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August 30, 2009

just my stupid heart

by Andrea O'Connell

american heartThis is a follow up to my “Corporate American Heart” post.

This post will not be as much about insurance as it will be about the uncertainty of facing heart disease; and the repercussions of not paying attention to your health.

This is a very personal topic and story, but I want to tell it just the same.  Maybe reading about my stupidity will help someone else wake up, too.

I have been an ostrich when it comes to my health.  Well, maybe not an ostrich, more like Scarlett O’Hara: “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”  That type of attitude. 

Tomorrow is here.  

I had been nervous about my health for a few months, but I’d lulled myself into an invincible la-la land sort of self-apathy, I guess you could say.  I was too busy to stop and think.

Work, school, more work, blogging and burning the candle at both ends, literally.  I was so busy re-lighting the candle that the flame blinded me.  Then, as life is wont to do, it hit me head-long!  Flew in – whooosh!  and the little flames became a fire. 

So, yes.  This is a story about my stupidity.

A few months ago I got sick with a bad flu and went to the doctor with my hand out for antibiotics.  Doc said, “Not so fast, Andrea, your blood pressure is through the roof.”  I responded, “Is that so?”  “Correct,” says he. 

Well, I thought, it’s surely because I hate being in the doctor’s office.  So, I said,  “Well, it’s because I’m here, in your office, and you’re a doctor so I’m nervous.”  “Well, too bad Andrea”, says he, “here’s your antibiotics, and here’s a prescription to control the blood pressure.  I want to see you in a week.”  “Okay doc, thanks. Bye now” I said.  He says, “Nope, not so fast there, Andrea, because there’s something else that I don’t like, kiddo.  There’s a none too pretty growth there in your mouth.”  

Turns out, I have a huge cyst-like thing growing.  He says, “I don’t like the looks of it.”  He says, “You will see an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) and have it checked out?”  “Yes”, I promise him.

I got the antibiotic medication filled, went back to work, ignored the thing in my mouth, never filled the blood pressure prescription, and stuck my head back in the sand.  I never kept the follow up appointment with him either. 

I know, I know….I warned you about my stupidity. 

But the “thing” in my mouth was a concern.  So, I did see an ENT, though weeks later.

 The ENT said, “very common thing.”  It’s a result of years ago biting the back of my cheek.  And it all of a sudden, it started to grow into a huge ugly ulcer.  The ENT tells me that it’s nothing to worry about, but it’s very big and has to come out.   It protrudes out half an inch, and… well, let me spare you the details.  We need to surgically remove the damn thing.  So I say to the ENT, “Can we let it go, doc, for a little while?  I am too busy for this, okay?”   “Okay” he says, “for a little while.”

So a few weeks later, I got really sick with strep throat, and had to go back to see the doctor.  So, I say, “Can I just have a couple of antibiotics and call it a day, doc?”  He says, “We have a bigger problem – your blood pressure. Last time it was like 190 over 95,  now it’s 195 over 85.”  “Have you been taking your blood pressure medication”, he asks?   “No”, I admitted. 

Then he takes an EKG and insists I see a cardiologist.  Then, later I did keep my promise and I went back for another EKG.  Better results this time, but still concerns.    

Today my blood pressure is back to normal.  But, then I put my head back in the sand and kept putting off and putting off the visit to the cardiologist.  But, to their credit the cardiologist’s office called me every week to remind me to schedule my appointment.  So finally, I took time off of work, and got the Echocariogram, a stress test, and was given a 24 hour heart monitor to wear.  

I got the results last week.

The cardiologist tells me that echocariogram did not look bad, though I have a leaky valve. But, many people have this, he assures me, it is not cause for alarm. 

Okay, good. 

As for the stress test, it was okay as far as blood flow.  But, then, the cariologist, he gets up from his chair, puts his nose close to mine and says: “I don’t like this, Andrea.” He tells me, “Your stamina on the stress test is that of someone fifteen years older than you.”  He adds, “Do you have a death wish?” 

Snit.  I have not been exercising for the past year, it is true.  I spend my days and evenings in front of a computer.  He ordered me to excercise, or else.

Then he moves on to discuss the heart monitor results.  (I wore this heart monitor, called a “Holter” for 24 hours.) 

He says, in short, my heart rhythms are out of sync, are somewhat suspect, some abnormality.  But, not cause for immediate alarm, he says.  However, he insists that I see a “electrophysiologist” (this is a cardiologist with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders).

His concern is to rule out what is called “Ventricular Tachycardia.”

My cardiologist believes I am not in immediate danger, and that I have the treatable version of Tachycardia called PAT, short for Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia.   The electrophyiologist, I am told, will want to hook me up to another heart monitor – for a longer period of time and see what’s really going on. 

This phase all starts next week. 

I’ll keep you posted. 

I have recovered from stupidity, by the way. (A recovering Stupido.)

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