Sunday, November 13, 2011

When Your Body Decides to Checkmate

Every so often I get a punch that reminds me that life can be a fragile thing. I have an electrical problem in my heart that appeared rather suddenly in 2004 resulting in a four and a half day in the hospital.  It's called atrial fibrillation which is a pretty common thing but when it gets way out of control and the heart just won't cooperate by converting on its own in a relative period of time, it's a problem. I suppose there were signs before then where I kind of ignored the fluttering symptoms. Fluttering is one thing, but when your heart goes out of rhythm and stays that way, it creates a ripe environment for a stroke. I have been hospitalized when my heart doesn't convert on it's own. My Dad has atrial fib. I have it and it is irritating. I'm one of the lucky ones because I always know when I get out of sync. I can feel it. I also know when I am going to need outside help.

Actually, I have been doing great since 2007. That was the last time I had to be admitted for it. Drugs can do wonderful things and various drug therapies have worked for periods of time. The first drug therapy worked from 2004 to 2007. The second drug therapy worked good until now. Boom, I had two episodes last week that reminded me this is no minor thing.

I am a stubborn person. I try to get these issues under control on my own, usually holding out hope that my heart will quit being so stupid and cooperate. I actually believe I can control it. So, I usually wait 45 minutes to an hour before I tell my sister we should probably haul ass to the ER. Her usual response is to get very irritated with me and wants to call an ambulance. To me that is just an over reaction and a waste of money. I worry that I will know those first responders, the firefighters, and it will be embarrassing.  I figure by the time we call for ambulance we can be on the interstate on our way to the hospital. I hate the thought of the expense to the city's health fund. I know what a ride in an ambulance costs. It's the old HR experience with me hearing the cha ching sound as the money falls out of the fund. You see, I am a retiree and I know what retirees cost the health fund.

The first episode occurred on November 3rd and a visit to the Heart Hospital ER. My sister drove me and I made her sit out in the parking lot with me until I was sure I couldn't make that damn heart go back in sync. I finally gave up and went in. I always worry that they will tell me I am not really in full blown atrial fib. Luckily I converted with drugs about 3 and a half hours later and went home. Things were not right all week after that but I just thought the old ticker was trying to settle down into its routine.

Nope, it needed to do a checkmate. Something happened that was worse than the normal atrial fibrillation problem. Something called ventricular tachycardia that scared the beejeebies out of me. I actually thought I was going to die this time. I barely made it into the ER on my own steam without passing out.  I waited about two hours this time because the thought of going back to the ER less than a week later seemed obscene to me. Much to my chagrin, the same ER nurse was there again. I said to him, "don't you ever go home?"  All of sudden there were many people in the room with him. Different than a week ago. My initial EKG was very different this time. My ER friend patted my arm and said, "this causes death so I am glad we caught it on your EKG."  No going home this time, I got a ride upstairs to the heart floor.

This was no normal atrial fib episode. A referral to a cardiologist specializing in electrophysiology came next.  A hospital stay that lasted 4 days. Good grief. All I heard was lectures from my sister, my son, my brother, you get the picture, about calling for an ambulance. Yea, Yea, we will see next time. The thing is I know, you know? They are responding this way because they are afraid. My poor sister, all she kept saying on the interstate was - don't pass out on me. I feel bad about that, but not bad enough to call for an ambulance.

You have to find humor in all this. I sent a friend an email and told him the vote caused me to go to the heart hospital. You can about imagine the response I got. No, the vote didn't cause a heart attack. I may have been against the event center, but trust me, in the scheme of things, the vote results was just another day in river city.

You see, everything is relative. But when your body gives you a checkmate - now that is something to take seriously. I am fine and ready to blog another day. No way, am I done. I am just beginning.



  1. I'm glad you are O.K. Jennifer!

    I enjoy your blog.....

    Thank you for all the work that you did on the EC issue.

  2. Did they suggest a pacemaker? If they did,I suggest you follow their advice. The Heart Hospital is rated very high. You can be comfortable in their hands. I'm a nurse, I go to the Mayo Clinic for most things, but I'd be comfortable with the Heart Hospital here. I know I'm sounding like a pushy mother, but Jennifer, the world would be a much poorer place without you, so dammit girl you gotta take good care of yourself! Love, Pushy Mothertype

  3. Thank goodness it was check and not checkmate.

  4. First, I am incredibly grateful that you are back to your feisty self. Now, let me once again chime in with your beloved family. Next time, if you should have a next time and I pray you don't, call the damn ambulance; they have the expertise and equipment to get things started. I also agree with Mothertype, Mayo Clinic sounds like a prudent plan. Error on the side of caution; there is only one you and such an episode seems the perfect time to dip into that health care fund. P L E A S E!