During the summer, my doctor decided that I should have my breathing reassessed, simply to make sure that there were no changes. We know that I have a few allergies, dust being the big one, and that I am asthmatic. After an unhealthy last winter of colds, bronchitis and near-pneumonia, we both felt that something different may have started to surface. So during the fall, I saw an allergist who declared that I had no new environmental allergies and a respirologist who put me through two sessions of asthma testing, only to conclude that I still have asthma. I thought everything was status quo until a third breathing test was requisitioned, one which compared my breathing to my heartrate.
Fast forward to the end of November when I am being prepped for the cardio-pulmonary exam. The technician checked the usuals – height, weight, pulse, blood pressure – then hooked me up to an ECG. “Oh, look,” she said. “You have a lot of inversions.”
“A lot of what?”
“Inversions. See how the lines on the graph drop. See those spikes. Those are inversions.”
I really had no idea what she was talking about and I didn’t even notice when she walked out of the room. But when she returned, one of the respirologists was with her, and she checked my wrist pulse, poked around my neck, and proceeded to interrogate me. “Have you ever had a heart attack? Do you have heart disease? Does anyone in your family have heart disease? Have you ever had a stroke? Do you get dizzy? Do you ever pass out?” And the questions continued.
To each of these, I answered a firm ‘no’, eventually followed by a “What is going on? Am I okay?” The doctor didn’t want to test me as the inversions are indicative of a heart attack; she didn’t want to do the test. “Something could go wrong” and the respirologist didn’t want to take responsibility for it. After finding a cardiologist who agreed on the exam, she relaxed a bit.
“Um,” I said. “I think I’ll be okay. I’m running cross-country nationals this weekend so I’m in pretty good shape. And, if anything happens today, I’m already in a hospital so I’m in good hands.”
The following week, I met with my respirologist who said that the cardio-pulmonary exam was normal. I just have asthma. Then I asked her about the inversions, the upside-down spikes that sent people into a tizzy. She was concerned about them as they indicate a problem with blood flow – possibly, a blood clot – and ordered an ultrasound of my heart. “It could be nothing but let’s make sure.”
The internet can be a great tool but searching for information through Dr. Google can be terrifying. I stayed away from it, but shared the results with two of my co-workers, to which one commented “You’ve had a silent heart attack.”
“A silent heart attack. My dad went through this too. He is okay but he needs to be monitored.” Now I had new information so I went to Dr. Google who confirmed what the doctor and my co-worker told me. Dave and I talked about it.
“In retrospect,” I told him, “this does make some sense. I do get tired during the day and sometimes think I’m going to drop. And you know how I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air – like something startles me? Maybe it’s not an asthma attack. Maybe my heart is jolting me awake.”
“Oh, you’re going to die in your sleep then.”
“Probably, ” I snorted. “My grandmother did.” And that was the end of that conversation.
Last week, I had my ultrasound and will go over the results with my own doctor in a few weeks. “A few weeks? That’s crazy! What if something is wrong?” asked Dave. I reminded him that if something is really wrong, we’d be called back to the hospital right away; we’ve been through that scenario before. Anything minor can wait and, maybe, it is just an anomaly. Only time will tell.
Since the first discussion that surrounded my heart, I have run an 8K national cross-country race, a 10.8K race with brutal hills, the Boxing Day 10 miler in freezing temperatures and I have continued to run status quo. No one told me that I can’t run but, at the same time, I am being a bit more cautious with my timing and intensity. I am trying to find more me-time: rest time, quality time with my boys and time to relax.
Am I worried? Not really, but I am aware that there could be a problem so I am always thinking about it. But I also know that I’m healthy and fit, and that speaks volumes to me. If this turns out to be something more than an anomaly, I’ll deal with it then. But until I have something concrete to go by, I am going to keep chasing my dreams.