Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Cardiac Ablation

I never expected to have a heart problem. I am not overweight, don't smoke, have excellent cholesterol numbers, and hit the gym most days. I'm even one of those annoying people who has given up caffeine for herbal tea. Yet on February 15th, I passed out on my kitchen floor. I've decided to share what happened in case someone else out there may need to see a cardiologist.

It all started in December during a routine gynecological exam. The doctor pressed the stethoscope to my chest, got a puzzled look on her face, and suggested I see my internist for an EKG. "Okay, sure," I mumbled. I figured it was nothing and decided to wait until after the holidays. A couple of weeks later, I woke up in the middle of the night with heart palpitations. I chalked it up to my thyroid medication. After all I never expected to have a heart condition.

About a week went by, and I got into a routine argument with my teenaged son. It was silly, about nothing really, but for the first time I experienced chest pains. I sat down and took a couple of deep breaths. That finally got my attention, and I scheduled an EKG for two days later.

My EKG was abnormal. It showed that my heart was taking an extra beat. Alarmed, my internist sent me to see a cardiologist...that very same day. I had an echo cardiogram which was normal, then blood work which showed no problem. The cardiologist suggested a stress test and from those results made his diagnosis. I had an idiopathic right ventricular outflow tract tachycardia. I'd never even heard of it and asked him to write it down for me. Dr. Syad told me we don't know for sure what causes this condition, but it's more prevalent in women than men, and often presents itself during a woman's 40's or 50's. I fit both of those criteria.

Dr. Syad prescribed a beta blocker called Metoprolol and said we had about a 60% chance that my heartbeat could be regulated with medication. I tried the drug for two weeks and returned for an EKG. Unfortunately, it hadn't helped at all. Dr. Syad decided to change my medication to Flecainide and increase the dosage. If that didn't help then I would be scheduled for an ablation.

Forty-five minutes after taking Flecainide, I felt dizzy. My son hadn't left for school yet and I screamed for him. With his music blaring, I was afraid he hadn't heard me. So I stood up...big mistake. I don't remember exactly what happened next, but when I opened my eyes, my son was standing over me and I was lying on the kitchen floor.

Somehow Alex scooped me up, got me into his car, and drove me to the emergency room at Tampa General.

When the hospital contacted Dr. Syad, he called in a specialist called an electrophysiologist. Enter someone better than any fake doctor on Grey's Anatomy: Dr. Christian Perzanowski. I liked him immediately, but even better, I had confidence that he could help me. Though Dr. Perzanowski calls himself "a lowly electrician for the heart," he specializes in ablations and has performed over 800 of them.

Dr. Perzanowski told me he often sees my condition in women who have had infertility problems. I shared with him that though I hadn't experienced infertility, one of my babies had died from sudden infant death syndrome. It seems this condition is associated with a broken heart.

Dr. Perzanowski performed a cardiac ablation on me. During the procedure, a long, thin flexible tube was put into a blood vessel in my groin, then guided into my heart through the blood vessel. Dr. Perzanowski found two small broken places very close together. He "zapped" the spots with an electrical current.

When Dr. Perzanowski uttered the words "two spots, very close together," tears flooded my eyes. What I hadn't told him was that my heart had been broken twice. Once when my son died, and again when my only sister was killed in an automobile accident. Of course my heart had two broken places. It made perfect sense.

I'm now back home and learning to trust my heart again. Any twinge in my chest is cause for alarm. It will take me a while to relax and move past this episode. I'm nervous, but that seems perfectly natural.

18 comments:

  1. Wow. That's an amazing story, Shannon. Beautifully written. Thanks for sending the link. I had no idea what you were going through. I hope they really have mended your "broken" heart.

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  2. Thanks, Rosi. Me too and I'm sending healing thoughts to your husband.

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  3. Thanks, Shannon. You had me on the edge of my seat there. I'm a little like you, minus the great cholesterol numbers and herbal tea. Oh, and plus some lbs, I'm sure! But I do have occasional flutterings of the heart - have known for some time that I have a murmer but in recent years have felt the flutterings. You've given me something to think about. Apparently your ablation was successful? Is this considered a permanent fix?

    As we say here in the south - Bless your heart, Shannon - I hope all is well from here on out!

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  4. Joyce, if I'm lucky, this was a permanent fix and I won't have to take drugs. I'll let you know more in three weeks after my follow up appointment.

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  5. Wonderful story thank your for sharing. I.had no idea a heart can be literally broken, glad everything is ok now and sending you positive thoughts for continued healing,,,Lori

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  6. When you mentioned SIDS, I started misting. At "broken heart," at tear. By the end I'm a blubbering mess. What a beautiful way to describe a medical procedure! Praying for your broken heart to heal. <3

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  7. Lori, I've had a lot of medical jargon thrown at me and I'm trying to put it into terms I can understand. Hopefully, I'm not misrepresenting anything. My takeaway is that our hearts are full of electrical circuitry and I had a couple of faulty circuits.

    Thanks, Kelly. I've been a blubbering mess for days. I was composing blog posts in my head as soon as I awoke from anesthesia. The writer in me needs to get it all out.

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  8. How can you mend a broken heart? Apparently Dr. Perzanowski knows how. I'm still tearing up at his words you shared with me yesterday. Incredible.
    xoxo

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  9. Dr. Perzanowski is wonderful. I would highly recommend him to anyone needing an ablation. It is so rare to find a doctor who takes the time to listen. It makes all the difference in the world.

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  10. Oh, the parallel you make between your heart breaking with your losses and the breaks needing attention and repair now brings tears to my eyes, Shannon. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

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  11. Thanks, Cindy. I am firmly convinced there is a direct link.

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  12. You are amazingly fortunate, Shannon, even though I know how frightening this must be. Also, your blog entry is not only beautifully written but is a cautionary tale for those of us of a certain age...Thank you for sharing, and feel better, physically and emotionally, soon.

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  13. Nancy, I am amazingly fortunate. You are exactly right. I'm feeling like I want to be nicer, kinder, more open to new experiences, and give more hugs to the people I love.

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  14. Thanks for sharing Shannon. You shared a piece of yourself with all of us, and I'm grateful. That takes courage and generosity. (hugs) Jeannine

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  15. Oh...you're about to make me cry. I am feeling courageous and generous. Having the pants scared off you will do that to a person!

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  16. Thank you for sharing. That was so powerful and touching. I also had a cardiac ablation done.
    You can read about it here.
    http://kelseyeakle.blogspot.com/p/atrial-tachycardia.html

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  17. Very informative article Shannon.

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  18. Cardiomyopathy

    http://www.novenaheartcentre.com.sg/index.php/our-services

    Get more information about cardiomyopathy, angiography, telemetry Monitoring, Catheter Ablation, hypercholesterolemia and Pacemaker Implantation.

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