What I learned from a potentially heart-stopping situation
May 17, 2023
If you read regularly, you know that we had a rather complicated trip to Hawaii in February. (If you haven’t read it yet, here’sthat story.)
But that wasn’t the whole story. So here’s the rest of the story.
Around the time our friends got sick and one died, I noticed heart palpitations. Skipped beats. Not exactly heart-stopping, but still troublesome.
Some 25 years ago same thing happened, sending me to a cardiologist. After I wore a Holter monitor for a couple weeks, he determined there was nothing wrong. It fell in the category of shiz happens, and it disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared.
Why is this happening again?
This time, though, it didn’t exactly disappear. It got worse. I figured it was stress. And after a few weeks it went away, then returned. And while we were in Hawaii, seemed to completely disappear.
And then, back at home, palpitations reappeared, like an old friend. But not. Maybe two or three skipped beats a minute. Sometimes very very noticeable. Using our pulse oximeter, I checked my heart’s rhythm and yes, I was skipping beats.
Ostrich. Like me.
I saw my internist. Three months later. I know, I know: I know better. But sometimes, I am an ostrich, head in the sand.
“Oh yes, I feel the skips on your pulse,” she said. Her tech did an EKG and drew blood, then she sent me down the street to the cardiology practice we use. Like, within 30 minutes. There, I got fitted for a Zeos monitor to record my heart rhythms for a week.
The diagnostics were almost worse than the symptom. First, the tech scrubbed the skin over my heart with what felt like a Brillo pad. Exfoliating doesn’t even begin to cover what she did. Ouch!
“This will sting,” she said, as she took a Clorox wipe and sanitized the raw skin. YIKES. Ok, maybe it wasn’t Clorox, but it felt like that. I mean that hurt. Seriously.
A fancy booklet came with the monitoring patch, but it didn’t cover the tricks the tech explained about how to comfortably remove it in a week.
“Really? You expect me to remember these complicated instructions in a week? Why don’t you just type up an instruction sheet and give it to patients?”
“Ohh!” the tech said. “What a good idea! I’ll do that tonight, look for my email.”
Where’s that email?
Nope. No email.
It took my skin a few hours to stop burning.
Next morning I heard a text ding in from my doctor.
Your potassium is dangerously low. Immediately eat two bananas or drink two glasses of OJ. I called in potassium pills — take four daily for two days, then one a day. Take with food, they are hard on the stomach.
She hypothesized that depleted potassium was affecting my heart. Could even cause a heart-stopping situation. I grabbed bananas and started eating. Michael went to get the prescription.
The pills were the size of a VW Bug. I needed to take four a day for two days then one a day after that. Seriously?
I texted back:
Those pills are huge! I don’t like swallowing big pills, can’t I just eat potassium rich foods?
Oh I know. I’m a pain in the ass. She knows it, too. But my saving grace is that I am revenue.
No. You need to take those pills. You need them. You have to have them. Try. You have to take them. Let me know.
She meant business. So I took them.
Within 24 hours
the abnormal rhythm disappeared.
On the fourth day she tested my blood. A few hours later: Ding!
Your potassium is perfect. You can go to one pill every other day.
Remove the monitor Monday and mail it back.
And I want to test your blood again before you go to Rochester this month.
Ok then! But then, the skips came back. Occasionally during the day. They weren’t completely gone.
At the end of the week I found YouTube instructions and removed the patch easily. No biggie. Mailed it back and waited. And waited. And waited. Getting nervous, as I was heading to our east coast home for three weeks alone. I didn’t want to wake up dead so I wanted to know what was going on. Finally, 10 days later I got a text from my internist:
Patch back. No significant events. Occasional skips. No worries. Stay hydrated.
This was good news, for sure.
So what did I learn from this?
The biggest lesson is to jump right on symptoms, instead of hiding my head in the sand. I figured it was nothing: stress. But I was wrong. Had this been something serious, I would have regretted not handling it earlier. Because my heart could have stopped.
And, it was fixable. So my worst fears did not come true.
I wasn’t always a Nervous Nellie about health, only since my mother’s illness and death in 1999. But this turn of events made clear that I had to face my fears head on. Because it could be worse if I didn’t.
How about you? Have you had a sudden health situation? How did you react?
And maybe you know someone who is fighting a health battle?
Or maybe you need some healing support, yourself.
Please don’t forget my supportive gifts for healing, righthere:
The body is SOOOO complicated, especially the heart. I’m glad you resolved your situation without significant incident.
It really is. So complex!
Oh Carol, so scary. Very glad you’re alright and didn’t have to go through any major surgery. I’m stocking up on bananas!
Me, too, Laurie. Me, too.
Wow. So glad you eventually took care of it!
That is scary. Anything to do with the heart is, and I may have done the exact same thing. I do know it’s wrong. My husband delayed checking out various symptoms until one morning several years ago he thought he was having a heart attack and called 911. He was admitted: aFIB. No heart attack. Thankfully, as his father died from one. It took the hospital over 24 hours to get the aFIB under control and he’s on several medications for it now. Yet still, I can delay if I think something is wrong with me, hoping it goes away, especially with our local ERs full to overflowing. I need to learn from your experience, in addition to his.
I’m feeling you, Alana.
Always teaching us, Carol. Thank you.
I learn the hard way, myself.
Sorry to hear about this scare. I’m an ostrich type too and postponed a recommended test until I was planning to travel and couldn’t justify leaving home without knowing if there was a problem. So this is what’s going to get me, I thought when I received the scary results of an abnormal EKG. Fortunately, further tests did not reveal anything serious. I switched to decaf, eat more vegetables and less meat, have a half a banana a day, and keep
Glad you are also ok. Lots to talk about next lunch.
Good grief, Carol! I’m so glad you got things figured out!
Getting older is scary. The only thing worsening NOT getting older!
Stay well, my friend!
Well said, girlfriend! Glad I’m here, too!
What a BIG life lesson. Yes, to get seen as soon as the symptoms start. I’m glad you were able to get it figured it out before something disastrous happened.
so am I, Rita!
What a scare. Glad you are better and your issue could be resolved successfully. Lesson learned.
That sounds so scary! I’m sorry you had to go through that. Keep eating those bananas.
yes, and still taking potassium supplements, Rebecca!