October 25, 2010

Be Still My Heart...No, Don't! Can't You Tell When I'm Kidding?

A few years back, I had myself a health scare. It started out with chest pains - big, scary chest pains, as well as constant palpitations. I drove myself (and The Boy) to the ER - yeah, I know how dumb that was to drive myself.

Chest pains in an ER is one sure way to skip ahead to the front of the line - and it's so much less messy than bleeding profusely (trust me on this).

I get hooked up to an EKG, and that's when the fun starts.

"Do you have a pacemaker?" Negative.

"Your EKG is really abnormal. Your heart rate is below 60, and the rhythm is not regular." Oops.

"We'd like to admit you." Meanwhile, The Boy has fallen asleep on an adjoining bed in the ER. 

I refused admittance - who would watch The Boy? I left against medical advice, never a good thing. The admitting cardiologist glared at me above the rims of her glasses. She was ready to call Children and Youth Services, to have him put in temporary care.

Over my dead body...wait, maybe I shouldn't have said that.

I promised I'd call a cardiologist in the morning (by now, that was only a couple of hours away). Pinky swear.

We drove home, and The Boy sacked out...and I went to bed, too, but I can't say I slept.

As promised, I contacted a cardiologist in the morning...and had an appointment that very same day.

I had an echocardiogram.

I did a stress test (and thought I'd die from sheer exertion on that damned treadmill). They could find nothing wrong...until they hooked me up to the EKG again.

"Do you have a pacemaker?" Negative.

"Your EKG is really abnormal. Your heart rate is below 60, and your rhythm is irregular." Deja vu, all over again.

I got to wear a Holter monitor for 24 hours, on two different occasions. The first time, they forgot to turn the darned thing on...oopsies. 


The Holter monitor is really a portable EKG. After you wear it, you return to the doctor and they read the data that has been collected.

The cardiologist noted that I was taking Effexor at the time - it's an antidepressant.

Done in by the pharmaceutical industry...there's no beauty in that.

The final diagnosis? Acquired Long QT Syndrome. 

Letters are assigned to represent the various parts of a hearbeat. If you see the blue line, it represents the QT interval (that is, the interval of time between the Q part of the heart wave, the R, the S and finally, the T).

If the time between Q - T is too long (greater than or equal to 480 milliseconds), you could drop over dead.

Just like that.

The 'Acquired' part of the diagnosis comes from the fact that I only have the syndrome when I take drugs that lengthen the interval in the heartbeat. You can see a list of these drugs here.

My level was 460 msec - too close for comfort. The doctor discussed the possibility of placing a ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) - you know, the thing that Dick Cheney had put in to restart his cold, cold heart.

Or I could stop taking Effexor.

Bye, bye pretty pills. And I now check the drug list before I take any medication, whether prescription or over the counter.

The reason I am dredging up this incident?

The Boy had an appointment the other day at the pediatrician. The doctor entered all of The Boy's meds into an iPhone app that tracks interactions and other stuff - and lo, and behold - Long QT Syndrome showed up.

The Boy had his first EKG the other day. If I hadn't heard anything back from the doctor, it was normal.

I suppose this entire post could have been "The Boy had an EKG the other day - he is fine."

I seem to suffer from Acquired Long Post Syndrome, too.


Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.


  1. I'll forgive you ... but I'm wondering about a doctor who does stuff by entering information into an iPhone app!?

  2. My husband had an ICD put in a couple months ago. Scary stuff....glad the boy's EKG was good!


Thanks for stopping by. I love your comments...I get all warm inside just reading them!