[Update] The procedure is done, but we didn’t get the results we expected. In short, what they thought was happening wasn’t, so they removed all their gear without doing any ablation. She had a minor atrial fibrillation event while they were in there, but they weren’t sure of the cause. Looks there’s more testing in our future!

Thanks for everything, Oppo!

On this glorious Wednesday morning, I’m sitting in the waiting room at the heart care center while my wife undergoes cardiac ablation to correct an abnormal heart rhythm. It’s something that she’s dealt with for years, but we didn’t figure out what was going on until about six months ago. Basically, her heart starts racing with any stimulation, whether it’s exercise or even strong emotions. That’s what causes most of these cases to be mis-diagnosed. General practitioners chalk it up to being “nervous” or “anxious” when the real problem is a timing issue. Basically, the wiring which controls her heart rate is short-circuiting, causing the abnormal rhythm.

When the heart goes out of rhythm, it causes feelings of anxiousness. After the episode is over, it causes exhaustion. It’s not unusual for people with this condition to sleep a lot and at strange hours. My wife would be up in the morning, be exhausted before lunch, sleep most of the afternoon, be up again for dinner, go to sleep early, wake up for a few hours in the middle of the night, go to sleep again, then start the process all over again in the morning.

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I figured something was wrong when her heart rate would skyrocket after just a few minutes on the elliptical. I thought that either the machine was broken because it uses hand grips to get the heart rate, or she was pushing it a lot harder than she would admit. So, I bought her a chest-strap heart rate monitor. The idea was to teach her zone training so she could manage her effort level. I’ve been doing the same for years on my bike.

Then I took a look at the results of her first session. Her heart rate was nearly 200 bpm after just three or four minutes of exercise. As they say, that ain’t right! I sent her to a cardiologist. He sent her to a more specialized cardiologist, an electrophysiologist (EP). The EP sent her home with a medical-grade heart rate monitor that she had to wear for a couple of weeks. That’s when they figured out that her heart wasn’t firing properly.

The solution is fairly simple. They run some catheters up to her heart through the femoral arteries, poke around until they can identify the culprit, then zap the cells causing the problem. It’s like putting new silicone spark plug wires on your car. It should take two to four hours. Fortunately, the risks are really low.

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I’ll post an update once we’re done.