A powerful journey from living with an artificial heart to a heart transplant....

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Turn down the heat!!

Since there hasn't been much drama lately, I thought it would be a good time to add in some excitement......

We had a normal day yesterday. We went for an interview at St. Mary's for an article to be in their Christmas donor letter and then went for groceries. I was feeling normal (whatever that means) until I suddenly felt really dizzy. So I laid down on the couch and expected it to pass. Well 10 minutes of laying down with my feet up did not stop the room from spinning. There were also palpitations along with the dizzy feeling. I decided to call my contact in Toronto to see if this is something I should be concerned about. Since the dizzy feeling has not been an issue for me before she decided it was reason enough to go see a doctor. I called my contact in Kitchener and planned to head in right away.

As I sat up on the couch to head to the hospital my dizzy feeling got worse. I was very concerned. Of course, there are crazy thoughts going through my head. If it was to be bad, it would be very bad.

We decided to call the ambulance to be put on a heart monitor and be in a controlled environment much sooner. They responded very quickly. We had to explain the LVAD and my experiences quickly with a lot of detail. It's funny how even firefighters and paramedics don't understand this device. It's just not common enough to invest the money into training people. I'm not sure if they realized they will most likely never experience an event with this device again. Shout out to the awesome response teams! You did a great job!

Anyway, they took us to Kitchener and I was assessed promptly. By the time I got there the dizzy feeling seemed to pass. They did blood work and took my vitals. The wonderful ICD technician analyzed Ivan (my ICD) and didn't find any events. This was comfort. The nurse that regularly follows me also came to see me. Once I saw her, I felt better. Even if a problem was to arise. I know I'm in good hands when I get to this team.

The team decided that there were no signs of significant concern. I was scheduled for an echo and a visit with my doctor today. This was scheduled a while ago. We were sent home, just thinking that things like this happen to people with heart problems. I guess I need to be reminded every now and again that I really am sick.

Today I had the echo and an appointment in Kitchener. My doctor was aware of the visit yesterday and he was able to explain what he thinks was the cause of my dizziness. First of all, my potassium was low. Potassium is very important for my heart. In the past I was extremely sensitive to low potassium. It was the reason why I would go into a serious arrhythmia for hours at a time. I'm certainly not that sensitive now but it could have contributed to my unwell feeling.

My doctor also explained what happens to me in the heat and when I exert myself. When a normal person experiences heat or exertion the arteries vasodilate in an effort to cool the body down. When this happens the heart rate increases to sustain a constant flow of blood through the enlarged vessels. Since my heart rate never changes but my vessels still dilate my blood flow does not remain constant. This could cause me to be dizzy or lightheaded.

So he told me to take an extra potassium pill today and to take special precautions in this heat and while I exercise. Avoid exercising on the really humid days and drink lots of water to keep my temperature under control.

I was treated very well through the whole process from the emergency response teams to the nurses and doctors at the hospital. I appreciate that they took my concerns very seriously and made me feel much better from just a brief visit.

And, of course, my amazing husband was calm and supportive through the entire event. He took great care of me and stayed by my side for every moment. I couldn't ask for a better man!

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