Friday, June 15, 2012

Sacking the Tach: Part 1 of ?

The short story: My nice doctor will be making my heart go from this:

To this:

on Friday, June 29th.

The long story: I developed and was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia six years ago. Doctors call it SVT for short, but I call it super-tacky because it’s more fun. It’s an arrhythmia that causes my heart to misbehave. Most often, I experience a sustained racing or irregular heart rate that comes and goes as quickly as flipping a light switch, but sometimes it feels like my heart does a split-second backflip. Other times it feels like my heart quit beating until I check my pulse and feel a faint, rapid fluttering. I got so used to it that it started to feel normal – that it seemed weird when I’d go a few weeks without having one. Sidenote- would you believe that I only JUST YESTERDAY invented the perfect expression for these episodes?? TACH ATTACK! As in, “I’m having a tach attack!” Now I only get a couple weeks’ use out of it :( Anyway, I could always control the tach attacks by using these little maneuvers my doctor taught me – either pushing on my eyeball or massaging my carotid artery. (There’s a third technique, too, which requires you to “bear down as though pushing out a BM,” but I, obviously, wasn’t a fan of that one.)

In the last several months, though, things with my heart have become less predictable. A few weeks ago I had a racing heart episode that lasted more than an hour, despite all my maneuvers (yes…ALL). I’ve suddenly blacked out and ended up on the floor twice (once in public!), and had an incident in a movie theater where I started to black out before my heart even started to skippety skip. I didn’t end up on the floor that time (sweet tender mercy - think of the years-old gummy soda spills), but I was sufficiently freaked out. What if that happened while I was driving?? If I know one thing for sure, it’s that no one wants to be that guy that plows his car through a farmer’s market.

It took about an hour of Google searching to even figure out what type of doctor I needed to see. Super-tacky is caused by a rogue electrical pathway in the heart – the atria and ventricles communicate with each other through electrical impulses but sometimes there’s a connection where one shouldn’t be. That’s where TACH ATTACK!!s come from – a misfired electrical current from one part of the heart to another. Subsequently, I made an appointment with a cardiac electrophysiologist and last Friday was my first appointment.

I was so nervous OH MY GOSH I WAS SO NERVOUS!!! I learned, on WebMD six years ago, about an operation (I’ma call it a ‘procedure’ from here on out) they can do to fix it and I’ve been living in fear of that thing ever since. I knew deep down that when I told my doctor about these incidents where I blacked out that he would schedule me for this procedure. And he did.

Before I explain what will be done, though, just know that I am so, so, so thankful that he went this route instead of the other options. As nervous as I am for the procedure, worse outcomes would be A) going on medication for the rest of my life, or B) having a pacemaker put in. Instead, I’ll be getting what’s called an “ablation” which is a cure, not just a treatment, and is 90% successful. It’s safe with minimal risks and my doctor does them all the time. I’ll only spend one night in the hospital and since I’m having it done on a Friday, I should be good to go back to work the following Monday or Tuesday. But just thinking about what he’ll do makes me go all shaky and queasy.

They’ll make incisions on both sides of my groin and feed ….I don’t even know, lasers? all the way up my femoral vein into my heart. Then they use electrical impulses to force my heart into a TACH ATTACK!! so that they can map where the arrhythmia is coming from and burn the hell out of the problem area (you’re allowed to swear when preparing for your heart to be burned). I actually didn’t realize until a couple of days ago that they literally cauterized it, I just thought that they used electricity to gently redirect it. Silly me. I’ll be lightly sedated for all of it – they don’t like people to be in too deep of a sleep or else the heart doesn’t react to the electrical impulses, and then they can’t map the issue, and then they just sliced up your femoral vein and fed lasers into your heart for nothing.

So that’s what’s going down in two weeks. My mom’s flying in to keep me company/hold my hand, and my excitement to see her almost equals my terror of the impending hospital visit. We’ll watch lots of movies while I convalesce (“Probably not funny movies, though” –my mom).

In conclusion, on Friday my doctor sent me home with a heart monitor. He’s hoping to catch a TACH ATTACK!! before the procedure just to have as much information as possible beforehand. I’ll be wearing it, and baggy clothes to work, for the next two weeks. He instructed me to hook it all up right when I got home, then call the 1-800 number to activate the service. I showered, per instructions, dutifully laid out the manual, snapped the little connectors together, stressed over the exact placement of each sticky patch, then called the number only to be told that I wasn’t in the system because the office forgot to tell them I had it!!!!!!!1 They were closed by then and I’d have to wait until Monday.

This was my reaction, as I angrily pulled the wires and sticky patches off:

See also:
Part 2 of ?
Part 3 of ?
Part 4 of ?
Part 5 of FIVE!!!
Stuff I Distinctly Remember Saying During the Operation
The last post about my heart (I promise this time)


  1. oh wow.. that is crazy. thanks for sharing with us and i hope your procedure goes well! keep us updated..

  2. whoah sounds intense! good luck!

  3. I'm glad your appointment went well, and things can be fixed, SOON. Good luck, you know we'll be thinking of you/praying for you like crazy.

  4. Um, woah. K, woah. You now have 6 more little prayers in your favor and the 4 smaller ones are the most powerful at this house(especially Chase his are really cute too). Love you, thinking of you.

  5. My cousin had this! Same problem, same treatment. She was back on her feet the next day and felt like a new woman! Good luck to you :)

  6. I wish you well and hope this will be an end to your TACH ATTACKs!!!

  7. oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh! good luck to you and your heart! (this makes me queasy just thinking about it... in summary, i would not make a good nurse.)

  8. Both my brothers have heart arrhythmias and my dad had open heart surgery when I was a kid -- and they are all doing great! I hope all goes well with your procedure and you don't have to experience any more problems. That's scary!

  9. I have recurring SVT, and it can be really nasty. My longest episode was 5 or 6 hours, needed Adenosine at the ER (which was scary all by itself). I have to take metoprolol for the rest of my life. :)

    Hope they can capture the info they need and your procedure goes smoothly!!

  10. Oh my gosh, good luck with your procedure! That sounds intense! Word to the wise: NEVER read WebMD. According to them, I've had cancer for years.