Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What a weekend....part 2

Since Lauren yelled at me for not finishing this story (forgive me, I was exhausted) here is the rest of it- with a happy ending I promise :)  But it's long, so beware....

After the clear CAT scan came back, they decided to admit me to the hospital overnight for observation because A- the room was still spinning like a top and B- my heart rate was scaring them because it was staying steady at 30-40 ish unless I was talking or moving.  Dr. Eyer said something about the Vegas nerve being stimulated during all the vomiting which will cause your heart rate to drop for a period of time, but he felt it should have gone back up by that point.

So an hour to 2 hours later (hospital time moves very slowly) I was finally through all the admittance stuff of retelling my issues, pain levels, etc to more nurses and the admitting doc (Dr. Lee) who would take over my case.  There was another very hairy trip this time upstairs and down many bumpy seeming hallways until finally arriving at my room.   The one saving grace was that by this point I had found a more comfortable position that relieved some pain- on my side with my knees curled up.  It alleviated some stomach pain and some of the dizziness.  This was of course shot to hell when I had to stand up and walk, it was like going back to square one and all my pain and dizziness shot right back up.  Going to the bathroom and getting into bed was another painful and very disorienting experience because I was still SUPER dizzy, but I got through it with the help of a wonderful nurse.  Since I had a "fall alert" on me, I had to have a nurse accompany me everywhere I went, including the bathroom, so I didn't fall and crack my skull open.  This was at least until the dizziness subsided later the next day

Eventually....I slept and found relief.   The nurses kept waking me up every couple hours for either more anti-dizziness or anti-nausea meds, but I was able to fall asleep afterwards for a short time before they woke me up again.  It seemed like the whole rest of Sunday proceeded in this manner, but at least the dizziness was gone!  When I was awake I was updating family and close friends about my status and trying to reassure them that they didn't need to come to Gettysburg and that I would be getting out of the hospital later that day.  Plus, I had my rock here with me, Adrian.

Sometime Sunday afternoon, a Nurse Practitioner, Becca, came in to update me on what Dr. Lee was feeling since she was stuck down in ER (I think this is why I had a NP come in, but it's kinda hazy), but they had been watching my ecg readings and HR all day.   For the next 15 or so minutes while she was there I felt as close to panic as I had felt since first arriving at the hospital.  She said that I needed to stay ANOTHER night because they were concerned about not only my low heart rate, which she said stayed around 32 bpm while I slept (holy crap, that is scary low) and not much higher when I was awake, unless I was moving around. 

And then she told me about a concern they have been seeing on my ECG- a prolonged QT wave that prompted her to ask me a ton of questions about my family history.  She said that if this was in fact what was happening, it could cause sudden cardiac arrest at any time. WHAT?!  Basically, my heart wasn't firing correctly.  She mentioned there are meds to take and potentially a pace maker. AT 27, a pacemaker?!? She said it might not be this, but they wanted to play it safe and send me for a full cardiac workup including more ECGs, an echo cardio gram (an ultrasound of your heart), stress test, and echo stress test with the cardiologist.  Then she joked that they don't want me to go home then have sudden cardiac arrest on the treadmill. HOLY CRAPOLA, WHAT?!  I smiled and laughed but on the inside I was freaking out.

I hear ya, kitty

So when she left I looked at Adrian and almost burst into tears as he squeezed my hand and said he loved me.  Remembering that I can sometimes take things too seriously and jump to the worst, I had to keep telling myself that it wouldn't come to what she said (hello pacemaker and sudden cardiac arrest? freak out!!).   So I did what I try to do in stressful situations, take action. I started emailing my boss about needing to take at least Monday off and texted my family that I was staying another night just as precaution so the cardiologist could see me.

Sunday morning my dizziness was basically gone and by the afternoon and getting some solid food to stay in me, it had dissipated completely (HALLELUIAH!).  It felt good to have food and water again, but it was also difficult to eat because I felt so weak.  At breakfast I could hardly manage to lift my fork to my mouth with some eggs on it. Pathetic, huh?   But, after dinner (and the major scare with the NP) I got it in my head that I wanted to get out of the room and move around and maybe that would help my low HR.  There perhaps was a birdie that put that idea in my head (coughjencough).  She knows me so well. :P

So after getting a reluctant ok from my nurse, Adrian accompanied me with my fluid pump a couple laps around the 2nd floor.  Remember, I was in Gettysburg hospital, so this was pretty short.  It felt like every single step was a huge effort and afterwards I basically wanted to just collapse and pass out.  There was this micro incline at one point, and it felt like a 15% grade.  Yeah.....I was definitely not myself at all.  So Sunday night continued in this manner with me basically so exhausted that talking on the phone for 5 minutes would require me to lie still or sleep for a little to recover from it.  Yeah, I had moments with more energy like our "hike," or my conversation with Jen, but they were far and few in between, with lots of napping.

I even was wearing green booties!
Sunday night was more of the same as Saturday night, with many wake ups by the nurses for more meds and checking vitals and then at 6:30am, in strolls the cardiologist, Dr. Martin.  Yes, soak the name in for a moment in awe.  I took it as a sign, obviously.   He again had me share my stories and he asked a TON of questions, particularly centered around my weight loss and exercise regiment.  Then he told me his plan- echo, stress test, stress echo, and his own ECG, just like the NP had said.  So we started out right there with an ECG that he wanted me to run in place for a minute before they took it so some more blood was pumping through my veins.  FYI- this is really awkward and uncomfortable to do in just a hospital robe and socks, attached to an IV and still half asleep.  O yeah, and about a dozen wires attached all over your body, forgot to mention that.

So he left me alone for a while until my echo cardio gram.....and I waited...and waited....with no food because I might need to be catheterized or have some blood sugar test taken or on and on.  So, about 10:00 ish they finally came to get me and wheel me downstairs for more ECGs and the echos and stress test.  I had to wear pants and sneakers because during the stress test, they stick you on a treadmill.  The stress test was actually kind of fun.

Right, fun..... Let me set the picture- you have about a dozen wires attached to your chest and neck and a battery pack and strap tied around your stomach to keep it all there, plus a blood pressure cuff that keeps taking measurements every 30 seconds, and a pulse ox reading on your finger. O yeah...and I had 4 cardio nurses and 3 cardio doctors WATCHING, directing and commenting the whole time.  Surprisingly their comments were awesome and there were so many there because they all were perplexed with my case and wanted to see how I handled the stress test. 

Apparently I got an A+ because the doctors were basically swooning over my vitals and how easily I handled a 12% incline at a 2.5 mph speed that they got up to 5 mph to get me to my target heart rate- 170 bpm. When they asked what I normally did for an incline workout on the treadmill, I described my 15% incline workout at 3.5-4.5 mph and they all were just shocked, and then enjoyed increasing the speed and were shocked at how steady my heart rate was in the 140s until they really cranked it up to 5 mph (that is fast at 12% grade, people!).  Dr. Martin said he was so impressed and there was no way he could do that.  They kept saying really nice and encouraging things and calling me an inspiration for every patient they have.  I was overwhelmed to say the least.

Dr. Martin said something along these lines as they all watched my heart via the echo cardio gram after I hopped off the treadmill: "In little Gettysburg hospital we see a resting heart rate in the 30s and people freak out and rightfully so, that is very low. But after all the tests we ran, all we see is the heart of an elite athlete that is superbly conditioned, even after laying in a hospital bed for 2 days." WOW.  To say I was relieved is the understatement of the year.  I felt like I could fly after he said that.  Heart of an elite athlete?! Holy crapola! And all I was thinking during the whole stress test was how out of shape I felt and how much quicker my hr was increasing because I was exhausted and had ZERO fuel in my body.  I still have a hard time believing what he said. I know I am an athlete, but an elite athlete? Let's be honest here, I'm not ready for a marathon or long triathlon anytime soon.

I was released from the hospital around 5pm on Monday by Ann, my favorite nurse who took care of me during my stay.  Basically the end diagnosis....Bradycardia (low heart rate) and dizziness, nonspecific. As my wonderful, 2nd year med student sister said: "So basically, we don't know but we're putting a fancy medical term on it." She is ever the comedian and totally right.  They have no clue what caused my dizziness and chalk up my low heart rate to being in "elite athletic condition." 

Although, Ann sent me home with a list of things to ask my primary care physician about when I have a follow up this Friday, including potential referrals to a: neurologist, ear/nose/throat specialist for the potential vertigo, and cardiologists for further tests.  I definitely appreciate her help and advice and will be talking to Dr. Eyer on Friday about moving forward and figuring out what caused this.  But until then, I was told I can go back to work, but ease in to everything, especially high intensity exercise.

Update tomorrow on how the easing back in is going.....


  1. I'm sorry the NP freaked you out so much. Her visit actually gave me my first sigh of relief because we were actually being told something about your condition! Pacemaker, cardiac arrest, pssshhh...not even on the horizon for my bionic woman!! :-)

  2. wow! so sorry you had to go through all of that! but i am glad you are better, and an elite athlete!!!