Good news: a have a heart condition which feels like having a heart attack and can last for hours but doesn’t damage the heart. Wait a minute, how is that good news?
Yesterday the Doctor said that my Holter heart test found I have a condition called PAT. There are a whole bunch of different types of PAT and the doctor probably covered the exact one, except I missed it because I was just saying to myself over and over, “They found it.”
It goes like this: I am a healthy person with a healthy heart. BUT...there is a thing called an AV node in the upper chamber which tells the heart when to pump (because the chambers are full of blood). I, however, have a rogue section of tissue which starts beating at a much, much higher rate and actually hijacks (Heartjacks?) the heart. This takes my heart from a resting rate of 65-75 to over 250 (or in extreme cases even higher). As this is actually far ABOVE my “maximum” heart rate, it can cause extreme chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath and palpitations (also nausea, and passing out). It can also stop and start again for hours. But, except for the pain and lying there afterward feeling like you got hit by a truck, once it stops, your heart is perfectly fine. There are two exceptions, because such a rapid heart beat may not allow the heart to fully fill with blood if it continues over a long period of time (more than four hours) the heart may begin to fail. Or, sometimes combined with prolonged high Cardio exercise (like say EPEE!), it can beat so fast (over 400 beats per minute) that the heart doesn’t pump blood at all. I really, really don’t want to think about what having my heart beat 400 times a minute would feel like.
According to Cardiologist Michael Crawford, “studies show that PAT strikes hard-driving, Type A personalities… PAT can strike--especially if you take your playing too seriously and are up against stiff competition.” Would that include female epeeists in their 30’s who plan to win against younger faster opponents by obsessive training and a determination to push themselves to the limit again and again? It would?
There are three treatments: 1) Take the pain and if it lasts longer than 15 minutes, go to the ER for a drug to slow down the heart or in extreme cases, be shocked by the paddles (oh yeah, while you are awake). 2) Take beta blockers which will slow down the heart. The downside is chronic fatigue and lethargy. 3) Have a heart catheter where your heart is mapped and a long catheter inserted into your heart to burn out the tissue sending the wrong messages. Problem: YUCK!
The heart catheter works MOST of the time, however it seems less effective on people who continue to be competitive athletically. One cyclist had it done four times and still gets attacks.
Does this mean I am stopping Epee? No. I am fencing tomorrow, 100%. And I still plan to compete this fall, including going to North Carolina to the Iron Maiden Competition. Actually I am still trying to wrap my head around excruciating & debilitating heart pains which DOESN’T hurt you? I am guessing the “It’s only one organ in my body, how important can it be” plan isn’t going to work.
The “take the pain” option looked appealing until I remember I might have to forfeit a tournament because I am rolling around on the floor holding my chest. But hey, I’m so competitive, parts of my heart are trying to take over independently.
I want to thank everyone who left messages for me on the blog or sent email. I am not very good at knowing what to do with concern. It somehow implies that I am mortal (which we all know is a LIE!).
For now, I am just filing this under “God hates you.” A heart that makes you feel like you are dying or want to die equals healthy heart. Tell me that isn’t a cosmic joke?
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