At my yearly “physical” there was a questionnaire that revealed things weren’t quite right. I recognized some of the questions as seeming to relate to congestive heart failure, but I wasn’t having most of the symptoms. I was having one or two. I realized I was no longer sleeping on my back. When I tried, I felt like CO2 was building up (like rebreathing a balloon, somewhat) – I could sleep on my back just fine even when I weighed significantly more than I do now. Also, while it seemed I could do as much as ever (for my age) it also seemed I was breathing hard to do it. Turbo had to be spun up for almost everything.
I was wired up with a Holter (portable recording electrocardiograph) for 48 hours, had an ultrasound done of the heart (and the ‘EKG’ trace didn’t look quite right, but the imaging technician carefully had no comments on anything), went in for a sleep study (results in, but I’ve not heard them yet. Appointment had to be rescheduled and just as well…) and then wound up with another Holter rig with more wires to get a better picture of things.
What I have is “Trigeminy PVC.” In my case, for every normal beat of the heart, there are two premature ventricular contractions. It’s kind of like for every time a spark plug fires (correctly), there are a couple more weaker tries at making it fire at the wrong time, and those mess things up. There was hesitation in giving me the usual immediate treatment – beta blocker – as that can slow heart rate. That’s usually a good thing. However, my resting heart rate is quite low. I’ve had nurses take my pulse ‘by hand’ as the automation either was complaining it was too low or was simply not believed. More than once, it’s been under 50 beats per minute. Eventually I was put on a milder beta blocker. And now I’m coming back off of it again. And also realizing how much it had been doing, despite my feeling it hadn’t been doing much.
The result of the second, fancier Holter recording was that during the time it was able to record properly (some leads came off while I was at work, so it wasn’t a full 24 hours of good data, but enough) they found 25 PVC events from someplace or places… and 50,000 from one particular spot. The 25 is no big deal. The 50,000? That’s getting addressed. The choices are/were: beta blocker(s), calcium channel blocker(s), ablation surgery. What’s that? Simplified, they snake a cable to the troublespot and zap it enough to burn out the misfiring bit.
The cardiologist I spoke with listed all the things that could potentially go wrong, and pretty much all apply to any surgery. Did seem a bit surprised when I brushed off the bit about ionizing radiation exposure – of course it’ll be minimal as everyone in the operating room wants to use as little as possible. Still said if it was them, they’d go with the surgery. Another source who knows what he speaks of was rather more blunt: “Get the surgery. It’s low-risk, high-success, and the drugs will make you feel like [MANURE].”
Thus, the morning of the 30th I go to Rochester (MN), things get done, I stay overnight, check out on the 31st. But I don’t get to come home. Just in case, they want me close by should anything happen. There’s a hotel pretty much across the street, so that’s where I’ll be for New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day I get to come home. And then do almost nothing as I’ve been told to not lift over 5 lbs for several days. That might be the most difficult part of all this. Especially if things are really successful and I feel more energetic without needing to spin up the turbo. There might be a week of mall-walking or such just to burn pent up energy.