Sunday, October 19, 2014
I'm back because there are some big time changes going on in my life--and they very possibly will be permanent. I really haven't been happy trying to come to grips with what has been happening and I think if I write everything down, it'll be easier for me. So, here goes:
Earlier this year the internist I wound up with after my all-time favorite doctor left private practice, retired. Of course, they never found a replacement for her and I was 'passed on' to another doctor in the practice until someone permanent could be found to take me on. I saw the physician's assistant one time to discuss my thyroid--which has been wonky for almost a year--and was to see him again in September. Before this appointment happened, I was passed-on to another doctor and saw her physician's assistant for a 'get to know you' appointment, along with a review of my labs. And here is where my story really begins.
I was very impressed with the PA. She spent an hour with me and she looked over my records for the past several years. One thing she went over closely was the report that came from my wearing a Holter monitor a couple of years ago. My heart rate was quite low, so in order to rule out 'whatever,' this test was done. Nothing was found to be of concern and life went on. Until last month. The PA looked at the report and said she saw an anomaly on the EKG readings and wanted to investigate it further. And so an appointment for a stress echo was set up.
I guess I have always been waiting for some form of heart problem to show up with me. I have far too many risk factors: I am overweight, lived most of my live in a pretty sedentary manner, don't eat the foods I should, was a smoker for 30 years, have relatives with heart problems, and am a Finn. So this wasn't unexpected--I just was surprised that no one had thought it necessary for me to have a stress test before now. Anyway, off I went to the hospital to have a look-see at my heart.
I was a bit nervous about doing a stress test. I guess I thought that I was to practically run on a treadmill for quite a few minutes in order to get and keep my heart rate up to the 160-170 range. As it turned out, they only needed the rate to be in the 130's, but it needed to be at that point while they did they ultrasound of my heart. Because my heart rate recovers so quickly, I needed to walk the treadmill until my rate was about 160 and then everything happened very, very fast. By the time I got back on the table, my rate had gone so far down that they barely had time to get the pictures--but get them, they did. Turns out, the pictures looked good, but the EKG showed quite a problem during the period of stress. And this is where things started happening fast and furious.
I was put on a medication--a beta blocker--to keep my heart rate from going too high. Also, my MD's office was making arrangements for me to have an appointment with a cardiologist. Of course, all of this happened on a Friday, so nothing was going to be resolved until the following week. It was recommended that I restrict my activities and try and go on with my life. Easier said than done! I started out as a fairly healthy person a couple of weeks earlier and now I was told that there was something pretty significant going on with my heart, but I was supposed to stay calm and act normally. Right.
In the middle of all of this,I began to have stomach pains. I ignored them as much as possible, but on the fourth of October, I couldn't anymore. At 5:00 AM I found myself in the ER with what I thought were heart attack symptoms. While everyone agreed that it was more than possible that I was having a heart attack, it turned out to not be one. (For the rest of the weekend I was in bed, sick, with a fever, stomach pains, no appetite--all pointing to a stomach bug, NOT a heart problem.) However, to be safe, the cardiologist on-call looked over my test results along with the results of my stress echo. This brought on a whole other bunch of things for me to cope with.
Before I left the ER, I was put on ANOTHER medication, This time, a calcium channel blocker. Again, they don't want my heart rate to go too high. I also got some nitroglycerin pills, in case I should have chest pains. Also, I was to have a coronary CT to see what was going on with my heart. (Thankfully, this was instead of a cardiac catheterization, which they thought I needed in the first place.) And I went home.
The following week found me back to the hospital for the CT and getting the report from all of the tests. Right now, the diagnosis for me is printzmetal angina. Yippee! This is something that is quite uncommon and it seems as if I have very uncommon symptoms on top of everything else. I won't be seeing the cardiologist until the 3rd of November, so I won't be able to find out how this conclusion was reached. My internist's office seems to agree with the diagnosis, so until something different comes up when I see the cardiologist, I guess I have angina.
Of course, I wound up at my internist's office again this past week. I have been having some side effects from the two new meds that I've been put on, so they had to be addressed. One of the problems I've been having is swelling of my feet, ankles, and lower legs. This is a common side effect of the calcium channel blocker, so I was put on a different medication in the hopes that I won't swell quite as badly. And it hasn't helped--as a matter of fact, I seem to be worse than I was. And all this leads to another call to the doctor's office tomorrow and, most likely, a different drug to try. This all probably will change when I see the cardiologist. I'm thinking he just might take me off of most--if not all--of what I'm on today and start from scratch. I do believe I will be put back on a statin and I will be on one or more blood pressure meds when it is all said and done. Other than that, I'm not sure what will happen.
All of this has my feeling a bit overwhelmed and slightly scared. About the only thing I'm sure of is that I will be having regular visits with the cardiologist and my internist for the next 3-6 months until things are worked out to everyone's satisfaction. I will wind up on some sort of drug cocktail and it will take time to tweak everything so that things will be fine. At this point--and I realize it is just in the beginning stages--I am not happy with the way things are going. I am not feeling well and the only thing I can point to are the meds that I'm on. I can't live a good life if I am feeling like I do right now and the doctor has to realize this. I don't think the solution to this is going to be easy OR quick. And I'm not too happy with the journey I am about to embark on.