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.