Friday, January 27, 2012

My Heart-Felt Response

Yesterday I mentioned my defective heart, and I've had a bunch of worried emails wondering if it's still beating. It is. But it's murmuring, too. Here's the whole story:

I had an echo cardiogram in December to see if my heart was OK in case I had to have surgery for adrenal cancer (which it turned out I don't have.) In the echo cardiogram they discovered I have a heart murmur. This was not too alarming because I've ALWAYS had a heart murmur, but I was sent to a cardiologist who wanted to know why I have a heart murmur.

Another echo cardiogram revealed that I have a thick heart and the blood doesn't leave the left ventricle efficiently. The cardiologist wondered if I had symptoms, like feeling breathless (yes, if I run, or climb too many stairs,) lightheadedness (yes, when I get up from laying down,) pain (no,) palpitations/awareness of my heart beating (yes, always.) These are conditions I've had all my life, so I've considered them normal.

He diagnosed my murmur as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which is a genetic heart defect. (My mom had a heart murmur, too, and so does one of my daughters and one of my sons.) Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the heart disease that makes young, healthy athletes drop dead suddenly on the basketball floor when they're 18. "Often the first symptom is sudden death," he said. Yikes!

"The fact that you haven't already died of sudden death is a good sign," the doc said. Sometimes they put in a pacemaker, or a newer device that revs up the heart in case it misses a beat. Or they do some procedure where they put raw alcohol through a catheter and actually burn away some of the thick heart muscle, or they do open heart surgery and cut away the extra tissue.

Or they just watch and wait, and tell you not to worry. He patted my arm. "There's no reason to be stressed about this," he consoled me. Right.

In order to decide my particular treatment I had to have a cardiac MRI, which was a miserable, claustrophobic event, and I go back next week to hear the news. I already know I want to do the watch and wait and die a sudden death when I develop Alzheimer's.

Now I wish I'd never gone to the doctor. I went because I hadn't been for a few years and thought I should have a check up. After 2 MRIs, 2 echocardiograms, 21 blood tests, and an eye exam, I've been told I should diet and exercise, and use Visine for dry eyes. I feel like Naman, that guy in the Bible who went to Elisha to get cured of leprosy and was told to just bathe himself in the River Jordan. It seemed too simple to actually work and Naman was unimpressed. I wanted a more exciting Rx than diet and exercise. But I have to say, it sounds better than rib-splitting surgery.

So there's the whole story—thanks for asking. I'll keep you posted.
Your concern warms my heart!


Diane said...

Thanks for filling us in. And please keep us posted. Just when we get comfortable in our life/bodies, they throw us for a loop. I should be used to that by now. Ha!

Grandma Cebe said...

I've had a genetic heart problem (long QT)all my life and recently had an echo just to see how the old thing is ticking...waiting results. But since it's been more than two weeks and I haven't had the doctor call me to come in for more tests, the old ticker must be doing OK.

I'm sorry that you've had to go through recent medical scares. No fun.

Susan Adcox said...

When he was about your age, my dad learned that he had a heart murmur. (I don't know the technical name for the type that he had.) At any rate, he died last year at the age of 95. He loved to garden, so he stayed active. He ate tons of fruit and the vegetables that he grew in his garden. He also visited the doctor regularly and took his meds faithfully. Hoping for the most positive outcome possible for you!

Heather P said...

Glad you're doing ok.