It all began last Friday with my decision that I've been a wuss long enough about needles and it was time for me to get over it and donate blood at our employer's blood drive.
Well...? I flunked! Couldn't donate blood! Why? My pulse was only 36 and they didn't want me passing out on them. They didn't tell me to see a doc or anything they just said I'd be eligible to donate blood in two days if my heart rate was normal.
Being a typical guy I ignored my son's advice (he's a Physician Asst.) to get in and see my Primary Care doc and just went on my merry way for the next several days, shoveling snow, spinning class, elliptical / treadmill / weight workouts. But I wasn't TOTALLY stupid: I checked on my heart rate at various times and found that despite an HR that climbed right up to my usual workout rates between 120-140 when I sat still for a little the rates dropped right down to the high 30s, low 40s.
So this past Weds. I decided I'd better see my PCP and he got WAY nervous, insisted I go to the ER & THEY got nervous & admitted me with an atrial flutter.
Its the strangest thing. I'm nearly asymptomatic other than some fatigue after exertion. So it feels pretty weird sitting here in the hospital. Heart still pops right up to 130-140 when working out but probably won't be doing any of that for a while.
I'm on a holding pattern as they have been hoping that my heart rate will pick up a bit since stopping my meds which have a heart rate lowering effect. They want to perform a TEE (trans-esophageal echocardiogram) to see if there are any clots around the heart. If there aren't they will then shock the heart, hoping to convert it to a normal rhythm. If there are clots the waiting game continues.
I spent the day yesterday pacing the halls killing time. Heart rate pops right up there but then drops down. Overnight I hit a new low of 28, but the RN said I was just sleeping fine. While pacing it was kinda cool to see more folks filtering out into the halls each time I looped around the floor. So many patients and visitors figuring out maybe there's a better choice than to be vegging out in front of the TV or staring out the window!
With a heart rate so low they couldn't release me from the hospital. But the other problem is with a heart rate so low it can be risky to shock the heart as although the intent is to bump the heart into a normal rhythm there is also a risk that a shock could bump it into a LOWER rate.
And there wasn't much lower for my heart to go.
So while they were planning to shock me today it was still possible that it would be another day of thumb-twiddling and hall pacing.
While most atrial flutters result in a rapid heart rate, some like me kick into a slow heart rate. Staff all the time do a double take when they see me bopping along pacing the halls with a heart rate that would send most folks passing out on the floor.
The biggest fear that I terrorized myself with overnight until I spoke with the doc was: what if the shock didn't convert my cardiac rhythm to normal? The next step would be a cardiac ablasion and pacemaker. Knowing nothing about pacemakers I envisioned myself transforming into an enfeebled old coot and knew I wouldn't stand for such a life! Needless to say I slept very little that night. The doc later reassured me that I could still lead just as active a lifestyle with a pacemaker as I wished.
Today I waited and waited and it appeared everything was on track for me to get shocked. Nervous as my heart rate was still slow...but we did it and...
SHOCK ME BABY! I'm back to the world of normal heart rhythms!
Go little heartbeat GO!
I got plans for YOU!
I am so freakin' relieved!
I'm taking it as a message from Someone: You want your life back? You got it! Now make the most of it!
What a HUGE ZEN THUNDERBOLT to: make absolutely the MOST of my life and whittle my compromises and accommodations down to the bare minimum.
Another message I'm taking away from this:
the pay-off of good intentions (wanting to donate blood) resulting in getting the help I needed to not drop dead in the middle of a spinning class! I believe this condition I have was the same one that took out Jim Fixx, the famous runner.
So hey everyone: Life is too short & getting shorter all the time.
If you have some words and actions of love and caring for yourself or others, just DO IT! Don't just daydream about wonderful things happening in your life, start taking steps to MAKE IT HAPPEN!
The clock is always ticking. It's experiences such as mine which pulls that awareness of the passing of time to the front and center of the stage of life!