Tuesday, July 20
I was planning on my next post being all about how much fun we had in Seattle, my getting patted down at security, and how happy we are to be home, but instead, it is going to be a bit more serious. On Saturday I woke up early, which is normal because my sleeping schedule was all messed up because I was in the midst of switching back to a day schedule after my week of night working. So I am awake and everyone else is sleeping, so I decided to read a book. While I am sitting there reading, I kept getting lightheaded, faint, like I was being sucked down from the inside, like the lights were dimming, and like I couldn't breathe (even though I was breathing just fine). After each little episode, it would take me a while to catch my breath and I would have a headache. At first I just kinda ignored it, but then it kept happening. It didn't matter if I was sitting, walking, or lying down. It just kept happening. By this time, everyone is awake and Randy knows that I am feeling weird. I am also trying to get the last of everything ready for a big activity that I had planned and had been working on for months at church. My nurse brain finally kicks in and I think, "this seems more like something cardiac." Meaning I think that something might be wrong with my heart. I decided to check my pulse and to monitor what is happening. My heart rate is low at 50-60, but that is okay because I am a runner and runners often have low heart rates, so I am unconcerned. Then I get another weird feeling and to my utter horror, my pulse stopped. I was assuming that my pulse would just become weak with these weird feelings, not stop. Weak pulse would be bad, stopped pulse is VERY bad. I am freaking out, but at the same time, I don't want to scare Randy. I explained to him what was happening and that I needed to go to the hospital. I also made him do a quick review of CPR, just in case. On the way to the hospital I dropped all of the stuff off for the activity with a good friend, so that she could run the activity if it took too long at the hospital and I wasn't able to make it back. I really did think that I would be able to just go get checked up, that something was problem wrong with my potassium or magnesium level, that I would get some replacement, and then they would send me home and have me check up with a cardiologist the next week. I was still in denial at how sick I really could be. In my denial, I decided to go to urgent care instead of the emergency department. At urgent care, I explained what was going on and they did an EKG (got a snap shot of what was electrically going on with my heart, which was normal by the way), but they don't draw blood, so they sent me to the ER. In the car, I told Randy that if they admitted me to the hospital that I would cry because the hospital is the last place I wanted to be. We got to the ER and Randy dropped me off at the door and then he went to park the car. I walk in and they immediately get me back (urgent care had called and told them I was on the way). It was nice to not have to wait, but that meant that I was already in an ER bed before Randy and Jolee had even walked in. When we really came to the understanding that I was going to be there a while, Randy took Jolee to a friend's house and they babysat Jolee so that Randy could be with me. In the mean time, I am by myself back in my ER room and I am hooked up to a continuous heart monitor (telemetry or tele). I have another weird feeling and I watch the monitor and see that I go into 3rd degree heart block, which mean that the top of my heart tries to tell the bottom of my heart to beat and the message doesn't get through, so my heart stops beating. As worried as I was about having my pulse stop, I am much more worried now that I know my heart actually stops beating for 3-8 seconds. Heart stopping is not very conducive with life and it is a much worse problem that I was even imagining as a possible problem. Like I said, I though some of my electrolytes were low and that I was having funny beats that don't pump blood well, which is why I wasn't feeling a pulse. This was very terrifying news. It also turned out that all of my labs were normal. The hospitalist (or main doctor) came to see me after he saw the 3rd degree heart block and told me I was being admitted to the hospital (yes I did cry) and that they were going to call a cardiologist to come a see me. I got to the tele floor (where they take care of all the people with sick hearts) wait for a bit, the cardiologist came and saw me and was shocked at how bad my heart rhythm was with the 3rd degree block and that I was very symptomatic (meaning, I felt awful whenever my heart did it's weird rhythm and stopped beating). He decided that only safe treatment would be a pacemaker and that I would get one in the morning or early afternoon the next day. It was already around 10 pm and I was stable enough that I didn't need it placed right that second. The next morning another cardiologist came to see me and he also said that I needed a pacemaker. He ended up being the doctor that placed my pacemaker. At 11:30 am I was taken down and they put my pacemaker in. I was still conscious during the procedure, but they gave me a bunch of medication to keep me calm and to keep the pain down. I actually remember most of it as I only fell asleep for a few minutes. I was allowed to go home the next day. I have a bunch of check ups over the next month, then I will have to go in for check ups at least every 6 months for the rest of my life. I am still getting used to the idea and the knowledge that I have a pacemaker and that without it, my heart was frequently stopping. They are still unsure what exactly caused this to happen. No normal cause of heart blocks fit my clinical picture. I am slowly starting to feel more like myself. I am not feeling like I am going to pass out anymore, but I can tell when I get paced, it is so weird. Within a month I will be back to normal. I will be able to play with Jolee, work, and even get back to running. I plan on running another half marathon in November or December. We are doing well. Jolee is thrilled to have Mommy and Daddy back. Randy and I are both thrilled that I am home and alive and that we don't have to worry about my heart stopping. Thanks to all those who were praying for us!