This post is a bit more personal and doesn’t contain any money saving tips. I wanted to share with you my experience with premature ventricular contactions or PVC’s. Back in November I noticed some health issues that were starting to give me concern. I would be sitting on the couch watching tv with my family and feel tightness in my chest and the feeling that I couldn’t catch my breath. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and it was very annoying. So I blew it off as stress and a bit of anxiety. Several weeks later, I was still feeling my heart pounding. I thought, how can my heart be pounding and I feel out of breath, just sitting here? How come I don’t feel it when I’m running errands or cleaning the house? Hubby told me to go see the doctor and make sure it’s nothing more serious. My hubby is good at convincing me to slow down and focus on myself. I’m thankful mine is so logical and cares about my health. So in early December I visited our family practitioner and they did an EKG. They noticed that some heart beats were “off” rhythm. So they sent me to do blood-work to rule out any deficiency and and referred me to a Cardiologist. The blood-work was normal, and my cardiologist appt wasn’t until January. The family doctor told me not to overly exert myself until they figure out what’s going on. Is she serious? It’s Christmas and I have tons to do.
The good news is that months before, I had planned a family vacation to spend Christmas in North Carolina. So we’d have a nice relaxing Christmas and I wasn’t even going to decorate this year. In our North Carolina condo, we strung up some lights on a 3 foot tree from a local tree farm and laid out our stocking by the fireplace. We would go for a walk in beautiful North Carolina as a family and I’d be at the back of the pack, walking up a slight hill, already out of breath. UGH, I really do no like this. How can I keep up with my kids if I’m out of breath just walking!
My first Cardiology appt I didn’t even see a doctor. They did an ultrasound of my heart and then strapped me into a 24 hour holter monitor. If you’ve ever had one of these, it’s an odd feeling. There is now showering or sweating with it on. And try sleeping with a bunch of wires in the bed with you. The tape itself pulled on my skin and I was sure I was allergic to it. Taking that off the next day was a highlight of my week. My kids thought it was kind of cool though.
Several weeks later, hubby went with me to see the Cardiologist to get my results. He knew I’d be in “absorption” mode and not paying attention to details. He came with me to take notes. The doctor said the ultrasound looked good. He said I have “PVC”s – premature/early beats from bottom chamber of my heart. Basically there is a small spot in one of my ventricles that is “triggering” at the wrong time, causing an early beat. This appears to happen every 10 beats. He said it is very common, not life threatening and many people have it and don’t even notice it. He says stress and caffeine have nothing to do with it. Reducing my stress, caffeine intake or changing my diet, were not going to improve it. I had 3 options. Do nothing and learn to live with it, go on medication that would hopefully help or have a procedure called “catheter ablation”. I asked about starting back to a regular work out routine and he suggested we do a stress test to see how it effected this premature beat. Apparently working out can either increase the problem or decrease it. We decided to hold off on any major decisions till after the stress test.
The stress test was exactly what it’s called! They hooked me up to a holter monitor again and put me on a treadmill. Increasing the speed AND incline at several intervals. Now, I am not in the best of shape, but at one point I could not longer talk to the nurse while on the treadmill. I had to focus on my breathing. She asked if I was ok and if I could continue for 1 more minute. “Sure” I said. And all I could think was, I can do this, just focus and push through. Well 30 seconds later I had to ask her to stop. I stepped off the treadmill felt dizzy and downed a whole glass of orange juice. I felt like a failure! Then I was told they have some fully fit military men do the test and don’t get as far as they like either. All of this was in under 15 minutes. The good news is that they noticed that my premature beats decrease when my heart rate increased. So the doctor recommended I start back to exercising, while we think about how we want to proceed.
Several weeks went by and the heart pounding is really getting on my nerves and it’s time to do something about it. So the doctor wrote me a prescription for a medium dose of medication. I decided I’d try that first and see if it helped. Because it’s a less invasive decision than committing to surgery, but do I want to be on meds everyday for the rest of my life? No, not really. The first week on the medication was wonderful. I don’t recall feeling my heart pounding for several days in a row. But then a week later, it’s started back. After discussing with the doctor and possibly trying another medication, it occurred to me that was not the route I wanted. I did not want to keep trying different meds, hoping to find one that worked, only to be on it for the rest of my life and deal with the side effects of being on medications.
That appt, I decided to have the catheter ablation done. It was the best option for me personally. I am one of those people that does not like needles so this procedure scares me. I cried several times that week just trying to get it to sink in. I think it would have been easier had the doctor said we HAVE to do this procedure. Instead, he left it up to me. For me to voluntarily commit to a heart procedure is scary. It’s an outpatient procedure with a 95% success rate.
My catheter ablation procedure will be done Friday morning, April 6th. Even though I’m scared, I’m actually ready to be fixed. I’m tired all the time and have no energy to keep up with my family. Not to mention just sitting here typing this, I can feel my heart pounding. There are people out there that black out and have dizzy spells with their PVC condition. I am lucky to not have experienced any black outs. I’m ready to feel better. This past Friday I had to go do pre-op blood-work and it was less than pleasant. My veins do not like needles and because of the issues I have, I can’t donate blood. So I did my blood-work, then 2 hours later the lab calls and says they didn’t get enough blood for the test and I need to go back! At this point my left arm is black and blue and I arrive back at the lab, only to hear they have no idea why I came back. After a few calls, they draw 3 more vials of blood from my other arm. I’m going to look nice later!
During my research of this procedure I came across a couple young women who also had catheter ablation done, and they recorded a video discussing their personal experience. This was very helpful for me and maybe afterward I’ll do a video myself. If my experience can help someone else or lessen their fears as these women did for me, then talking about my experience will be worth it. I’m praying God is with the doctors during my procedure and they are able to find and fix the problem without any complications.