#19, I have a Syndrome, Vintage View!

The View From My Apartment 19

Sorry, fans, I haven’t been here for you…I know, I know, you’ve all been crying in the dark, desperate for the next blog, and I have let you down.

But, I have a good excuse. It’s all because…

I Have A Syndrome!

It’s true. I have a syndrome. It’s a called Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome. It’s a syndrome of the heart which affects the process of the electrical signals between the upper and lower chambers of the heart. More on that later.

I’ve had this thing with my heart ever since high school. Every so often it would suddenly start beating faster, sometimes after I did something strenuous…You’re all thinking, duh, Larry, my heart does the same thing. When this happens, it’s called tachycardia, basically, the heart races and it doesn’t slow down, like in normal hearts.

At first it was scary. Suddenly, the heart is doing something you don’t expect. Or want. Overtime, however, I got a little used to it. It became a nuisance. One of those things. Hopefully it will go away…

What I feel for a moment is clenching of the heart and it suddenly bumps up how many beats per minute. This accelerated rate generally stays around for about an hour, and then, a clench, and then it’s back to normal. And let me tell you…it feels SO good when it goes back to normal….

But Why Did You Go To the Doctor Now?

Well.

A few weeks ago Deepti and I went upstate to go see a friend of ours, Tommy Schoffler, in a show. It was also a great excuse to get out of the city. (One does have to wonder, do I spend ANY time in New York? Not when I can help it.)

At dinner, before the show, sitting beside Lake Champlain, chatting, having a beer, suddenly, I felt it. The clench. And my heart started racing. When I work out, I generally go up to 160, this was faster than that.

There IS a danger here with the accelerated beat. The biggest problem…well…the biggest problem would be heart attack, but mine doesn’t beat THAT fast. The problem with the accelerated beat is that if the upper and lower chambers aren’t working together, and they are beating fast, it doesn’t provide enough time for blood to enter into the heart. It can cause dizziness, fainting, etc. And yes, in extreme cases, i.e., rare, a heart attack.

When it happens, I generally try different things that in my mind cause it to go back to normal. I either try to take deep calming breaths or I try the opposite, I hold my breath. My thinking was that I was trying to recreate whatever it is that caused it to start…In the end, I think what happened was one time I held my breath and the heart returned to normal and it’s something that I thought I had done. Silly self-medicating Larry.

Anyway. That night it kept going, and going. All through dinner, and I thought, well, it will stop during the show, and then all through the show, I’m breathing deep, holding my breath. It went all the way through the show. We had drinks after…all through drinks. Five hours later, as I was lying down in bed, clench…and ah, a return to normal.

Through out the night, Deepti kept feeling my heart race, looking at me, I would nod all calm like. She said, “You’re going to a doctor.”

I stamped my feet, crossed my arms, pouted on the train back to New York, doing my best to look all sour at her.

Doctor Number One—this is short

I made an appointment to see my doctor. I should actually say the doctor that my health insurance assigned me to, because I’ve never seen him, so really, could he be mine?

I make the long walk to the end of the block…yes…his office is actually attached to my apartment building. The office was small and in some need of updating, some paint, carpet, etc. And the Doctor was nice, we chatted, he listened to my heart, we both knew he was just a step in the chain.

He decided to order an ECG (echo cardiogram), which was done there, much to my surprise. In the back room. Among the file cabinets. In the middle was one of those doctor tables with the paper. The woman at reception came in, had me take off my shirt, and hooked me up to the machine…which looked like it came out of the 1980’s. Some of the leads had to be attached with tape, for which she apologized when she ripped them off.

I made an attempt at a joke, “Yeah, you didn’t become a nurse to torture people.”

“What?”

I repeated my joke. She smiled, “Oh, I’m not a nurse; I’m just the office manager.”

With that, I took my abnormal ECG and got a referral for a cardiologist.

Doctor Number Two

I have to admit, I was a little nervous to go to the Cardiologist. Ok. More than nervous. Anxious. This of course is the perfect state to be in when you’re seeing someone about your heart. But I couldn’t get over this idea: this is about my heart, my heart, a pretty important organ to the body. One that HAS to keep working.

Images of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom passed before my eyes.

I was perfectly happy just ignoring this thing, it only happens once or twice a year, if that. And, as long as I didn’t know anything about it, it wasn’t life threatening. I was wrapped in my ignorance is bliss and I have to admit, I like it.

But, I got busted. Deepti felt it. It lasted five hours. It was time.

Yesterday, I finally made it to my Cardiologist.

In reception, there were a few patients…average age: 1 Million. And here I was throwing off the curve. I felt…I’m not sure how I felt, but I had a sinking feeling. Like: wow, I’m here getting treated. Wow, I’m really not as invulnerable as I thought. Wow, thank god I have insurance to pay for this.

Finally, my name is called and I’m shown into a room. Small room. With other equipment that a nurse is using. I meet with the doctor, he’s funny, he listens to the story that I have told again and again. He nods. He decides to do three tests.

Another ECG.

And a sonogram of the heart. I wait in line. There are four old ladies a head of me. I feel a little foolish. One woman, whose name is Barbara; I know this because her Daughter in Law has to shout for Barbara to hear. She was frail, walked slowly into the room before me. When she came out, with her tiny bony hand pointed into the room, telling me it was my turn. I think I joined a club that day.

Off with the shirt, onto the table, technician sticking the sonogram wand hard against my chest. The machine flicked and then there on the screen…my heart, a fleeting black and white image, beating, ventricles opening and closing, opening and closing.

I have never felt so exposed.

That done…

Heart Monitor

The last thing was the heart monitor. I knew I was going to get one attached. I used to work in the cardiology department of a health clinic in Minneapolis. I knew they would want to observe and record my heart…I just didn’t realize how many wires would be attached.

Again, off with the shirt, and out with the razor. Razor!? Yep. I may not have a lot, but, she had to shave off some chest hair. That done, she started slapping on the leads. One, two, three…seven leads, all going to this device on that gets hung like a fanny pack. Stylin…!

And it’s not like the wires are short so you can hide them, they dangle, they hang, and I’m all taped up to them.

I have to wear the monitor for 24 hours; I’m wearing it right now.

I am an escapee from sci-fi cautionary tale of medical science.

Treatment?

So, Larry, what are the treatments for WPW?

I’m glad you asked. Basically, two treatments. WPW is caused by an extra conduction pathway in the heart, so the electrical signals get a little messed up and the timing between the upper and lower chambers of the heart get goofy. One treatment is medication. The other catheter ablation.

Catheter, isn’t that thing that goes up your pee-pee when you are in the hospital so they collect your pee so you don’t pee all over their sheets? Yes. But this is different.

This catheter would go up my femoral artery, the big one in the thigh, and go up to the heart—gross—and then a little radiofrequency energy (so says the American Heart Association website says) destroys the extra conduit, curing the patient. This would be me. Let’s up I’m unconscious, because, quite frankly the idea of a long thin wire going up my leg to my heart freaks me out a little. It’s like a bizarre way of killing someone out of a James Bond movie.

So, those are the options. Most likely it will be number two, as medication for something that only happens maybe once or twice a year is silly.


Hey, Are They Any Famous People “Afflicted” With WPW?

Yes!

Tony Blair.
Meat Loaf.
Marilyn Manson.

So…

So…I’m hooked up the monitor which will be dropped off on Tuesday, and then the Doctor will look through it…and we will figure out the next step.

But the good news…I’m not dying, I don’t need a heart transplant—but I’m sure if I did, someone out there would offer, and I thank you, but, please, put your hearts away, you might need them later.

Stay tuned…

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