Friday, March 14, 2014

Heart Walk & Why I Am Walking

Recently I have been annoying asking people to donate money to the Heart Walk, which I will be doing tomorrow morning.  (You can still give me an online donation here if you wish!)  Many of you might not know why I am doing the Heart Walk.

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.


  1. Yay you are better! Yay you can walk! Just Yay!

  2. Having been in a similar place, for a different reason, I can relate. I financially support the DEC Heartwalk team from New Paltz, I'm with you in spirit.