Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cardiology Fun - Stress Test and Pacemaker Check

Shortly after arriving home from my cardiology appointment yesterday, Faith asked, "So was everything A-OK at the doctor's mommy?"

Although I had been dreading the first part of my appointment - the stress test - everything really did turn out "A-OK."

Doing a stress test is not fun for many reasons. First you have to take off your shirt and bra and put on one of those flimsy hospital gowns. Then they have to hook you up to like a dozen electrodes. You have to try to keep everything intact as you push your heart to it's maximum limit. And in my case, while all of this was going on, a good-looking young guy who was an intern at Mayo was in the room. Thank goodness I had two wonderful nurses who helped to keep my gown closed and wires untangled while I was on the treadmill.

The first three minutes of the test weren't so bad but then they raised the incline and the treadmill sped up. Towards the end of the three minutes I started noticing my legs getting tired. Then after another three minutes they raised the incline again and sped it up. After a total of 8 minutes and 54 seconds, I was done and told them I had to stop - I felt short of breath and my stomach began to hurt.

The stomach ache has been a mystery symptom of mine for the last couple of years or so. It's like when my heart rate reaches it's max, my stomach begins to hurt. I especially notice this in hot, humid weather. My main reason for doing the stress test was to try to figure this out.

Following my stress test, I got my pacemaker checked and found out the battery has seven months left. That means sometime in the winter I'll be traveling to Mayo to get a new battery - possibly even a whole new pacemaker implanted.

Finally, I had my consult with my cardiologist. He said as far as my stress test went, I did pretty darn good considering I only have one single functioning ventricle. He went on to say that there are some people with two working ventricles that don't even make it three minutes.

I told him the the thing that bothered me was my stomach hurting because when that happens, I am forced to stop and rest and that I wish I could do more. He thinks the abdominal pain might have something to do with the fact that my pacemaker is set at a maximum of 140 beats per minute and once I reach that max, my pacemaker isn't  allowing my heart to work as hard as I need it to which limits the oxygen and blood flow.

After checking with the pacemaker guy at Mayo, he said I could try to have my pacemaker set to 160 beats per minutes which would allow my heart to work a little harder if it needed to. The disadvantage is that the higher my heart rate, the more prone it is to flutter and go into arrhythmia. Just to be safe, after getting my pacemaker reset, I'll get a holter monitor done which will show if my heart is having rhythm issues.

It's strange but even though I have had a heart condition all my life I don't think of myself as someone who has to have limitations. I've been told to not lift my daughter when she reaches 60 pounds but in my mind that limitation doesn't exist. I want to be able to do what I need to do to care for my daughter - which includes taking her on walks in her chair pushing her up and down our hilly neighborhood without my stomach hurting and forcing me to stop and rest.

After yesterday's appointment, I am feeling thankful about how well I'm doing - considering the complexity of my heart condition. I also truly believe that God has and continues to heal my heart. And even though I know I have to listen to my body, it doesn't stop me from believing that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

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