The last year has been a rollercoaster of health issues for me, including my most recent issue with Atrial Fibrillation, also known as AFib. Until this last year, I would have called myself a healthy 35 year old woman. The trouble started with a liver situation we are still trying to diagnose that I will share more details about soon. Because of my liver circumstances, I have been on high doses of daily Prednisone, a corticosteroid. There are so many side effects with long term steroid use that it is hard to tell what my “normal” is anymore. After about 7 months on Prednisone, I started having an onset of rapid heart beats this past October. My heart would race periodically throughout the day to the point of pain, dizziness and or taking my breath away. I began to sweat and be out of breath for no reason. I was extremely fatigued with some serious brain fog, but I’m a mom so those two symptoms I wrote off to #momlife, a common mistake for women.
At the time, the only symptom I recognized as unusual was my rapid heart beat. I contacted my endocrinologist who treats me for a condition I have had since I was 19 called Hypothyroidism, thinking my medication may need to be adjusted. I got into the office quickly and she performed a blood test, EKG and echocardiogram. My blood test and EKG came back normal. That first EKG would be the only heart test that did not catch my “episodes”. After my echo, she had concerns so she referred me to a cardiologist. Both my endocrinologist who I love and totally trust and my hepatologist (liver specialist) thought my episodes were due to stress and being worried about an upcoming biopsy. I have had stress induced rapid heart beats before, when I was pregnant with my Sunshine after losing our first son and was scared to death. I knew then that I was giving myself the palpitations. I also knew this time was different and the palpitations were not from stress or worry. Thankfully I was an advocate for myself.
Here’s a little back story on my family history. My father died at the age of 37 of heart disease. One of my brothers has PAT or Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia which is a type of heart arrhythmia. So, everyone gets their panties in a wad over any heart situations in my family, understandably. Somehow I was not worried about this appointment with the cardiologist. I really thought it was a hormonal thing and we would move right along. I went to the doctor mostly to keep my mother and The Water Man happy. The cardiologist agreed with me that with all my health struggles over the year and medication changes, it was probably just palpitations that can be caused by a zillion things. However, because of my family history, the cardiologist wanted to do a stress test. Just in case.
I took home a heart monitor to wear for 24 hours and scheduled the stress test, still with no concerns. Normally I would take The Water Man to any important appointments. I did not know this appointment would end up being important.
Fast forward to the stress test and everything is going just fine, I’ve had my initial echo and EKG, I’ve done my running, I’m in recovery talking with the nurses and the machines go crazy. Casually I say, “oh is my heart doing it?”. One nurse looks at me in shock, “this is what you were talking about?” she asks, “this is what you are calling heart palpitations?” and the other nurse dashes out the door to fetch the doctor.
My heart rate would jump up to 210 and stay there then drop to normal, back up to 185, then drop. This went on over and over. The doctor comes in and scolds me for “down playing” the episodes and tells me not to exercise, to lay down and breath when it happens and if it doesn’t stop to go to the ER. The monitor I wore showed the episodes were happening all day. He asked if I was tired, I almost laughed. I’ve been tired since 2009. He said he thought it was SVT or Superaventricular Tachycardia and I would probably need an ablation. He was referring me to an electro physiologist, when the nurse called to set the appointment, they offered an appointment in 2 weeks time and I heard her say, “no, the patient cannot wait that long”.
I was scheduled for Monday. It was Friday. I was in shock. I was confused. I had to go home and tell my people.