My heart journey began in late February 2008. At the time Dan, now my husband, was 12 months into a 15 month deployment. I was a special education teacher and head of the special education department at Hiram Elementary School. I was working on my Masters degree and also working part time in retail. My plate was loaded! I was trying to keep my mind off of Dan’s deployment for a few more months. So, when I started having episodes of rapid heart rate I figured it was just stress.
I went to my general practitioner and told him just that. He did and EKG and said, “Your EKG is a little abnormal. You’re young, you’re healthy, you’re not overweight BUT I am going to send you to a cardiologist just in case.” That ‘BUT’, saved my life. So I want to pause in my story for a minute to thank Dr. Carl Goolsby at East Paulding Primary Care in Hiram, Georgia. You truly saved me.
I made an appointment with the cardiologist not thinking much of it. When I arrived at the office the receptionist asked if I was lost. I was the youngest one in the room by 50 years. My first visit I was given a holter monitor to wear for 24 hours. This was an attempt to ‘catch’ this rapid heart rate on a recording. No luck. The next step was a echocardiogram (ultrasound of my heart) and a stress test. For the stress test they put lots of electrodes and wires on my chest and put me on a treadmill. A few minutes into it the staff were whispering about couplets and triples. Then they stopped me. In the exam room, the doctor explained to me that my heart was weak. A typical heart will push out 55%-70% of its total blood volume. My was closer to 30%. This number is called an ejection fraction (EF). Those couplets and triplets were PVCs (pre-ventricular contractions). Too many of those in a row are more commonly knows as ventricular tachycardia. This was the point where the doctor told me, “you are at risk for sudden cardiac death”. They gave me some new prescriptions and sent me home. This was March 7, 2008.
I don’t think I realized at this point what that meant. First of all, it can’t be that bad; I mean they’re sending me home. I was not allowed to exercise which was a bummer! I mean after all Dan was essentially on his way home and I know my fellow Army wives know the end of deployment push to get in shape! I was taking my medication, following my low sodium diet and waiting for the next step.
After a heart catheterization to check for genetic abnormalities it was decided that I should see an electrophysiologist (EP). This type of cardiologist specializes in the electrical activity of the heart. When we met he told me that due to my low EF I would need an internal cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). This is basically my own AED – you know, the thing that use to shock people after they yell “CLEAR!” on all the medical shows?!?! They want to stick one in my chest! Even better they want me to wear an external one for three months until they can do the surgery! Fan-flipping-tastic – I’m going to be wearing this jetpack when Dan returns from a 15 month deployement. Cute.
Dan came home May 21, 2008. They implanted my ICD July 23, 2008.
After that things quieted down.
Courage, dear heart. ~ C.S. Lewis