Be Still.

Evening has settled.

A mellow breeze is dancing in and out my window bringing with it a cool tingle. I am still -still amazed at how every night since the procedure sleep has come after feeling steady steady heart beats. Falling asleep to the strong slow beets of my heart has given me great joy and reason to give thanks.

Before when I’d close my eyes I’d struggle to get that full chest breath and I’d feel the fluttering and irregular beats come and go. Not any more…

It’s funny though, this is such a common procedure in today’s world (the appendix removal of cardiology is how I once heard it described) but the impacts are still astounding. My entire left side – all the muscled of my chest and neck have relaxed. I have a new sense of calm as well. My heart feels freed. Amanda Lovato described it as if her “…heart was at peace” and yes I’d agree to that too.

Just like Amanda – I slept a lot. 10 -13 hours the first 4 nights after the procedure. I had my first swim back today (7 days post op) and was thrilled with how my body felt. I am happy to be easing back into sport. I want to give my body all the time it needs because I know now that hard days in sport will come, and that when they do my heart will be ready.

Thank you again for your love and support – for caring, helping, and rejoicing. I hope we will have more to celebrate down the road.

Aloha
Rae

It happened…

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

patches!!!

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…

stuckpatches

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.

Love,
Rae

P.S. – My favorite part about what the Doctor told me? I have a VERY healthy and very STRONG heart. YES!

Postponed

I wish I was writing an update on how things are going post procedure – but I’m not.

The Doctor contacted me on Wednesday to let me know that part of the operating table had broke and they would not be able to do my procedure on Thursday November 29th. I got the message at night after work and was very disappointed. BUT IT’S ALL OK! I am scheduled for NEXT Thursday December 6th – same time same place!

Since I had the day off from work, they day off from procedure recovery, AND because I have an amazing boyfriend who spent the better part of Thursday building and rerouting the cables on my TT bike…I got to ride! It was a gorgeous day!

IMG_0119I had a long ride, the kind you can just get lost in – especially on a day like today. I thought of many things and one in particular that came from a very dear friend… when I was moping about not being able to have my procedure on the scheduled day – saying how “everything was set up perfectly for this week! I had work arranged! I had my schedule covered…” She let me vent and then put a beautiful twist on it all:

“Rae” she said, ” Going in for the procedure is the easy part – you are ready for it – there is no challenge in it. The hard part is waiting. Life is just giving you an opportunity to grow and overcome challenges…and well it’s just a week!”

And you know what? She is right. So I through myself at arranging next week – picking up shifts this week and seeing what sort of training should or could take place between now and then. And I feel grate. I actually feel better about it being next week – I will go into it healthier (been fighting a cold this week) and even more grateful!

IMG_0118

As I soaked in the sun and cool air of my Friday long ride I gave thanks and cheers for all the wonderful people I am lucky to know. So much love and support has been sent my way and I feel every bit of it.

Love
Rae