EKG, Heart Ultrasound, Holter Monitor, and Beta Blockers?!

I definitely slept better last night. I was so thoroughly exhausted, I couldn't even make it through dinner. I managed to make it through a few bites of the food Francisco prepared, but I told him, I was just so tired, it was making me feel nauseous. I was in bed early and had a little bit of extra time to sleep in since my appointment with the cardiologist wasn't until 8:45. I was already feeling so much better - no more burning and tightness in my chest. I felt a bit like when you take your car into the mechanic but it's no longer making that worrying squeaking sound. :-P
They did another EKG, which again showed that I have Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) Syndrome. I rather liked my doctor that came in after the EKG was completed; he reminded me of John Malkovich. He seemed vaguely surprised that I just now had my first episode of WPW even though I've had my condition since birth. Now that we're so much more familiar with the symptoms, I realize that some of the incidents I had when I thought I had low blood sugar could have actually been less severe WPW episodes. There was a notable episode a couple of years back where I felt really dizzy and had a racing pulse as I was trying to get ready for work at Purdue. I almost skipped work and contemplated going to the emergency room, but my husband cut up a grapefruit with sugar for me, thinking it was my blood sugar, and I slowly felt well enough to go about my day.

Anyways, we remembered to ask the doctor the really important questions - like do I really, REALLY have to give up my morning coffee and um, occasional glass of wine? He said no, that wasn't necessary. The trigger for an episode is really just an extra heartbeat that occurs at an inopportune time and sends your heart racing. He didn't see a reason to cancel our trip, but he did want to run a few more tests and start me on a treatment before we leave the country.

He explained that he would likely refer me to an electrophysiologist at some point, a doctor who specializes in the heart’s timing, or electrical, system and on diagnosing and treating irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias. There is a procedure they can do called a cardiac ablation where they would enter long, flexible tubes through your leg veins and basically burn away the extra connector in my heart. *Gulp.* Burning any pieces of my heart just sounds kinda scary.

His first choice was to put me on a beta blocker, which he mentioned could help with general anxiety and headaches as well, so I'm willing to give this medicine a try. This will block the effects of adrenaline and allow my heart to beat more slowly and with less force. It may have a possible effect on my energy level though - he mentioned that that was its biggest side effect.

So, they did a heart ultrasound (echocardiogram), which involved laying uncomfortably on my side while the technician slid a microphone-like device (a transducer) around my chest area.  This allows reflected sound waves to provide a live picture of your heart and valves. I had to hold my breath and change positions a few times. It was kind of weird to hear the wet beating sound of my heart as she made audio recordings.

Then they stuck a bunch of electrodes on my chest and abdomen to hook me up to a 24-hour Holter monitor.  This monitor records my heart's electrical activity, and I was also instructed to keep a diary if I feel any symptoms.
I find it a little crazy that I've lived with this condition my entire life, and it's just now decided to rear its head. Less than 2 weeks before the biggest trip of my life! :-/ The doctor asked if I'd had issues as a teenager because a lot of people with WPW start having episodes then...but I don't remember anything significant. I turn in my heart monitor and diary tomorrow and then I have a follow-up appointment next week with the cardiologist to review the results from the monitor and ultrasound and assess my reaction to the beta blocker medication.

I've always taken fairly good care of myself and tried to lead a balanced lifestyle, and this is a scary reminder that some things are just completely out of your control. Sometimes you're just born that way. And sometimes you just have to find a way to live your life around these unfortunate conditions and find your own happiness regardless of any setbacks. So, I'm pretty bummed about this whole thing, but it's not the end of the world. It's a little scary and draining, but I'm just trying to take it one moment at a time and not stress too much about everything. 


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