Monday, December 15, 2008

And how was your weekend?

Mine started off okay. Got out of work slightly early on Friday, spent a reasonably productive evening puttering around the house, curled up with my book for awhile (The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which I highly recommend), and fell peacefully asleep.

And then woke up just before midnight with a heart rate that, to put it mildly, didn't seem quite right. Really rapid. As in really, really rapid, and accompanied by nausea and vertigo and not showing any signs of slowing down on its own. It's one thing to feel your heart racing after you've had a good scare or you've just run a marathon -- but 160+ beats per minute when waking from a sound sleep? Not good, not unless it was the Sam Elliott dream again and I just wasn't remembering it. And even if it was, it should have started slowing down after I'd been awake for a minute or two and reality had sunk back in.

So I remembered all the speeches the Younger Daughter has given me and the S.O. about being in the prime heart attack years -- she's apparently been expecting either myself or the S.O. to drop any time since we turned 30 -- and decided to kick the S.O. awake. He looked, as he always does when woken unexpectedly, totally befuddled, but managed to find clothes and stumble out the door, play chaffeur, and get me to the Piedmont ER without running into anything. In triage the heart rate was 189 -- definitely not good. In nothing flat I was on a gurney in an ER cubicle with multiple leads and devices (EKG, oxygen level sensor, blood pressure, IV port) being attached to the body and blood being sucked out of one arm -- over and over. It's absolutely amazing how many quarts labs seem to need to check for cardiac enzymes.

The good news, after 9 hours in the ER, 24 hours in the hospital, and a long conversation with an electrophysiologist -- it wasn't a heart attack. The bad news, because the electrophysiologist got me to admit I've actually had quite a few episodes of a racing heartbeat and the episodes seem to be happening closer together, is I got to learn a new (at least in terms of it being applied to me individually) medical term, supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), and I'm also going to get to experience a new (to me) medical procedure, cardiac ablation, in the not too distant future.

Getting news like this is always a little tricky to process. Part of me was like, wow, cool, will I be awake so I can watch the monitor? I loved the echocardiograms I've had because it's not that often you get to watch your own heart beating, so watching it get zapped could be cool, too. And another part was like, sweetjesus, they're going to fry chunks of my heart. Little tiny chunks, true, but chunks nonetheless. And then, of course, there's the ultimate question: will I be able to live blog the procedure?

Bottom line for the weekend: Christmas shopping delayed, no trip to the Georgia Farmer's Market for a tree, minimal baking done, no gifts wrapped, no housecleaning accomplished. Nine days to go, and nothing mailed yet. Not good, but not a disaster.

Incidentally, I did learn one trick from the handouts they gave me at the hospital --if you ever have a racing heartbeat that doesn't seem to want to slow down on its own, plunging your face into a basin of ice water might shock it back into a normal rhythm. If it doesn't work, at least you'll be wide awake for the panic attack.


  1. Looks like the wonderful world of catheters awaits you. I do packaging stuff for a number of pacemaker/defib outfits when I'm not on Lake Superior and these are some of the safest, most effective 'procedures' around. You should be golden. Best of luck and be sure to ask for the good drugs!

  2. Wooo- scary! Glad things worked out reasonably okay. Major good wishes from this quarter, along with one strong item of unsolicited advice: screw cleaning, decorating, baking, wrapping, and that crap. Take care of yourself, and Christmas will take care of itself just fine.

  3. holy shit! me..i would have never thought to go to the er..or call a dr. etc..i'd be googling and trying to stop it by home remedies..dang ok~..

  4. Geez - I am so glad they had an aswer for you. I have done 2 ER trips with my daughter and no answers.

    Take care and finish your book - I enjoyed it, too!

  5. JackieSue - I'm blessed with decent health insurance. If I wasn't, I'd have been googling, trying home remedies, and telling myself, well, it feels weird but it doesn't really hurt -- and I've always heard actual hurt attacks involve incredible pain.

  6. Scary is right! I had that happen once but there was something involved that made me reluctant to go to the hospital. I eventually went, though, and when I was watching the heart monitor, they unplugged it without warning me first. It went blank and I said to MathMan - "I died!"

    That plunging one's face into ice water? I believe it's supposed to close pores, too, right?

    I'm glad you're okay!

  7. Settle down and please take care of yourself. I have a 1/2 functioning heart - and I honestly should treat it better than I do. When I grow up I will.


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