Although many of the blog posts will be more directly related to Tetralogy of Fallot, especially those concerning life when I was younger, last year, I had some complications regarding my heart and I believe that they are important to include on the blog as well.
A little over a year ago, I had my first, and so far only, complication involving my heart – an episode of ventricular tachycardia, also called v-tach. V-tach is an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, that occurs when the electrical signals firing within the heart start to go haywire. The lower chambers, or ventricles, start to beat crazy fast and out of sync with the upper chambers, or the atriums.
When it first happened I had no idea what was going on. I was getting my horse ready to ride when all of a sudden my heart rate skyrocketed. I thought my heart was just acting up and that whatever was going on would go away on its own so I walked my horse through the barn to an area where I could sit down and take some deep breaths.
After about 25 minutes and a phone call with my mom, I realized I probably needed to call an ambulance. I ended up sustaining the v-tach, my heart rate reaching up to 298 beats per minute, for 3 hours before the doctors could finally get my heart rate back to normal.
I wish I could say that I just immediately bounced back after this episode, that nothing had changed. However, that is not what happened. To this day, I’m still processing how this affected me. I had lived my life for 20 years without any complications. I always knew that I had a congenital heart but my heart had never actually caused any problems. Mentally, I was totally unprepared for it.
Unnecessarily restricting myself, I started to see myself as more fragile. I was irrationally, yet totally understandably, terrified of doing simple things that would elevate my heart rate even slightly. Climbing the stairs in my house to get to my room suddenly became a monstrous feat.
The first time I got on my horse after the episode was one of the most nerve-wracking things I have ever done in my life. I was nervous to actually ride, however, I was even more terrified of getting my horse ready. I was waiting for the v-tach to happen again and send me right back to the hospital. When my heart rate remained normal, I could feel my entire body and mind relax. Being able to ride again was an incredible reminder that although things had changed, I could still lead the life I wanted to.
Although I have improved, I would be lying if I said that I don’t still feel the pull to restrict myself unnecessarily. Sometimes I feel uneasy or nervous about things I used to do without a second thought. This restrictive mindset is something I’m going to have to continue to work on, but I’m getting better at reminding myself that I don’t need it.
Thank you so much for reading! Don’t forget to check out the earlier blogs! If you have any questions about living with a congenital heart defect, v-tach, or ICDs, check out the Talk to Erin feature and send them in. I will respond as soon as I can!
If anyone wants to learn more about ventricular tachycardia or other arrhythmia issues, I have included the link to CHOP’s page on arrhythmias below.
Learn more about ventricular tachycardia.