Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Broken Heart

Well, not broken, but 'floppy mitral valve' just doesn't have the same ring to it.  So at my annual female check-up, my doctor (who has been seeing me for nearly 10 years, god bless her) heard heart palpitations.  Of course, she asked me about it - and I had to be honest and say, yeah, it seems that I have this weird heart beat a lot of the time - where it feels like my heart is pounding out of my chest.  And I never had it checked out?  Well, no - haven't had the time...


Given my family's wonky medical history - she immediately referred me to a cardiologist.  I expected I'd get the call to see her in a week or two - nope - they said come in tomorrow.  Yikes.  So I got to have a bunch of tests done - including 48 hours strapped to a heart monitor and an echocardiogram (ultrasound of my heart.)  That was actually kinda cool - seeing my heart beat and the chambers and all of that - even if I had little to no idea what I was looking at.

Diagnosis?  I had those random heart beat things a lot more than I realized - some 30,000 in the 48 hour period.  Awesome.  And the echo revealed a structural defect in my heart that has most likely been there since birth.  (FYI - my mother and her sister also had/have the same heart defect.)  A "prolapsed mitral valve."  Meaning the mitral valve doesn't always shut tight like it should - and sometimes pulls back the wrong way (thus the name prolapsed.)  Or in laymans, terms, floppy.  So when it does that - blood flows the wrong way into my heart, causing it to skip a beat - then beat harder and faster to catch up.

Which explains why I've always had a hard time with strenuous exercise (see ... I'm not just incredibly lazy.) Because of the valve's problem, my heart rate gets up too high too fast - causing really bad chest pains.  I literally feel like I'm having a heart attack.  Now I know why. (So there evil Mr. Boatman/9th grade gym teacher who made me run all those laps around the freaking gym.)

What triggers it?  Why now?  Oh, it could be a lot of things - hormonal (it is more prevalent in women), fatigue, my body adjusting to the change in losing 50 pounds, and stress. Imagine that, stress.  I know I don't handle stress well - and keeping up with a full time + job that often times goes well past working hours, managing a house and home, and trying to be a good wife and mother is stressful.  And I'll admit it - I internalize it.  A lot, apparently. But before any of you go and say 'you really shouldn't stress so much' - please don't.  It only makes me stress out even more.  I worry constantly about everything - the list above as well as the wretched situation with my mother, my worry that I'm not a good friend when I don't hear from people I dearly care about (although I have good reason for that from previous drama...), my worry that I'm screwing up my kids, my worry that I'm not a good enough Christian or person, really.  And telling me not to worry - to let it all go - makes me worry even more.

Let me say it again, for the record.  I'm a nervous ninny.  So there.

It is managed by taking medicine - I'm on a beta blocker (whatever that is) to help calm the erratic heart beats (and since starting it I'm feeling significantly better.)  My doctor will monitor the valve - often times it gets better with time, sometimes it stays the same, sometimes it gets worse.  And of course since I'm all doom and gloomy and worst-case scenario - I asked what the worst would be.... which is replacement or repair of the valve - although that is highly unlikely.

Oh, and I'm supposed to reduce stress.  I told the doc that unless I quit my job or sell one of my children to the circus, that isn't happening any time soon.  Thankfully she's also a working mother of three young children herself - and she gets the demands we working moms are under - so she didn't chastise me.

So there you have it.  My broken (or rather, floppy) heart.

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