Just when you think things are going OK something decides to go awry. This time it was my heart.
Let me give you some background for context. I’ve had heart disease for a long time; longer than I think, I’m sure. I started having severe chest pain and shortness of breath, and fatigue back in 2011. I was diagnosed with heart disease and rushed into urgent triple bypass surgery in October of 2013.
I have had fairly frequent but very mild episodes of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) ever since I was in elementary school. It was never diagnosed as anything because I never told my doctor about it because it never bothered me (I thought it was normal). Then, the months leading up to my heart disease diagnosis and surgery I began to experience even more frequent and severe bouts of arrhythmia. I didn’t tell my doctor because things just happened so quick and I was more concerned with the crippling pain than anything else…and then ended up in surgery before I could even blink.
It was several months after my heart surgery that I finally said something to my cardiologist about the “fluttering” in my chest. I told him all about my history of it, how it got worse before my surgery and then went completely away for several months following the surgery, but then it came back. The doctor said it was normal and nothing to worry about, but we would keep an eye on it. He said the only time I need to worry is if the arrhythmia lasts more than a few seconds and leaves me lightheaded or passing out.
I was on the treadmill at this same doctor’s office a couple weeks later having a stress test when I felt a flutter. I mentioned it and he said, “Yes, your heart just skipped a beat, nothing to worry about.”. OK, no worries, life goes on.
Fast forward to 2016, I have changed insurance providers to save money and am now seeing a new cardiologist. I tell him all of my history, including the “fluttering”. He pretty much tells me the same thing my old cardiologist told me, so I don’t worry. He does add, however, that if and when I experience the fluttering again I should contact him and he’ll order a 24 hour heart monitor to see if we can catch an episode or two and see what’s going on. I am skeptical about this because the fluttering comes and goes on it’s own time, it doesn’t follow a pattern and is very unpredictable.
A few weeks later I am laying in bed on my way to sleep when I get a quick flutter, but this time it’s different because just after the flutter it feels as if my heart has stopped in a contraction and then ever so slowly releases, ending with a hard thump. It does this three times and then everything goes back to normal. I feel a bit dizzy. This episode lasts nearly ten seconds.
The next day while I am cleaning my house I feel another quick flutter, like the usual ones I’ve always gotten.
The next day I wake up early to run to the city to drop off my sleep study machine (turns out I do not have sleep apnea, yay!). I walk the several yards into the building and decide to take the stairs for the sake of exercise. I walk up the stairs not in a hurry but by time I get to the top I am slightly winded. I drop off my machine and then walk back down the stairs and out the several yards back to my car. By time I get to my car I am short of breath, gasping for air, tight in my chest (but no pain), and my heart is beating very fast and hard. I sit down and take several deep breaths. It takes well over a minute to slow my breathing and heartbeat.
Roughly five minutes later I feel the fluttering, this time it is the same episode that happened a couple nights earlier with the thump as well. This episode lasts a little less than ten seconds.
Another five minutes or so passes. I am now at a store walking around. I feel extremely sleepy and physically tired. I also feel very mildly short of breath, almost unnoticeably. I also feel a bit lightheaded. This lasts nearly an hour before I start to feel better.
I get home and decide to e-mail my doctor about all my recent symptoms. A few hours later he responds with an e-mail letting me know he has put an order in for me to wear a monitor for 24 hours.
The rest of the day I am feeling tired, I also experience a couple mild flutters, lightheaded, and just generally not normal in the chest. You know how you just feel “off” sometimes but can’t really explain what it is?
I decide to call the advice nurse. I tell her my symptoms. She asks me questions like “have you been drinking enough water?” and “Could you be pregnant?” In the end she schedules a phone call from an on call doctor in an hour or so.
Eventually the on call doctor calls me. I tell him my symptoms but by this time I am actually feeling much better, just about normal. He tells me if I get the symptoms like that again not to wait and to go to the emergency room. He seems more concerned about my diabetes and blood sugar than my heart. He asks me to check my blood sugar while I’m on the phone with him. It’s a little high at 190, probably because I had eaten a PB&J sandwich a couple hours earlier (they always spike me no matter what).
I’ve always disliked doctors who automatically blame everything on my type 1.
The next day I feel a couple light flutters.
The next day my cardiologists office calls to set up an appointment for me to do the 24 hour heart monitor.
Over the next few days I feel occasional light flutters.
Today I went in and got all hooked up with the 24 hour heart monitor.
How much you wanna bet nothing happens while I’m being monitored?