Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


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Heart Troubles

I’ve always had what I call palpatations. They were infrequent when I was younger, and often I would attribute them to the tremendous amounts of coffee I’d ingested. In the last year they’ve stepped up their game, a thing that’s distressing along side my significant reduction in coffee a few years back.

After several trips to the cardiologist and a month wearing a heart monitor, I was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia. Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is an abnormally fast heartbeat that originates above the ventricles in the atria or AV node. The doctor suggested putting a doodad into my femoral artery and working it up to my heart and frying the tissue that’s sending out the additional electrical impulses. That sounded bananas to me at the time, so I opted for his second suggestion, which was medication.

I took the meds for a couple months, and although they didn’t have any disastrous side effects they did make my performance at the gym decline a bit. So, after some weeks sticking a doodad into my femoral artery sounded less and less bananas. Doodad it is.

In the weeks leading up to the proceedure I noticed a pit in my stomach when I would think about it. When my PTSD rears its head it smells like a box that was just brought up from the basement. It looks like it’s just an old pair of shoes, but it smells like dank mildew of 100 years.

After sitting with if for some days, I realized that I’ve not needed to rely on another human to take care of my physical needs since I was a child and my dependence wasn’t optional. And the last time I was too small to care for my own physical needs, they weren’t always met. There it is. That’s where the dank mildew is.

There’s no reasoning with trauma-based anxiety. It just is. I could think of one thousand ways this situation was different, but that sort of thing only flies upstairs. It never filterns down to the basement.

The days dwindled and I found myself putting a gown on, and trying to answer medical history questions while Dominque shaved the “field” which was basically my crotch. The procedure isn’t invasive in the sense that my chest wasn’t cracked open, but it is in the sense that it involved wounds two inches to either side of my lady parts. And this fact explains why once in the operating room I was covered head to toe in blankets apart from my crotch, which was on display.

And this really gets at the crux of why medical procedures are weird. You find yourself in social and physical situations that are unimaginable under any other circumstances. All of the nurses were very nice, but when they asked if I was doing ok or needed anything I thought, what am I going to say to that? No, my crotch is numb because it’s 60 degrees in here, and I would really like to rip this IV out. Of course I always said I was fine, because there wasn’t really any other answer I could give.

During the procedure the doctor needed to goad my heart into SVT rythms. Since mine acts up during exercise that meant that I couldn’t be very sedated, and that they put adrenalin in my IV. So, while the nurses were telling me soothing things my body’s chemistry thought I was being chased by a bear. They were using electric impluses to rev my heart up to 250 beats per minute, note that extreme exercise shouldn’t yield more than 160 bpm. So, that’s how I spent 3 hours. My bare-ass crotch in the air with chemicals appropriate for being chased by a bear coursing through my body, and having my heart pounding so hard it felt like my lungs didn’t have enough room to breathe.

It’s a wonder I didn’t have a panic attack or two or several. But that’s one of the odd things trauma can do. Sometimes when I am truly under duress I pull through like a champ. It’s because I’ve had lots of practice at surviving when the house is on fire. Because my house has been on fire hundreds of times.

Unfortunately, the doctor wasn’t able to isolate where the SVT rhythm was originating. He called my heart excitable. And when he irritated one area all its neighbors would put out different SVT rythms in sympathy. That was a whole load of metaphor because I cannot possible use the medical language to describe what he found. The point is they couldn’t complete the proceedure.

Frosty crotch for no good reason. So, I am back to the meds and taking it easy for a week until my femoral wound site is healed enough for me to go back to my normal activities. The good news is SVT won’t kill me, and the meds aren’t insufferable. I’ve also learned that my capacity to tolerate physically uncomfortable and mortifying things is quite high. I’ve learned to ask a new questions when evaluating medical treatment. Is there information you might learn during the process that might show you I am not a good candidate for said treatment? How frequently does this happen?