Well that was fun.
First of all, yes, I’m fine. No really.
Last night around midnight, as I’m dead asleep, I hear a loud knock that jolts me awake. Maddie, who has been sick for the past week, was awake and knocked on her door to get out. I jumped out of bed, tended to her and tucked her back in. I crawled back into my bed but couldn’t fall asleep. My heart was racing. I couldn’t breathe. I’m not prone to anxiety attacks but assumed this is what they feel like. I laid there wide eyed, trying to slow my breath and heart rate. Eventually I fell back asleep, but when I awoke to my alarm this morning the fluttering feeling in my chest and shortness of breath remained. I continued to get ready, albeit much slower than usual. Luckily, I work for an awesome company with an onsite Health Clinic so I decided to just stop in first thing and have it checked out.
Arriving at work, I realize I have to slow my usual speedy walking pace because I just can’t breathe. I even bypassed the stairs and took the elevator to the sixth floor. That’s when I realized something was really wrong. At 8:00 I headed down to the clinic (again in the elevator) and informed the receptionist of my symptoms. She advised me they didn’t have any openings until Monday but that she would send the nurse a note. I knew I couldn’t wait until Monday but wasn’t sure what else to do so I headed back up to my desk. Typically I use a standing desk but not this morning.
I opened up my calendar and canceled my 11:00 appointment with the walking desk. My teammate Adam asked if I planned to attend the noon workout session; I sadly declined. I just wasn’t feeling right. At about 10:00 the nurse finally called and asked what was going on. I reiterated my symptoms and she said, “you need to go to the ER. Have someone drive you there. Can you do that?” Hesitantly I told her I could. I called Bill and explained the situation. We decided I should drive back to Lawrence and go to LMH, promising to pull over if I felt lightheaded.
On the hour drive home (I know, I know) I effectively worked myself into a frenzy. “What could be wrong? Am I having a heart attack? What if it’s nothing and they just think I’m crazy? What if my heart explodes right now?” By the time I pulled up to the ER I could barely breathe and my fingers were starting to tingle. I told the triage nurse my symptoms and he immediately gave me a paper to sign, a wristband and started taking my pulse. After checking my vitals – which were “textbook perfect” – they took me to a room and readied me for an EKG. Almost immediately after connecting the EKG they identified my irregular heartbeat as Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVC).
The nurse and doctor hit me with a barrage of questions. “Do you smoke?” No. “Do you do any street drugs?” Hell no. “Do you have a history of chest pains?” No, but there is heart disease in my family. “Do you drink a lot of caffeine?” Nope, gave up caffeine months ago. “Are you on any medications? Had any surgeries? Have a history of anxiety attacks?” Vitamins, tubes in my ear when I was 6, and no. “Did you take any supplements to lose weight?” No sir, did that with old fashioned diet and exercise.
They decided to do blood work and ordered a chest x-ray, both of which came back 100% normal. I think the doctor even used the term “stellar” to describe my labs. Good news! I’m not having a heart attack! Apparently PVC, when not caused by underlying disease or environmental triggers like smoking, is pretty harmless. Annoying as hell and makes you feel like you’re suffocating but it’s not actually damaging to the heart.
Prognosis? Follow up with my primary care physician next week for a possible heart ultrasound. If it continues or worsens there are medications that can help, but as this is my first experience and I’m otherwise healthy the doctor wants to hold off and see if it just goes away. In the meantime, I’m supposed to resume normal activity (walking is fine, but cool it on the workout classes), avoid caffeine (easy) and chocolate (BOO) and watch my stress levels (how exactly does one do that?)
See, I told you I was fine.