On my last update on June 14th I talked about the pocket ECG monitor I had to wear for a week to confirm I wasn’t having any afib episodes. I wore the monitor for seven days as instructed and then waited to hear from Dr. Natale’s office to see what they saw during the monitoring period.
For whatever reason, it took a long time for them to get back to me – almost three weeks. In the meantime, my heart monitor sat on the counter collecting dust as I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to return it or continue to wear it. They finally got back to me in a very brief email that all was good. I was in NSR the whole time and the only thing they saw were a few PVCs and PACs but nothing to worry about.
In short, I was “good to go” and the ablation recovery process was officially over!
The Calm Before the Storm
I wore the pocket EKG from June 14th to June 21st. Ironically, the day after I took off the monitor for the last time I started feeling some weird palpitations periodically throughout the day. I knew it wasn’t afib but it was “something.” I told Shirley, one of Dr. Natale’s nurses and my primary contact there, that I was feeling some weird palpitations. I asked her if I should put the pocket ECG back on for a few more days so they could see what was going on.
Shirley didn’t think that was necessary and said that what I was experiencing was just PVCs and PACs. It was nothing to worry about.
At that time I wasn’t having these PVCs and PACs continuously. I’d say I was experiencing them maybe 5% of the time. It really wasn’t a big deal.
The PVC Storm Hits (After My Dad Dies)
Then my world as I knew it crashed. My dad was admitted to the emergency room and then immediately to ICU early Saturday morning on June 27th. It’s a very tragic story and you can read about it here, but he died the following day. He was only 61 years old.
I was extremely close to my dad so it was a very tough loss for me. He also suffered from atrial fibrillation and had total right side heart failure when he was admitted that Saturday morning. As a hypochondriac to begin with, you can imagine how freaked out I was as I was witnessing my dad go through all of this. All I could think about (and still think about) is, “Will this be me in 10 or 20 years?”
At any rate, I was with my dad that Saturday night in the ICU and of course I didn’t sleep at all. On early Sunday morning I felt my heart pounding out of my chest. I started freaking out because I thought I was in afib or I was about to go into afib. I had my AliveCor monitor with me so I took a reading and while I wasn’t in afib, I was in tachycardia with a heartbeat of about 115 beats a minute – sometimes hitting 120 beats per minute. My average heart rate right is around 75 beats per minute.
I attributed the tachycardia to the incredible stress I was under and the fact I was going 24+ hours without any sleep. Quite honestly, I was surprised I didn’t go into afib. That was probably the first real test of my ablation. While my heart may have been ticking faster, it was nothing but solid NSR throughout the whole ordeal.
Ever since my dad’s death, however, I have had nothing but constant PVCs. I went from having them 5% of the time to 90% of the time. Even as I write this post I’m experiencing them.
I mostly get them around noon and then they last until I go to sleep. Fortunately, they seem to subside almost completely when I go to bed for the night. I also never have them when I first wake up or anytime in the morning. It’s always in the afternoon and they don’t stop until I go to bed.
I returned the pocket EKG because I was told I was officially “in the clear” and continuous monitoring wasn’t necessary. I was allowed to keep the event monitor for a couple more months. What I’ve been doing now is trying to capture the worst of these PVC events and send those to the monitoring company so Dr. Natale’s office can review them.
So far they keep telling me I’m just having PVCs and that it’s nothing to worry about. While that might be true, these PVCs really suck. They don’t really affect me in any way other than I can feel every one of them. Each PVC feels like an extra pronounced heart beat and at times it feels like I have to catch my breath – sort of. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced them but they are just super annoying.
I’m in constant contact with my good friend and “afib mentor,” Shannon Dickson of Afibbers.org. He’s been helping me get through these damn things. He says that it’s perfectly normally to experience PVCs and PACs for a period of time after an ablation. As he put it, they can “come and go” for as long as a year after an ablation. It’s all a part of the recovery process.
Another thing he told me was that it’s very possible the death of my dad threw my body chemistry out of whack and that’s what triggered the onslaught of PVCs. And it’s possible I’m still stressed over his passing (even though I don’t really feel stressed) and that’s causing the PVCs.
Either way, I want them stopped! I’m in the process right now of trying to find a good local EP I can work with in case shit hits the fan and my heart starts doing crazy things. While I won’t let anyone touch my heart except Dr. Natale, I want a local EP I can work with for any tests or exams that might be necessary in the future – or if I have any “emergency events.”
I’m finding it very difficult to find highly qualified local EPs. I asked Dr. Natale’s office for recommendations but it’s been nothing but crickets so far. I know they are super busy so I’ll cut them some slack but it would be nice if they could give me some recommendations. I also reached out to Shannon but he hasn’t really been able to help either. He gave me a couple names of doctors at Mayo Clinic down in Rochester but that’s 2 hours away. Granted, that’s not a long haul in the scheme of things but I’d like to find a doctor that’s close – like within 30-45 minutes of my home.
I talked to Shannon about how hard it is to find “good” local EPs and he agreed. I told him I want to build a directory of the best EPs in the country and he thought it was a great idea as he’s been thinking about doing the same thing. We agreed to work on a directory together as soon as we re-launch Afibbers.org, which will be in the fall. Until then, I need to find a local EP I can work with so I’ll keep you posted. I don’t know if I’ll just end up going to Mayo or settling for someone more local.
For now I’ll continue to send in periodic recordings to MediLynx for Dr. Natale’s office to review and I’ll try to figure out a way to put these PVCs to rest. Hopefully I’ll get lucky and they’ll settle down on their own (hopefully sooner than later). I guess the silver lining in all of this is my ablation has held strong during all of this. Despite the temporary tachycardia and the constant PVCs and PACs, I continue to stay in NSR through all of this!