the emergency room.
On my most memorable trip to the ER I ended up staying overnight as the doctor on duty could not get my heart to slow back down. When a specialist arrived around 6am they were finally able to control it. They had to give me an injection that stops your heart briefly, and then it starts again at a normal pace.
Sounds scary, right? Terrifying is more like it. They stop your heart, and that also stops your breathing. You can try all you like to breathe -- I thought I was pretty good at it since I have been doing it my whole life without any problems -- but you cannot will your lungs to work. Did I mention you are still conscious during all of this? Yeah, so you are alert and scared. All I could think of were the things I was going to miss out on if this was it, if something went wrong and they couldn't get my heart started again: I never got married, never had kids, wouldn't get to see my niece and nephew grow up to be amazing people. I'm sure it only lasted a couple of seconds, but time really does seem to slow down and it felt like an eternity. Once your heart starts again you are completely exhausted. After I got home I think I slept for 12 hours straight.
I stayed on the medication for several years. Apparently I was much younger than most people who present with this problem. The cardiologist told me from the very beginning that there was a procedure they could do in which they go in and use a laser to burn out the extra "wire" from your heart that is picking up the extra heart beats. I held off on having it done for years since I wasn't really sure I wanted anyone using a laser on my heart.
The problem with being on medication for years is that it builds up in your system gradually. I didn't realize how it was effecting me for a long time. I was constantly tired. Just going to work and home would take all of my energy. I was also a paranoid wreck about doing anything that might make my heart beat too fast, because what if I couldn't get it to slow back down? Breathing exercises helped, I could take some extra medication if I really had to, but I was always afraid it would result in another trip to the hospital. Even with insurance that gets pricey after a while. You also gain a lot of weight when you are too tired to do anything and afraid to work out very much.
Finally, in 2012, I had the ablation surgery done. I was so tired of how the medication made me feel, of constantly worrying about having another episode. I would have to deal with this for the rest of my life, probably feeling even worse as I kept taking the medication. I remember worrying about going to Disney World with my family: did I bring enough medication? Would all of that walking around in the sun trigger an episode? How close was the nearest hospital if I had to go, and would they accept my insurance? I was done. I could not keep dealing with this bullshit, being worried about things that should be fun, afraid to do anything that might make my heart race too fast.
I should have had the surgery years ago, in retrospect. I have had absolutely no problems since then, I don't have to take any medication. I feel so much better, more alert and have so much more energy. Now it is a battle to get the weight back down, but it is a work in progress. I'm still a little nervous about having an episode -- I know it isn't possible, but that fear lingers after so many years.
So that is why I am doing the Heart Walk. I was lucky and had a condition that was treatable. I could have the surgery, be cured, and get on with my life. So many people don't have that option. I would like to help them in any way I can.