When I was 14 I recall asking my grandmother about the seemingly random chest pains I would have. She shrugged it off saying it was just muscle spasms in my chest.
I mean logically speaking, who would think a 14-year-old could have a heart condition that could be debilitating? Thinking back, there were other signs.
I had danced since I was 2 years old, done gymnastics, and was a cheerleader in high school. All activity that would get my heart rate up, but at that age, not enough for my symptoms to be severe.
The track coach at my high school hounded me for a couple years to go out for the team, so one summer I gave it a try.
It had a vastly different impact on my body than the other sports I was doing. I struggled to breathe and could feel my heart like it was going to jump out of my chest.
It did not feel good. Needless to say, I didn’t look into why it was so hard for me, I just didn’t run track ever again.
In my late 20’s I started to have issues just working out at the gym and brisk walking and hiking. I finally did go to the doctor and I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma.
Around the same time, I was also diagnosed with panic attacks. My symptoms all align with the symptoms of inappropriate sinus tachycardia. Palpitations, chest pain, difficulty breathing, lethargy, dizziness, exhaustion, and lightheadedness.
The trouble was, many of those same symptoms (not all) are symptoms of exercise-induced asthma and panic attacks. I was given Prozac and an albuterol inhaler.
For many years I lived with those misdiagnoses. Mainly I just severely curbed much of the cardiovascular exercise I was doing.
I wasn’t until 2013 when my now spouse paid very close attention to how often I was sort of breath and having chest pain that the thought occurred to me that something more sinister could be wrong.
A snowball effect occurred when I went to the ER to check on the severe pain I was having in my wrist. During triage, the nurse noticed my heart rate was very elevated (almost 130 bpm).
She asked if I was stressed or excited for some reason, I said, “No”. I had been sitting in the waiting for about 20 minutes and was sitting calmly while triage was being done. She ordered an EKG (the first of many to come in the near future).
I ended up having to stay overnight because my heart rate was randomly tachy, very tachy (high), and I was just laying on the hospital bed.
They did an echocardiogram and a stress test. The structure of my heart was perfect, The treadmill stress test didn’t definitively show them anything.
The cardiologist was at a loss. On the day of my discharge from the hospital, the cardiologist PA came into my room to relate to me that the cardiologist was prescribing me metropolol to help control my heart rate.
The young lady (PA), sort of thought a bit and said, “I bet this is electrical, you’ve gotta get to an electrophysiologist. Have your Primary refer you.” I can’t begin to tell you how here words have affected this journey.
I went to my primary, he listened to my heart and heard the tachycardia. He also heard PVC’s. He immediately had me do an EKG in his office right then. He then confirmed what he heard. He gave me a referral to a cardiologist.
Within 6 months I stopped taking metoprolol because it did very little to extenguish my symptoms. It was not controlling my tachycardia.
The cardiologist I was sent to actually never met with me. Every appointment I had for almost 6 months was with his PA.
I had 2 different stress tests and another echocardiogram and an EKG every time I was in the office. The PA did not believe anything was wrong with me.
Like every other cardiologist (at the ER) I had dealt with did not see any abnormalities on my EKG. He finally told me I could stop taking the medication, that it must be in my head.
Nothing was wrong with me. All the while, continuing to have chest pain (ranging from discomfort to sharp pains that would radiate up my neck and down my left arm), shortness of breath, severe exhaustion, and at this point sharp drop in quality of life.
I couldn’t do anything that would get my heart rate up. It caused me too much pain. I stopped working out the moment I felt like I was about to pass out walking on the treadmill at the gym. My heart rate was close to 300 bpm.
The day I left the cardiologist’s office after hearing there was nothing wrong with me, I called my primary and set an appointment to get another referral for a second opinion.
But this time I did research about my symptoms. I looked up heart racing. Chest pain. Heart conditions with tachycardia. I found information about SVT.
I stayed up all night reading blogs and the stories of people that were having similar symptoms to mine.
Then I recalled what the PA at the hospital said to me before I left. I remembered she said I need an electrophysiologist.
I immediately looked up what that is. What they do. I looked up the best electrophysiologist in my city. I wrote down all of his info and took that info with me to my appointment with my primary.
Along with all the info, I had printed about SVT. I asked my Primary to refer to that specific cardiologist electrophysiologist.
To put his name on the referral. He did. After listening to my heart again and hearing what he heard before. He also did another EKG.
I got my referral and scheduled my appointment with the electrophysiologist.
I was so excited to be seeing someone who would know more about what could be wrong with me. At this point, I knew I had an SVT. I just needed for a doctor to see it.
When he walked into the room, the first thing he said after taking my hand (because I was certainly at my wit’s end), looking me in the eyes was, “You have an SVT, you are not crazy.”
I immediately burst into tears. All I wanted was to feel better, get my life back, and for my spouse to not be wracked with worry over me.
In the almost year that had passed, being a student, a mother, and working had become almost impossible. I had gained weight and was tired all of the time.
I had even begun to have major brain fog from a combination of exhaustion (chest pains would often wake me up out of my sleep), and the blood moving so rapidly through my body uptake of oxygen was not optimal. I was ready to aggressively fix this problem.