Hiiiii. I’ve been going through some not-so-fun heart issues lately. You may have heard/seen something about it from me, my mom, or social media, so I just wanted to give a little heart update with what’s been going on.
Back in 2014 I started feeling waves of dizziness and light-headedness during my longer marathon training runs. I thought it was just because marathon training is hard. Turns out marathon training is hard, but it’s a little harder when your heart doesn’t work properly and shoots out some PVC’s (premature ventricular contractions). I talk a little bit about it in my Grandma’s Marathon Recap here.
From there I continued to run. I would feel my arrhythmia every so often, but it didn’t really bother me as much as it did before, probably because I wasn’t training as intensely once I moved to Denver and had to run in the altitude. I did finish the Portland Marathon in October 2016. Training for it went fine. Running felt more difficult than it should have, but I was still able to complete it without any issues.
In January things started to change. I was in Minneapolis for a work trip and was running on the treadmill in the hotel gym. I started to feel light headed and suddenly I was on the floor while a man stood over me asking if I was ok. Turns out I had fainted.
Since fainting on the treadmill is not ok, I decided that I needed to get this looked out. Since then it’s been a whirlwind of cardiology visits and tests – multiple EKGs, a holter monitor, a stress test, a cardiac MRI, a cardiac catheterization, and a CT scan.
You can tell from my Instagram and previous blogs posts (like this one and this one) that this issue hasn’t really slowed me down. While hiking I could feel when I had skipped beats and I could tell that my running was getting harder and slower, but I could still do things without passing out or feeling terrible.
Over the last month things have really started to get worse and I had a few more fainting spells.
- Sunday, July 23 – After hiking La Plata Peak (Colorado’s 5th highest peak at 14,336 feet) with Michael, his sister, and her boyfriend. I ended up in the Leadville ER and then took an ambulance down to St. Joseph’s in Denver due to high troponin levels (which is a protein in the blood that released when the heart muscle has been damaged). I was monitored at the hospital overnight and released Monday afternoon.
- Thursday, August 3 – While walking on the treadmill at the gym (17 min/mile, 5% incline). It didn’t seem as intense as the episode after La Plata so I didn’t go into the hospital.
- Saturday, August 5 – After a light workout at home. However, this time I went into cardiac arrest. Luckily, Michael was home to call 911. Luckily, the Lutheran Medical team responded fast. Luckily, I’m still here to talk about it. I was in the ER for a few hours, the ICU for a night, and in Telemetry for 4 days where I was released on Wednesday with a Life Vest Defibrillator.
My case isn’t super rare, but it’s also not very common. Because of this my doctors recommended that I make a trip out to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Fortunately for me, Minnesota is home and I’m able to stay at my parents’ house between trips to the hospital, which is only a 2.5-hour drive away.
There are a few things going on – issues with the plumbing and issues with the electricity.
- The plumbing – My heart muscle is covering up a portion of one of my arteries rather than the artery lying nicely on top of it. This is known as a myocardial bridge. When my heart pumps it is squeezing the artery and causing some blockage of blood flow. When I exercise and my heart is pumping faster it is squeezing harder against that artery, making me feel light headed and faint.
- The electricity – There is some scarring on my left ventricle, which apparently was caused by a heart attack. (I had a heart attack?! Who knew!?!) The scarring showed up on my MRI back in April, but it’s not clear when it happened. The scarring is what is causing the arrhythmias.
I am working with the most amazing cardiologist at Mayo. She has walked me through all my tests results, clearly explaining what the issues are. She also emails me directly and addresses all my questions and concerns.
I was hoping that I’d have one trip to Mayo for a consultation, one trip for surgeries, and then I’d recover a little bit and fly back to Denver good as new. However, because of scheduling with the hospital and the different things going on with my heart it won’t be as simple as that.
I had testing and consultations with doctors on Monday and Wednesday of last week and now have a plan of action.
- Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD) – I get this done today!! Basically, it is a built-in defibrillator that will give me a shock if my heart ever goes into arrhythmias that could be fatal. The procedure should only last 1-2 hours. I’ll have to stay overnight in the hospital tonight and overnight in Rochester on Tuesday night. The ICD will sit under my skin just below my collarbone. It will stick out and leave a scar. I don’t love the thought of having this in my body forever, but since it has the potential of saving my life I will learn to deal with it. Let’s hope it never has to shock me!
- Unroofing Surgery – This will probably be done sometime in October. It will be open heart surgery where they scrape/cut off the part of my hear that is covering the artery. This procedure will obviously be a little more intense than the ICD. I’m not sure how long it will take, but I believe I’ll need to recover in the hospital for 4-7 days and then will have to stay in Rochester for a few additional days.
- Ablation – This will take place after the unroofing surgery, so it’ll probably be sometime in November. For this procedure they will go up through the artery near my groin and heat treat/destroy tissue that is causing arrhythmia. It’ll be a 5- or 6-hour procedure. I’ll stay overnight in the hospital one night and then overnight in Rochester another night.
And then that’s it!
It will be a lot to go back to Mayo three different times for three different procedures, but it seems like it’ll be a little less traumatic than doing it all in one shot. I’m very happy that is something that can be operated on, so that I have a chance to get back to my active lifestyle once I have fully recovered.
It’s a lot to deal with, both physically and emotionally.
I wish I could say that I am handling this with strength, but I’m not. I cry A LOT and I don’t like it. I’m sad and scared and frustrated and overwhelmed. Things are better now that I have a plan and have had some time to process everything. I am feeling more positive and hopeful. I’m in great hands at Mayo and know that they will help me get back to normal… a new normal.
Physically, I feel ok. I was really weak after getting out of the hospital and very paranoid that I was going to pass out at any given time. You should have seen me at Target two weeks ago! I was moving at a glacial pace. I feel much stronger now, but sleeping in different beds, eating out of my normal habits, and not exercising has thrown me out of whack.
I also feel extremely grateful. Never in my life have I felt so loved. The amount of people that have reached out with kind words and encouragement is just amazing and the amount of support that I have felt over the last week is absolutely incredible. It has made everything so.much.easier.
A special thanks to Michael and my parents who have dealt with me through every emotion on the spectrum. They’ve shown me only love and support and have been the most positive distractions.
So that’s that.
Next time I post something on here I will be doing it with a defibrillator in my body.