Thoughts of my Heart

posted by Brittney

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I actually started this as a journal entry, but it ended up being much more than that for me. It’s a little piece of my heart…literally. I was feeling deep and just wanted to share.

In one week, I have my annual cardiologist appointment to check up on my heart. I always get so anxious before these sorts of things. I’m hoping for an A+ at my check up, but I know that there is always that little voice in my head telling me that anything can happen.

Most of you know that I have a heart condition (two of them if you want to get technical.)
Three years ago, I was laying in bed trying to go to sleep and felt my heart skip a beat. Then my heart started “fluttering” & palpitating quickly. I thought I was having an anxiety attack or something, but I felt way too much pressure in my chest for it to be anxiety. The pressure and the crazy fast heartbeat lasted for about 5 minutes. I didn't want to move because I didn’t want to make anything worse. My heart rate is normally a little less than 50 beats/minute, so you can see why this was very scary. I didn’t like the feeling of that pressure either…obviously. I tried to shake it off and not think about it, but it kept happening for the next week. Finally, I decided that I needed to see a specialty doctor because heart conditions are not something you want to play around with.

Eric came with me to the cardiologist for support and after going through all the vitals, background info, and symptoms, the doctor told me I needed to have some tests run.
They scheduled an echocardiogram, an ultrasound, and a saline test for me at the hospital. My mom came up for all the tests because I was basically freaking out (which is not a good idea to do when you are being tested for heart issues). My stress level was probably through the roof.

A technician came in to do my echo and ultrasound, and then a doctor came in to do my bubble contrast echo. Basically, what an echocardiogram does is uses sound waves to look at the heart. They looked at my heart’s chambers and valves, my blood flow, the pumping of my heart, and of course, they looked at and listened to my heartbeat.
The bubble contrast definitely freaked me out. I don’t know if any of you have heard of this or know what it is, but basically it is a test that uses the injection of saline into a vein, in conjunction with an echocardiogram, to find heart defects. It just gives me the heebie jeebies seeing saline shooting up my arm and following it into my heart. I have to admit, it was very cool, because I love stuff like that, but I was just too freaked out about everything else. Anyways, once the saline was in my blood, the doctor watched to see if the bubbles from the saline moved from the right ventricle to the left ventricle or stayed in the line of blood flow. And it did. Which means I was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called ventricular septal defect. Basically, in between my right and left ventricle, I have a small hole, which is supposed to close up in children, as they get older. But it never did. After my results came back, the doc told me that because of VSD, I also have a heart murmur. This is because the blood flow that goes through the hole in my heart, creates extra noise. Ok, enough of the science lesson. I didn’t mean to digress.

My condition is nothing life threatening right now; I just have to get an annual checkup, listen to my body, be conscientious, and wear a heart rate monitor when exercising.

As a runner, this has posed some problems. For example, the Boston Marathon last year. Because of the heat and unfortunate conditions, my heart rate skyrocketed. My watch beeped at me and warned me that my heart rate was TOO HIGH. I immediately stopped, walked, and put some fluids in my body. I am a super-competitive person, so stopping to walk made me feel worthless. But, it was a life-threatening emergency…and like I said, you just don’t mess around with that stuff.

Anyways, I haven’t had too many concerns with my heart lately, but every now and then I can “feel” the murmur and it scares me quite a bit, especially when I’m running and feel it. Because of this, I am so nervous about my appointment. And you can’t be nervous before these kinds of things. Or else my readings will be all over the charts.

So many of my concerns in life, when I feel the murmur flare up or when I am in a stressful situation, involve my heart and how I can do certain things without worrying about myself.

- Am I going to be able to survive grad school without getting so stressed out that my heart is in overload? Side-note: I usually notice my heart murmur start bothering me when I get super stressed out…which during school, is at least a couple times a week.
Am I going to be able to continue running like I have been when I’m older? Right now I am running almost 50 miles a week, and during training, it’s more. [Hence, the need for my heart rate monitor.] Yes, I have been doing it for a few years this way, but is there a point when my heart will just say, “enough is enough” and hinder me from running?
- Am I going to be able to have a normal pregnancy and birth in the future? Or is my heart condition going to put stress on myself, or worse, the baby? Or what if I pass it down to Eric & I’s children?

I know that God has a plan for me and for my path in life, which gives me some peace knowing that He is in control, but I still can’t help but wonder about these things and worry about them just a little bit.
I know my issue may be petty and insignificant compared to all those people out there with far worse heart issues than mine, so at least I have good health, regardless of my condition. I am lucky to have so few problems compared to the rest of the world.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
-Jeremiah 29:11

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
 -Matthew 6:34

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