So I'm having heart surgery tomorrow, a fact which all of my friends and proffessors are aware of seeing as I'm going to be missing a week of classes! As awful as a week of makeup work is, the actual prospect of heart surgery is pretty freaking scary too - especially seeing as I just turned 20. Like I thought heart surgery was just for the over 50 crowd. I guess 20 is the new 50? Whatever. (I do this thing where I joke about stuff that's serious to make it seem like I'm not freaking out..... don't let it fool you, I'm TOTALLY freaking out. Like ... a lot.)
Anyway I figured I'd write a blog post explaining why I'm getting heart surgery at 1pm tomorrow and what exactly it is. First off, when I was 14 years old I was diagnosed with 2nd Degree Heart Block which essentially meant that my heart ventricules were not communicating properly with one another and as such I had a very irregular heartbeat with all kinds of skipping, resulting in an average resting heart rate of around 40, which is half of a healthy, average person's heart. This was not very dangerous, showed up randomly and didn't affect how my heart performed with things like excersizing, etc. It was monitored with an EKG and an overnight heart monitor every 6 months, and didn't change much except when I went through a period of not eating enough, when it slowed down even further and for a short time I was diagnosed with 3rd Degree or Complete Heart Block, which is quite fatal. (I started eating more after that wakeup call!)
Anyway, since then nothing much has happened with my heart. I turned 18 and switched around to find a good adult cardiologist. I saw a new one justthis summer. She squinted at my EKG and immediately said "You have WPW." I had never heard of that and was quite confused. The cardiologist explained that it was an electrical issue. Usually, electrical impulses flow one way through one part of the heart into the next, a one-way little doorway. With WPW, there is an extra little doorway which the electrical impulses occasionally get confused and go through the wrong direction, resulting in too many impulses going around and around in one place. She sent me to an electrical specialist, who confirmed the diagnosis and informed me of a symptom I'd never heard of before: Tachycardia, which sounds like a dinosaur but is really just a rapid heartbeat caused by the circling electrical impulses, which can happen at random. He said that I should look at getting a "diagnostic procedure" in the next 6 months or so. I discussed things with my parents and, as it was a new cardiologist and a new diagnosis, they wanted a second opinion. Over the next 6 months I started noticing a tachycardia about once a month. My chest would hurt a lot, I would feel extremely anxious and usually cry, need to lie down and relax and wait for my heart to stop pounding out of nowhere. Several times it lasted for over an hour. My boyfriend did some research on the subject and eventually blurted out that there was a 15% chance of me going into cardiac arrest during one of those episodes, which only caused me more anxiety! Finally, in December, I reminded my parents that I needed a follow-up cardiologist appointment.
The second opinion of the cardiologist was much more abrasive than the first cardiologist. Like the others, she immediately pointed out the WPW on my EKG and asked me about how often I had tachycardias, expressing shock and alarm when I told her about once a month. She used the terms "playing with fire" told my mother that if it were her daughter, she would get the diagnostic procedure done immediately, and that our vacation to california the following week to visit family would have to wait. The words "cardiac arrest" were also mentioned several times. Scared shitless, my family cancelled the trip and attempted to schedule the Catheter Ablation Procedure, a diagnostic procedure that was actually a lot more serious than it sounded at first. Basically it is a 4-8 hour procedure that involves going in through the main artery in my groin, poking around my heart and checking out what the heck is up with it. After that I'll need to stay completely immobile for 24 hours and then rest for about a week. Because the procedure involves so much, we weren't able to schedule it over my Christmas break and it got pushed back to this weekend.
Here's the really fun part though: my little collection of heart deficiencies (I also have a murmur and some other random stuff) is apparently extremely rare. I don't know why, exactly, but apparently it is. Also, I was apparently born with WPW, but nobody noticed somehow (????) until this past summer, and the symptoms just randomly showed up more and more frequently this semester, which is strange. Every cardiologist I've seen gets really excited over my records and nerds out trying to figure out what the heck is up with this strange irregularity, which is flattering but also weird. The other thing is that my procedure is TOTALLY not predicatable. There are 3 possible endings to tomorrow: 1) they poke around, figure out the problem, come out without any problem and I can take medication to fix things. 2) They poke around, realize they can fix the issue while they're in there, and fix it. 3) They poke around, realize I'm totally fucked, and put in a pacemaker at the last minute. I won't know what happened until I wake up after the procedure. I might have a pacemaker. I just have to wait and see.
So basically I'm super freaked out. My sweet boyfriend came down for the week to help take care of me with my parents. He bought me cupcakes and roses this weekend because I was freaking out about everything (collective awww!) Hopefully it will be OK.... I'll just sit around in my pink polka dotted robe watching movies for a week! Anyway, wish me luck.