​​​​Nan Little

​​​If I Can Climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Why Can't I Brush My Teeth?

Courage, Tenacity and Love Meet Parkinson's Disease

Heart to Heart  April 13, 2013

I’ve been meaning to write about this for several months. Two years ago, on Valentine’s Day, 2014, I had an ablation to try to correct a problem with my heart.  It appeared that my heart rate was spiking, up to over 200 and back again and again and again. But the cardiologist couldn’t find a problem so I spent the whole day having a surgical procedure to correct something that wasn’t there.  I wonder what the residuals were from that day?  I shudder to think what it cost.  


At Christmas time 2015, my heart started racing again so back I went to the cardiologist.  He had me wear a Vio patch that recorded my heartbeat for two weeks, but nothing showed up so perhaps the problem was imaginary.  I felt embarrassed at getting so much attention for something that might be a product of my imagination.  The cardiologist suggested three courses of action: experiment with various medications, but since he didn’t know the problem how would he choose the medications?; perform an ablation, but since we had no indication that the problem needed an ablation, it seemed strange to do that; implant a heart monitoring chip in my chest that would record my every heartbeat for three years so if anything happened, there would surely be a record of it, which would give him a clue.  I thought that doing nothing would be another option, but since everyone was convinced my heart was acting erratically, we decided that doing something was a better option than pretending nothing was wrong.  


So in February 2016, two years after the initial ablation, I had a microchip implanted in my chest.  If it only had GPS I would be like a dog or a cat that could be found, which could be a real bonus if I develop dementia.  The powers that be should think about that. At first I felt tremendously self-conscious about having the chip.  When I went through airport security the first time, I felt a compulsion to tell the TSA folks about it even though Medtronics said there was no need.  (They didn’t make me take off my shoes or jewelry.)  As soon as the wound healed, I pretty well forgot about the chip except I faithfully remembered to take my clicker/marker gadget with me most of the time. I clicked it now and then, trying to figure out which sensations were worthy of recording and which just repeated familiar patterns. Soon I didn’t click at all.  On April 11, as we sat eating lunch with friends I suddenly felt something very different in my chest.  I could only say it felt like I was doing wind sprints, rapid heart rate, pause, rapid heart rate, pause, etc.  I put my clicker over my heart and recorded the event.  The next morning call from the hospital verified that, for no apparent reason, my heart had gone from normal to 150 for 3-5 beats, down to 100, and up and down.  This pattern went off and on for about seven hours, manifesting itself with a pain in my throat along with the heart sensations.  It quit when I went to bed.


The next day we travelled to Canada, stopping along the way to have lunch with friends.  I described what had happened and a few minutes later, it started up again.  My friend, a PT, took my pulse but said it was so erratic she couldn’t take it. Same thing: several fast beats followed by slow.  This just lasted a couple of hours.  I have a cardio appointment in a few days.  Hopefully, there will be some clarity.  I find I’m more curious than worried.

4/27/16  It’s official!  I have Atrial Fibrillation. The diagnosis is not something to cheer about, but I find that having a name to put on the condition is important to me.  If it has a name, perhaps it can be fixed.  Then again, Parkinson’s Disease has a name and there is no fixing it, so perhaps my elation should be tempered.  I have other friends who have two conditions, PD and cancer for example.  Which is most important?  I’ve been so busy thinking about PD I haven’t focused on much else.  But PD will hang around. If my heart goes south, no need to worry about PD.  Another visit to the cardiologist coming up. Then…a plan of action.  My body was a lot easier to live with a few years ago.