At the end of May, my boss finally realized that I wasn’t joking, faking, or making up my condition when I was more than 30 minutes late to work one morning (that pesky exhaustion) and couldn’t focus on our conversation. She did a quick CYA and realized I was likely a liability driving around on company time, trying to sell ads and being in the office alone when I was at a serious risk for a stroke. (I’ll come back to all of that at a later date because I feel it’s going to need a revisit.)
I was sent immediately (after putting in a full day’s work instead of being sent home of course) to the walk-in clinic to get a medical release to work signed before I could come back to work the next day. Except, SURPRISE! A blood pressure of 174 over 90 doesn’t get you approved for work. It gets you sent home with explicit instructions of do not work, do not pass Go and collect $200.
Blurry, confused, and just plain pooped
The next couple of weeks were a blur. I slept a lot and let the daughter chauffer me around town whenever she could or I’d let her. I had grand ideas and plans but never acted on any of them because I felt like I was walking around with a baby hippo strapped to my chest.
It was getting increasingly harder to focus, to sleep (I was so uncomfortable), to eat (I’d get the hiccups), carry on a conversation without running out of breath or forgetting what I’d just said, or mundane tasks like folding laundry or grocery shopping, without the baby hippo jumping up and sitting square on my chest. My vision was blurry and it seemed as though my glasses had stopped working. Dizziness came in waves, though thankfully not while driving.
I began to ration out my energy: If I went to the grocery store then I wouldn’t have any energy to do laundry. If I drove back and forth (30 plus minutes each way) to take kid(s) to work, I wouldn’t have the energy to make dinner.
I even bargained with my brain: If you go to baseball practice and sit in the van instead of dragging your chair and blanket to the field to watch, then that will give you enough energy to be able to stay awake and drive back into town to pick up E from work at midnight. It sucked that I missed games and practices but staying awake while driving seemed important.
Every physical task or event, had the potential to wipe me out for the rest of the day and into the next one. But it wasn’t just the lack of energy and exhaustion; the random heart pounding and shortness of breath from walking to one room or another, (getting dressed, undressed, showering, or even climbing into bed at night) that was an added bonus to the baby hippo I was carrying around.
Like Windows Vista only worse
By the time my doctor’s appointment rolled around I was running on what my brother and sister both called, “low power mode”. It made sense actually; I was like a computer with too many tabs open. I was running so slow that my system literally had to decide which applications got priority and only ran one at a time. I was probably thisclose to the blue screen of death.
At first the Electrophysiologist (EP doctor) said I wasn’t “exhibiting signs of AFib” but my husband disagreed and told him I couldn’t walk with him in a grocery store. I would trail behind by four feet or more and when I caught up, I’d be out of breath.
The EP doctor and I planned for me to take the results of the Echocardiogram as well as my pacemaker transmission and EKG and send them on to Columbus where I’d be followed. The EP agreed with previous doctors’ opinions that Anchorage was not able to handle my condition on a regular basis and that I’d have to go outside of the state for the kind of care I needed. He also said that even he would have to consult with a specialist in Seattle on my case.
Change of plans
While on our way home from Anchorage, we got a call from the EP’s office. He wanted to “change the urgency” of the plan. By the time I had gotten that message, his office had closed. He had started to tell my voicemail some pretty important information and then thought better of it and just asked me to call in the morning.
The next morning, the EP’s office called again and let me know that the doctor wanted to do a cardioversion ASAP (in which I get a low dose shock with the paddles, YES THOSE PADDLES, back into a normal heart rhythm). Their exact words were, “If we could do it this weekend, we would.” I had all of my records faxed to Columbus because I really didn’t want the cracktastic team in Anchorage to shock me back into rhythm. I wanted to go HOME.
But home wouldn’t have me. It was too dangerous to fly. Having not even started on blood thinners, high blood pressure, heart failure and AFib, I was the last person who should get on a plane. Plus, there was the urgency that getting me out of AFib needed to happen sooner than later and there was no telling when Columbus could get me on the schedule.
However, they were happy to go over all of the results with me (which Anchorage didn’t do and instead just scared the living bejesus out of me) and told me that my heart function was down to 30 percent. They may have added something about not being alarmed or scared when they told me I was being put on heart failure medication but by then I was googling “Ejection Fraction” and “heart function” and found out that according to the Cleveland Clinic, 30 percent meant heart failure.
Fuck. I’m in heart failure
I guess the good news in that was that heart failure can be “episodic” which means I can go in and out of it. I already knew this and it didn’t make me feel better. I think I was also supposed to feel better when the nurse practioner for my cardiologist’s office in Columbus told me that Anchorage was doing exactly what they would do if I was at home and being treated there, but I didn’t quite have that warm and fuzzy feeling just yet. Because MotherFing heart failure.
I think, as cardioversions go, that mine was rather uneventful. I was hella nervous, scared of being conscious for the zapping, or hearing someone yell “CLEAR” before taking a jolt to the chest, and freaked the Fuck out over the scope they were sending down my throat for the esophageal echocardiogram to make sure I didn’t have any blood clots prior to zapping me.
I spent that morning begging friends to make me laugh with awful jokes and it worked. My nurse laughed as she tried to fillet my vein getting an IV in me and even the hubby laughed at a few.
But the high point was as the Propofol started kicking in and before they put the scope down my throat, I requested that as much as I loved a good drunk monkey, that none be in charge of zapping my heart. My EP was clearly confused and I had to explain the alcoholic monkey from Dr. Doolittle to him with a very numb mouth and throat from the lidocaine I had just finished gargling.
The baby hippo still shows up. Sometimes he’s with me with an hour or so and other times he gets comfy in his babybjorn baby carrier, all intent on hanging out for awhile and whispers things in my ear about overdoing it and then we lay down and take a break.
Better than coffee
Tomorrow will be four weeks post cardioversion. It’s amazing what a set of paddles will do to get you going. Since the cardioversion, I’ve slowly regained energy, became more conscious of my triggers (more on that in another post), and learned when to say Fuck this shit and let things go undone when I cannot deal anymore. It’s amazing that I felt so bad for so long and just dismissed it to shit situations and work.
Oh and fear not, I have a way of making recovery exciting.