Hopefully the last heart update for awhile.

posted by Brittney

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Well, today was the day. The day I found out the answers to my burning questions about my heart.

Actually, yesterday should have been the day. But, long story short, my doctor didn't help me at all. If anything, she left me more confused. Talk about inconsistent findings.

Today was my "second opinion" appointment.
Needless to say, it went much better than the first.

Where do I begin? I guess I should give a brief update of yesterday's appointment.
My parents came in yesterday morning for my early afternoon follow-up appointment. We spent almost 2 and a half hours in the doctor's office and left with more questions than answers.
Earlier this week, I had to get dental work done, and our dentist is a long-time family friend, so he knew about my heart issues and about everything that was going on (partly because he has to be conscious of my murmur when I get work done...aka, take 4 penicillin before I go in). He gave me some words of wisdom, and I quote, "find a doctor who knows more than you do". SO TRUE.

That's all I was thinking about yesterday when we were sitting in the exam room talking to my the doctor. I should have been the doctor in that room.
The only good that came out of the appointment was me suggesting to check my iron levels with another blood test. [Which I did today after my second appointment. So those results will be in Monday.] The findings we received were very inconsistent. One person told me one thing at my echo and then the doctor was telling me something completely different in the follow-up.

Here is what my overall recommendations were--"diet, exercise, weight loss, & sodium restriction".
Now, I have a problem with this.
And so did my entire family. I was dumbfounded that she even said that.
If they would have actually LOOKED at my chart, it would have said this--"low sodium determined by blood test", "competitive long-distance runner", "low weight", & "healthy diet".
Hmm. Weird.

Obviously, they treated me like their normal, every-day overweight elderly patient. I just wanted to say, "Doc, I eat so much salt it should be considered unhealthy, but I still have low sodium. Oh, that's because I run so much, which means I sweat a ton. Oh, and I use food as fuel, so I obviously have a good diet. And, don't get me started on my weight."

Sorry, I get really annoyed when I talk about that. Rant over.
Basically, we walked out of their very frustrated.

Hence, the appointment today to seek a second opinion.
This morning, bright & early at 7:30 am, I was in another doctor's office. My parents and Eric all came with me, and I am so happy they did.
The nurse took us to the exam room and took my vitals, all very good, and asked me the basic new patient questions.
Then she ran an EKG, which was "normal". [I will get back to this later.]
The nurse also looked at my cholesterol which she deemed a little low, but normal. [When we went to the previous doctor, they were more concerned with my cholesterol than the hole in my heart...very strange.]

The doctor then came in and asked me what was going on, so we filled him in, and he was very confused as well when he looked at the medical records from the previous doc. They were very conflicting results. It said that I had a VSD (ventricular septal defect) and a PFO (patent foramen ovale), and you can't have both. Ultimately, he determined that mine was the PFO, which means "hole in the heart". This is what I have known about for 4 years though, so no crazy new info there. [By the way, 10% of the population has this.]
But, from my bubble test results, it is a "low risk for embolism", which is good news. No stroke for me.

My new doctor was more concerned with the heart palpitations, fluttering, & chest tightness that I get when I'm resting. Because of this, I am having to wear what is called and "event monitor" for a month. I have 3 electrodes on my chest that are hooked up to a pager-like machine that attaches to my waistband. I just press the "record" button when I feel the palpitations starting and it records them. Easy enough.
And I don't have to wear it all the time, which is a great thing. I can't function with so many wires attached to me :)
Once, I get enough recordings, I send it back in and I make an appointment to hear the results. So I will keep everyone posted on that.

Now, on to the main findings of the appointment.
My new doc is a cyclist. Meaning, he is quite the athlete. He is an older man, who is as fit as can be. Because of this, he understands my concerns with running and dealing with the PFO, and the regurgitation (so we thought).
The so-called moderate regurgitation that I was presumed to have by my previous doctor, was not so.

Here is how it went down.
Once the nurse ran the EKG at the beginning of the appointment, she put it in a file for the doctor to look at before he saw me. Usually on an EKG, you can see if there is any regurgitation. Which is why the previous doctor told me I needed to do the echocardiogram, because they saw backflow. Well, here is what we they didn't think about...
An athlete's EKG looks abnormal compared to an average person's EKG results. Wow. Who would have thought?
Once the doc today read the EKG, he came in and was telling us that the computer reads the EKG and all of a sudden highlights things in red, because they are "abnormal" and not average findings. A normal person can have about 2 deviations from the normal EKG, whereas an athlete's go above and beyond those 2 deviations. So, when they read my EKG at the first doc, it looked abnormal and way out of whack. But even though I told the doctor, "I run about 60 miles a week and I run races all winter", she didn't listen to me.

So, of course they would want to run more tests.

Anyways, the verdict came out to be that I have VERY mild regurgitation, that is almost considered normal. Praise the Lord.

I love having doctors that are athletes or have friends that are athletes, because it makes is so much easier for them to understand. It took me forever to find a primary care physician that understands me, but once I did, I won't go anywhere else. He is a marathon runner, and now, my new cardiologist is a MS-150 cyclist. It makes my life so much easier.

One other concern by this doctor, was my fatigue. When he examined me, he kept asking if my weight was normal and all of the stuff that goes along with that, and he kept asking if it fluctuated. I told him that it stays in a certain range, but it fluctuates within that range. He then made me lay down and listened to my heart, and poked around my ribs, and my stomach. He thinks that maybe I am too thin. I never thought I would hear that! He thinks my fatigue and exhaustion is from overtraining. Even though I am eating all the right things and have a good runner's diet, he just thinks I am overtraining for my races. Which is causing stress on my heart in the long run. So, definitely something to think about.
It was hard to hear that, especially when I love running so much.

So, to sum it up, here is what's going on:
- The regurgitation is definitely not as bad as the previous doc led on.
- I do have the hole in my heart, but it is not as big as the previous doc thought.
- I still have the mild murmur, but that is caused by the SMALL PFO.
- My cholesterol is going to fine, I just need to keep taking my fish oil.
- I have to wear the "event monitor" for awhile, but once I finish, we will know more about what's going on with the palpitations and the skipped beats and fluttering sensation.
- My iron level results will be in on Monday, so I can know if I'm anemic or not. [Lots of women athletes are.]

I still have to go in for annual checkups, which I am more than happy to do. But it looks like I will be able to live a normal life and not be concerned for awhile (hoping these new results come back ok).
My awesome doctor said that my main concerns with running and having successful pregnancies in the future shouldn't stress me out. Just keep doing what I'm doing and not to worry.
Yes, I am going to have to get cardiologist checkups during pregnancy, but just to monitor, not to worry me. Just being proactive.

I am beyond thankful right now.
I am so at peace with all these findings. And I feel so blessed to have found a doctor that is working with me and was able to put my worries at ease.
I also feel extremely blessed for everyone's prayers, thoughts, and kind words.
You really have no idea how much they mean to me.

God really is so faithful. He is good and wonderful and I truly believe He heals.
I strongly believed that He even healed me a little bit.

Thank you so much, family, friends, friends of friends, family of friends, Alpha Chi Omega sisters, and anyone else, who prayed for me, prayed for my family, and gave me such hope. I cannot thank you enough.

Hopefully, whatever the monitor results come back as, they won't be anything that can't be fixed!

Love you all so much. I couldn't have gotten through this tough time without you.

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