Well it seems only fitting that today, National Red Dress Day, I'd talk about the heart.
My son is a wonderful man. Growing up, he never really caused me any trouble. I'm sure he's responsible for one or two of my gray hairs, but certainly not all of them. He was just 18 months old when my youngest was born, and he spent many years in her shadow. Her overwhelming needs most certainly dwarfed his own.
When my son became a teen, he began to complain about his chest feeling funny. He'd say his heart felt like it was beating out of his chest and he was short of breath. Every single time I'd listen to his heart or take his pulse, it was completely normal. My dad and my neighbor had just died so I thought he'd found a physical way to express his grief. Then one day he complained and I found this boy's pulse was racing so fast, I couldn't keep count. I took him to the ER where they hooked him up to a monitor which showed nothing abnormal, just plain old vanilla sinus rhythm. How boring. We couldn't make his heart act up until the nurse stuck his arm with a needle. Immediately, his heart rate jumped to 200 on the monitor and just as fast as the catheter was advanced in his arm, the rhythm was gone.
We were discharged home that day and followed up with a cardiac electrophysiologist. My son had an electrophysiology (EP) study with empiric ablation. More or less, the doctor zapped the tissue in the general area he thought was causing the problem. It didn't really help except now when my son felt the rapid rhythm coming on, it was always preceded by a thump he could feel. We were back to square one. We changed doctors and over a few weeks, my son wore a cardiac event monitor which he'd press whenever he felt his heart racing. You know it's not good when a cardiologist calls your home on a Saturday and starts talking about sustained heart rates of 200 to 220. We saw a different EP doc who took him to the cath lab and tried again to fry the piece of tissue in his heart that was causing his condition of AVNRT, but because of sedation, they were unable to get the heart to act up during this visit. Sick of it all, we looked to medications to help, and through trial and error, found the drug metoprolol to be the most beneficial. For years, he's been stable and I can look at him without thinking of his heart.
Fast forward to today. Thinking nothing of it, I sent him to the doctor for dizziness. I'd checked his blood pressure, heart rate and listened to the rhythm. I thought I heard a new murmur but didn't think much of that. Just as I was getting ready for work, the phone rang. It was the family practice doctor telling me he thought my son had signs of an aortic aneurysm and he was concerned about a prominent new carotid bruit. WHAT??? I did what any seasoned ICU nurse would do: I broke down sobbing. I'm telling you, I was chicken little and called to anyone who would listen that the sky was falling. Wisely, one of them was the cardiologist. She, who is the voice of reason, called the cardiology department at the small hospital I used to work at and had them stay late to see us. Today, we've had one meltdown, one 2 D Echo with Colorflow Doppler and one Bilateral Carotid Artery Ultrasound. All was well. There is no aortic aneurysm, no bruit and I am a useless blob of spent energy with several new gray hairs. My sweetyheart is still dizzy, but he is not in an operating room. Now may be a good time to crack that bottle of red-it's the right color for today.