When you think of heart disease you probably imagine an overweight man in his 50’s clutching at his chest in pain. I imagine the same thing. I also imagine it won’t happen to me.
I’m 31 years young, female, relatively healthy and fit, I do
n’t drink and don’t smoke. Despite not ticking all the boxes for ‘heart disease factors‘, I took myself to the emergency department of my local hospital a few weeks ago because every sensible bone in my body was telling me something was wrong with my heart and the feeling was too strong to ignore.
For the past few months I had been having weird heart palpitations. It was a mis-beat every now and then, something I put down to having anxiety and nothing to worry about, so I ignored it.
Then it got worse.
A couple of weeks ago when I left work on the Tuesday the frequency increased, and by Saturday it hit hard. A constant wave after wave of mis-beats every eight to ten minutes and each time a cold feeling like adrenalin would wash over me. This happened constantly throughout the day. I felt dizzy and nauseous. Knowing basic first aid I knew these signs were not good so by 4pm I took myself to the emergency room of our local hospital.
I presented to the triage nurse and had been in the waiting room less than thirty minutes when my name was called. Most people know the going wait time in any emergency room is about four to six hours, to be seen within half an hour had me extremely worried (and weirdly relieved because I knew I was right).
Leaving my dignity at the door (after giving birth two and a half years ago I didn’t realise I had any left), I took off my mum bra that would make Bridget Jones’ underwear look like a Victoria’s Secret runway show, and the nurse stuck a variety of sticky pads to my torso, back and chest. Wires were connected to metal studs on the pads and I was asked to lie down on the bed while they monitored my heart on the ECG (electrocardiogram). I felt so stupid.
“A constant wave after wave of mis-beats every eight to ten minutes and each time a cold feeling like adrenalin would wash over me.”
I felt like I was wasting their time and I shouldn’t have been there. I’m 31 for goodness sake and really didn’t think I fit the profile of someone with a risk of heart disease.
I got upset because I felt terrible for wasting their time but as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. It still didn’t make me feel any less of an idiot though.
I was taken back to sit in the waiting area to wait for my results when it happened again. Bom bom, bom bom, booom booom booom, bom bom (that’s my interpretation of my heartbeat going crazy weird) then the cold wash came over me just as the nurse was walking towards me with my paperwork.
“Are you ok, you look pale?”
I didn’t have a chance to blink, I was hurried into emergency and connected to the ECG again. A male nurse talked me through what was happening “we’re going to keep you on this for as long as it takes to see what is going on.” I was beginning to worry and now my husband (who I left at home with my son) was sending me messages because I had been gone for so long.
I sent him the most flattering image I could muster and a text message with an explanation that I hoped wouldn’t have him worrying about me. .
Doctors came by every now and then to check the results. They could see the mis-beats on the machine recording the activity of my heart but they didn’t seem too concerned about it.
I was in hospital for four hours when I was finally diagnosed with premature arrhythmia. Premature arrhythmia is a result of caffeine, stress, nicotine or exertion. Apparently it isn’t serious and there isn’t much that can be done about it except take it easy and lay off the coffee (HA! did they forget I’m a mother of a two and a half year old boy?)
That said, the doctors said it wasn’t serious (but it sure feels serious to me). When it happens it’s all consuming, I can’t focus on what I’m doing because the sensation is so strong and I often feel dizzy. I’m currently waiting on a cardiologist appointment for further tests to either confirm or challenge my original diagnosis.
Although taking it easy when I have a toddler at home will be a challenge, as an advocate for mums to practice good self care, I will be making an effort to incorporate more exercise into my routine, be more mindful of what I eat and take time out for myself each day.