February 2016 was my first memorable arrhythmic encounter and the beginning of my journey to diagnosis.
It felt like my heart just sank — the room was starting to get dark and my ears started ringing. I thought to myself, “I’m going to pass out, this is so embarrassing.” This was during a cycling class with a few of my friends. A few months later, I rode my bike to work and it happened again. It happened again during a jog around the park behind my house, and again on a hike in the mountains. After that, I started avoiding cardio all together. I wanted to pretend that nothing was wrong, when in all reality there were giant warning signs.
In late spring 2016, a new feeling started creeping into my life: anxiousness. Conceptually, I knew that there was no reason for me to be feeling these sensations in my chest, but they were there and really started to take a psychological toll on my daily life. During this time, I had an IUD implanted and thought anxiety could be a possible side effect. During my follow-up appointment with my general practitioner, I asked her if that was a possibility. As our conversation continued, I also mentioned my near-fainting episodes. She was instantly alarmed by this and recommended I go see a cardiologist and get a full cardiac workup done. For me, the near fainting was the least of my concerns. This feeling of anxiousness was what I was really concerned about.
Just before Labor Day weekend, I went in for my first stress test, echo and 48-hour Holter monitor. I never thought that at the age of 26 I would be seeing a cardiologist and getting a stress test. People in their 50s do this. Again, my main concern was this anxious feeling that I was having. My stress test just showed that I was having premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) and the doctor suggested that those could be causing the feeling of anxiousness. For the next 48 hours, I was wired up and told to workout and push myself to see if they can catch anything on the monitor. After turning the monitor in and while waiting for the results, my anxiousness completely took over again while I was at work. I immediately left work and drove myself home where my mom and I contemplated going to the emergency room. I now realize that this one contemplation could have been the difference between life and death for me. I did decide to go in that day and for the next 10 days would call Porter Hospital “home.”
I now have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to safeguard against the next time my heart decides to have another v-tach episode. I will be taking medication every day for the rest of my life to help keep the arrhythmias calm. My journey postdiagnosis is just beginning and has already been full of ups and downs. What I have learned through this entire experience is to not let fear dictate the way I choose to live my life. I am a fighter with big ambitions and, most importantly, I am so loved.
I thank my general practitioner Dr. Theresa Holson, all of the staff at Porter Hospital, my cardiologist Dr. Choe and all staff at South Denver Cardiology, my psychologist Dr. Bloom, and my friends and family for their love and support.