Morning came. Ben and I were up at 5:00. Ben ate breakfast and drank his coffee – I showered. We left for Straub.
Check in was a breeze. And soon we were prepping for the procedure
Those are all the sticky things they put on me. The big blue ones were “grounding pads” Ben joked that those were the ones they hook up to the lightening rod on top of the building…
I’ve never had so many sticky things on me in my life! I thought of my brother whom I love dearly – he told me that if I was really lucky something would go terribly wrong and I would come out with super powers… well Joe – it certainly looked like mad science in the making…
The room had a total of 8 monitor screens – I had a heater under my blankets (the room was arctic temp) and massive x-ray machines over my chest. My arms were strapped down and I was instructed to lie very very still. My nurse’s name was Lynn – she was incredible. She also happened to share the same name as my mother and I felt like life was giving me a wink.
Local anesthesia was injected – mild sedative – catheters in place (that was painful) – and boom. We were ready to roll.
Things started smoothly. They induced tachycardia right away – without any intravenous drugs – and they began to map. I was still with it though very dizzy and the most relaxed I’ve been in ages (wow pain killers) but I listened to every word the doctor and technicians said – I followed the foreign tech-doc gibberish like a hawk seeking prey. I wanted to know I wanted any bit of information about the progression that I could get.
And then, mid procedure I started to cry.
It could have been the mix of drugs in my system but I was scared by Dr. Chung’s words – the only few that I understood: “It’s not what I thought it was”. My heart was racing – pounding – the catheters in my groin were on fire and tears started to trickle at the thought of not being able to get this thing. Up until that point we were 80% sure this was an AV nodal-re-entry tachycardia (AVNRT) – which is (basically) an extra pathway to my AV node that causes a circuit – that circuit gets stuck ON in overdrive – causing the heart to beat continuously out of control. Dr. Chung explained he knew he could get rid of this if it was in a safe place.
When I heard it was not what he thought I got scared. What if they couldn’t get rid of it? What if it’s too messed up? What if What if What if….
But then, in the midst of the cardiac monitor beeps, the ISO streaming through my veins, and the nurse’s reassuring hand on my forehead – I stopped asking. I breathed.
I closed my eyes and focused.
I heard my Dad: “All of your family is sending lots of white light your way” – I saw my co-workers at lululemon with their positive smiles, DO IT NOW attitude, and their belief – I remembered my mother telling me: “it’s not worth it to focus on the negative” and I knew that Ben was waiting for me around the corner. I let the love of every person who has graced my life wash over me – soaking it in – and I breathed.
They ran more tests – inducing the tachycardia multiple times. To help figure out the rhythm they gave me an intravenous dose of adenosine
during an induced episode of tachycardia. It immediately subsided but I felt nauseous . My groin was burning and the nurse administered more pain medication to my IV – I started to fade and time was an unfamiliar passing. I could still feel my heart was beating arrhythmically and I listened and listened to the number speak between the doctor and technicians. Then Dr. Chung was at my side – “I’m going to burn”. Hot searing pain radiated in my heart and up and down my neck and arm. My heart rate stumbled – it went in and out of tachycardia. He burned again and this time something changed.
My heart was beating normally – It felt…different.
They attempted to induce tachycardia again and could not (they tried for over a half an hour). Dr. Chung then explained to me that I was going to rest for 30 minutes – they would clear my system of ISO (a drug that acts like adrenaline on the system) and attempt to induce again – “Some times the heart muscle is only stunned, we want to make sure it’s really gone”. After 30 minutes they attempted to induce – nothing. He performed 2-3 more “insurance” burns then they loaded me up with ISO for a final time and vigorously stimulated my heart – nothing.
During that final round I just waited – waited for the burst of rhythm and tachycardia to begin but only felt strong steady beats. It was almost as if that spot I had been wanting to rip out of my chest for the past month was finally gone – that my heart was freed.
After another half an hour or so (Dr. Chung later recapped the time for me) they stopped. I was done. The room was still and I heard one technician say “wow that was interesting”…
Turns out I had a very rare kind of arrhythmia – Focal right atrial tachycardia. Instead of a pathway it was one spot of irregular cells causing all this ruckus! AND it JUST HAPPENED to be in the spot that Dr. Chung would normally be at to ablate the rhythm he initially thought I had. Wow. WOW.
I still don’t fully believe it. He said there is a 5% chance of reoccurrence – that my heart could grow the abnormal cells back – but that now we know where it is so it would be easier to go back in. I meet with him in two weeks to check in. He says he feels good about it and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I did too.
So thank you. Thank you all for taking the time to read this and for your support. Thank you Ben – my best friend – my companion – I love you dearly and can not thank you enough for how much you have helped me through this.
Thank you for this chance. I am grateful- so very grateful – with all of my heart.
P.S. – My favorite part about what the Doctor told me? I have a VERY healthy and very STRONG heart. YES!