Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Hearty Update

I had an insanely early appointment with the cardiologist this morning. It was my first visit to his office and I was extremely anxious, not only slightly afraid of what he had to tell me, but also being able to find the office building amidst downtown's hectic rush hour traffic. Luckily it didn't take much coaxing from me for Jon to wake up at dawn and come along for the ride. And I'm extremely glad he did as I may have ended up in Columbus without him. I don't have my best sense of direction when unfamiliar territory is mixed with one-way streets, construction cones galore, and bumper-to-bumper vehicles.

The waiting room was uninhabited when we first arrived, only proving that I did, in fact, have the first appointment of the day. The good thing about all of this was how quickly I was checked in and taken back to see the doctor. I was weighed, placed on a table while my blood pressure and pulse were taken, and then Jon and I were left facing each other in a small 9x9 room to yawn at one another. We passed the time by discussing the very "doctor's office" paintings and ignoring my unnecessary nervous twitches. (I credited most of my nervousness to never having been to this office and not knowing the staff but mostly I was nervous because I didn't know why I was nervous. It was weird and I think I was very tired.)

The cardiologist entered, armed with a thick folder full of my test results from the hospital, obviously analyzed, labeled and filed. He introduced himself as Dr. Smith and pulled out the stethoscope. After some deep breathing on my part, he rested on his doctor's stool and pulled a pen from the pocket of his white coat. "Describe what you are feeling to me."

"Well, first it feels like my heart is skipping a beat, and then as if to compensate, I feel one extra large beat afterward."

I don't know anything about the heart aside from the fact that I take it for granted. I go through my day expecting it to do its whole ba-bump, ba-bump and keep the blood flowing. While I understand what they are, chambers and valves are mostly alien to me. I felt like an idiot trying to describe the feelings to him but he looked back at me with perfect understanding. "It's interesting that you would describe it like that because that is almost exactly what is happening."

He proceeded to show me a printout of my EKG test and exactly where the abnormalities were while he explained it all. "Do you see how all of these beats are uniform except for the ones at the end? Well, what's happening is your electrical system is prematurely filling your heart with blood all through the long pause that you feel, and because there is more blood than in a regular heartbeat you feel that extra large beat."

Ah, now it makes sense. He agrees with the hospital that this is nothing serious pending an ultrasound of my heart to verify that the heart and all components are working correctly. He did not have a reason for them to begin at such a young age without previous heart or blood pressure complications but he said it was fairly common and nothing to be too concerned about. I am supposed to avoid caffeine and stress of all kinds (which should be interesting) and continue with my new, healthy life style. Surprisingly, there are medications that will help make the PVC's less frequent but he wanted to use them as a last resort; I guess the side effects of the blood thinning medicines are often worse than the original discomforts of a skipped heartbeat.

"Is this something that will begin to heal itself with time?"

"No. It is one of those things you will learn to live with. If the pain or discomfort becomes too much we will try the medications. You'll be fine."

Okay. If you say so.

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