The month of October is Cardiac Arrest Awareness month and I thought I would share information the American Heart Association posted regarding the differences between cardiac arrest and a heart attack.
What's that saying about three times being a charm? Well, what if it is the forth. . . actually, now that I think about it, I believe this may have been my fifth time being cardioverted; however, hopefully this time it really does work like a charm. Fingers and toes crossed.
I'm pretty sure I've already mentioned what a cardioversion is, but to remind those whom may be reading this blog; Wikipedia states, "A cardioversion is a medical procedure by which an abnormally fast heart rate (tachycardia) or cardiac arrhythmia is converted to normal rhythm using electricity or drugs."
So last week, I had an appointment with my cardiologist, and after reading my EKG, he informed me, I was back in a-fib. Ugh! Again? Really? Back in December, I had an invasive procedure know as an catheter ablation. I hope never to have to go through that procedure again. However, in April, and again just yesterday, I arrived at the hospital so doctors could "shock" my heart out of this atrial fibrillation rhythm.
A cardioversion isn't too bad of an experience. The hardest and longest part is the "hurry up and wait" portion. Starting at midnight the night before I had to stop eating. Okay. Check. Then the next day, Ed and I drove to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. We left early, because weather was just awful - a real gully-washer and heavy winds. We did not want to get stuck in traffic and for me to be late thus missing having the procedure done. We arrived at the hospital with plenty of time to spare - I was scheduled for a blood draw at 2:00 pm. Then after the blood draw, I checked in with the day surgery center, where I was asked more questions then I would have been asked if I was applying for a car loan. We were early, so we had a bit of a wait in the waiting room, but finally I was called back. I was then lead through a set of double doors, forced to step on a scale (which of course lied to me). then steered into a small room, and told to put on the ever-so-stylish hospital gown. A few minutes later, the nurse started an IV. Of course, my veins were being as stubborn as I was, so she had to use a heat pack to get them to come to the surface. It also did not help I had not eaten or drank anything in 18-hours, so I was dehydrated. After starting the IV, the nurse asked more questions and took my vitals. Fifteen to twenty minutes later, an orderly arrived to wheel me down to the procedure room. I immediately recognized the cardioversion machine (which looks very similar to a crash cart if you ever watch medical dramas) and the large drug box sitting in the corner that looks vaguely similar to a Sears Craftsman Tool box.
Once wheeled into the room, a nurse took my vitals and hooked me up to a heart monitor, followed by placing electrode pads on my chest and back. Damn, are they cold! This is where the "hurry up and wait" portion begins, as we wait for all the players to cram into a tiny 10 by 10 room. Two by two, with hands of blue, they finally arrived, all simultaneously asking me questions and telling me what their roles were. Then one of the cardiologists gave me a run-down of the risks involved. Geez Doc, trying to freak me out? I know, I know, they have to do it. Finally, one anesthesiologist put an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth telling me to take deep breaths, while another shot a sleeping agent into the IV, and within seconds, I was out for the count.
The pads on my chest and back are connected by cables to the cardioversion machine which has a combined function of an EKG display and the electrical function of a defibrillator. Then while under, a reversion shock is delivered (200 joules) and about five minutes later, the nurse is waking me up, telling me everything went well, and I was back in normal sinus rhythm. Yay!
Then I was rolled back to the surgery center, given another set of vitals, the nurse removed my IV, and I was told I could get dressed and go home. Of course, no driving or operating heavy machinery. Dang it! I was so looking forward to digging a ditch tonight. For my troubles, I received a small burn tattoo the shape of a russet potato from the heat off the electrode pad. Oh well, what I get for being fair skinned and it does fade after a couple days.
Doctors are not sure why my heart keeps going into a-fib, as I am younger then most patients they see. However, my heart does. We also made an executive decision, if this cardioversion does not take, we will no longer chase down the rhythm. I will just learn to live with it. Other then some fatigue, I usually can't tell I am in a-fib (I am asymptomatic) and obviously my heart just does not want to stay in normal sinus rhythm. I've always been told I beat the drum to my own rhythm.
A friend posted this on my Facebook wall and I had to chuckle. I think this is a fantastic and humorous video that explains several different types of heart rhythms and arrhythmias through interpretive dance. Fantastic! Cardiologists with sense of humor!
On Monday, I was honored to award the two Point Bonita YMCA employees who saved my life back in June with the American Heart Association HeartSaver Hero award. I was so happy to finally meet them and they were just beyond thrilled to see me. . . alive. My good friend, Mary, had the perfect word to describe the whole affair. . . surreal. Oh my goodness, was it ever surreal. Here everyone from the YMCA staff to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Rangers who assisted in saving my life talking about events of that day and I knew they were talking about me, but it didn't feel like it was me. Like I was there, but I wasn't there. If that makes any sense.
I have to admit, I was super nervous about getting up there and reliving my story, especially since much of it I do not remember. It was a good and well attended event and it was a huge honor to present these men with their awards. Then following the presentation, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association asked if I would repeat my tale in Seattle - date and time to be determined. Egads!
I am so thankful to still be here, and incredibly grateful to Ed, who recognized the signs of me going into cardiac arrest. Then to Pete and Jesse who stepped up and did what they had to do to keep me alive. They did not know me, but that did not matter to them. I feel I will have a special bond with them for the rest of my life. They truly are my #YHeroes. Then to the rest of the YMCA staff who assisted in many ways and made Ed and I feel at home, and to Mary Perkins, who reached out to us, letting us know about this event. Again, just so glad I was able to witness the recognition they so rightfully deserved. Also incredibly thankful to the Ranger Eddy and Ranger Gibbs who also performed CPR on me and got me breathing on my own even before paramedics arrived. And of course, to Marin County Fire Department and Southern Marin County Fire Department and the doctors and staff at Marin County Hospital.
Not very many people can say they have survived a cardiac arrest and without the quick action of Pete and Jesse, I would have never survived my second attack. Thanks for being there guys! And I can't stress enough those who are reading this, if you have not learned CPR, do it! Seconds really do count.
Interview on channel 7 (ABC) - San Francisco: Cardiac Arrest Victims Thank Rescuers For Saving Them With CPR
Had a referral to see an electrophysiologist last week to discuss whether or not I was a candidate for catheter ablation, because I have gone back into atrial fibrillation again and the cardioversion (where the doctor uses a defibrillator to shock the heart back into normal rhythm) is not keeping me in normal sinus rhythm. A few weeks ago, I had an echo-cardiogram and based on the results, we can go ahead with this procedure. My other choice is to do nothing, continue to take beta blockers and a baby Aspirin everyday; however, someday, I will have to go back to being on blood thinners. The main symptom I have been struggling with extreme exhaustion. I am tired all the time and just don't seem to have any energy to do anything. Not that I am too thrilled to have this procedure done.
With a catheter ablation, the doctor places a series of catheters into the thigh that goes into the blood vessels and is advanced to the heart. Then they "freeze" or terminate a faulty electrical pathway from sections of the heart.
Catheter ablation of most arrhythmia has an extremely high success rate; however, because of my history, and length of time I have been in a-fib, the doctor estimates a 60% chance he would have to do this procedure again in a year or two. I was really hoping for better numbers.
It's a fairly invasive medical procedure. Nonetheless, I would only have to send one night in the hospital under observation and he said I should be able to resume normal activity in about a week. I am not too thrilled about having to go back on blood thinners for several weeks before the procedure and for a period of two months after. I will also need a CT scan in the next few weeks. Nor do I really like the idea of doctors poking and prodding in my heart. However, after weighing the pros and cons all week long and I think I have decided to go for it.
It’s been a mixed-bag sort of month. The family drove to northern Idaho to visit Ed’s mother. We had a good visit and a wonderful, appetizing, home cooked Thanksgiving dinner. The following evening, we had dinner with Ed’s older sister and her family, and on Saturday, we spent the night with his younger sister and her youngest daughter. We don’t get to visit with his family very often, so it was a good trip all around. I was able to work on some genealogy, too. The weather cooperated for us, which was good, even though we spent a little extra money to rent an SUV—just in case we ran into some bad weather heading over the mountain passes. Thank goodness we safely made it to our destination and back home again.
Today is my husband and my 20th Anniversary. We were married on a beautiful, sunny June afternoon in the rose garden, overlooking the Willamette River. I remember being so nervous, I could not stop shaking, even when he took my hand in his. We were married for better or worse, for rich or poor, in sickness and in health.
Unfortunately, we’ve had more than our share of sickness than health; however, I am eternally grateful my husband, Ed, knows CPR and saved my life back in 1994. For the most part, I have been a fairly healthy individual. My obstetrician told me I was his most healthy high-risk pregnant woman he had back when I was expecting.
"Hey. . . it's me."
I live in the shadows of the Olympic Mountains, in the State of Washington and I love camping, boating, hiking, and hanging out with my husband, our three boys, and two Bernese Mountain dogs.