[Oct 2012] Heart Condition

I don’t know where to start. With the facts maybe. Yesterday evening I played a 40-minutes-long soccer match in freezing cold. Then I came home with my girlfriend, and a few hours after the match I was doing the dishes, when my heart made a few consecutive strange palpitatations. I ran out into the bathroom to wash my dirty hands. By the time I got back to the room, I was already in sheer panic. I laid down on my bed and tried to calm myself. It seemed like it worked, but my palpitations continued, and didn’t seem to ever stop. I sat up on the bed, but my pulse rate was already around 120-150 per minute, and my heartbeat was really strange, shallow and irregular. I started trembling with fear. With fear of death. Then I jumped up, because I couldn’t just sit still, and started to walk up and down the apartment. I started feeling stiffness in my arms. This was the point when I told my girlfriend – who just stared at me frightened – to call an ambulance.

By the time they arrived, I was still in shock and out of my mind. I was still shaking, but my heart rhythm went back to somewhat normal. They layed me down on the bed, and put an ECG on me. They had to wait to measure anything, because I was shaking, and it messed up the signals. Finally they could examine me, and it was already alright. Just like always, when I am on an ECG. I feared that they will be upset about the false alarm, but they were really understanding and supporting, and the lady-doctor suggested to me to visit a cardiologist and talk to him about my symptoms. I couldn’t sleep for hours after they left, no matter how tired I was. I still felt one-or two palpitations, and every single one of the scared me to death, until I could finally fell asleep.

This morning I didn’t want to get out of bed, I just wanted to hide from the world and from my problems. I cancelled all my programs for the day, including my work duties and my soccer match in the evening, and went back to bed. I got out of bed at noon, then I tried to make an appointment to a cardiologist for a full-examination, but they didn’t have time for weeks, so I just gave it up. I sat into my car with my girlfriend, and went straight to the hospital, where I had my ablation surgery for years ago. I went right into the cardiology department, where there is no public patient reception at all, but I was determined and lucky enough to meet the professor who made my surgery back then. I told him about my experiences from last night. He examined me (everything was alright of course) and told me that I might have had an atrial fibrillation, because my papers said that they could produce something like that during my surgery, and it could be resolved, but only with a more complicated surgery, so they just ignored it back then. This was big news for me, and not necessarily bad, because it gave me some explanation and a possible solution, which is much more then nothing. Then he escorted me to a lady to fix an appointment to a stress ECG, and a 24-hour Holter monitor. I consider this a day with a leap forward.

My problem with this whole issue is, that it completely undermines my confidence, my safety-feeling and my normal life. This is the time when I really understand that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a very real and palpable thing. We are wired factory-made to ignore all our higher needs when one of our lower needs suffer. I would be alright with this, if I have to deal with some lower-level problems sometimes, like hunger and safety, and I can concentrate solely on those when this happens. But this is not the case for me. I am just trying to live a normal life, with all my higher needs, like self-realization in my work or my sexual needs in my private life. But from time and again, all of a sudden, my heart just unexpectedly interrupts my life completely and turns everything upside-down, without any sign or any apparent reason. I build up something, some confidence, and some feeling of safety, some positive self-image, that suddenly falls apart, whenever fear of death comes and walks all over me. When this happens, all my other needs, wants and efforts seem insignificant and futile, everything just fades away, and only fear remains, and the hard work to build everything back up, to be able to believe again, that I am safe and alright. Then comes the next incident, and everything loses its meaning again, and I am just fighting and praying for my life inside my head. This is really awfully horrible, I can tell you! It is just killing me in the long run, and destroys all my “higher-level” efforts, plans and desires. How can I build a career like this? How can I build relationships, when everything can fall apart from one moment to the next? This is terribly difficult!

And on top of it, I still don’t really know how I should relate to all my heart issues. I like to see the goals cleary in front of my eyes, and then to work on reaching them. But what should be my goal now? What should I fight for? Should I work on learning to live with my heart problems, do sport and live a full life? Or should I work on accepting my heart conditions and give up sport and live with a limited life happily? I think I would be able to live with any of these, but not both! They are fundamentally different paths, and no one could really tell me which one I should choose. Now this is what’s really bothering me!

All that said, today I made a step towards the day, where I will be able to decide which road to walk. I want to somehow record my arrhythmias with some ECG device and show it to a doctor, so he can tell me what to do with my life.

I had quite a dream last night. The cause of it is not really hard to figure out. I was on my stress ECG examination, scheduled for next Monday. There was this really kind and nice middle-aged lady, who I had already met last time. I was already wired, and I was asked to make some pushups. I started to do it, but I felt that I was just not able to do it. Or rather I could do it, but it was incredibly difficult. I felt weakness, as if all my strength had left me. The lady kept on saying that I am doing great, and I am very strong, and I kept on saying that this is no good, I used to be much better, and I don’t know what’s happening to me. Then I saw her talking to someone else, and she was just barely watching me. I tried to gather all my energy, and tried to keep on pushing, but it was more and more difficult. Then I felt I am barely able to just keep myself up, so I made one last huge effort, when I felt an enormous explosion in my chest. My heart just blew up. I fell down on the floor, while I was hearing clearly and loudly the very last beats of my heart in my ears. Everything started to go black. First I felt kind of a relief, that my worst fear, that I had feared for years, just happend at last, and I was finally over it. Besides, it happened at the best possible time and place, because here I am in good hands, where they take care of me. I thought now they will help and rescue me, and finally all my problems will be solved, and all my fears will be gone. I looked up, and to my biggest surprise I saw the nurse panic and pass out. She was looking right into my eyes, and I saw her frightened face, while she was leaning to the wall and slowly sliding down to the floor. I knew right away, that my heart is going to stop, and with the lady passed out, no one will find and save me, and by the time someone will come around, I will already be dead, irreversibly. I started looking with my eyes for the person that the lady had talked to, but he was already gone. But the door seemed to be slightly open, so I tried to shout with all my power left. “Help!” But my throat gave no sound at all. Then I gave it one more try, but there was nothing again. Then I heard my last two or three heartbeats in my head, and I collapsed for once and for all, and closed my eyes. My heart stopped and everything was all over. In this moment I was startled out of my sleep. It was already past 9, and broad daylight. I started my day in a very unsettled mood…

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