My day was mostly spent: waiting & reading, waiting more, spending an hour in the big, white tube (MRI), lunch in the hospital cafeteria, back up to Vascular & Cardiology Clinic, reading & waiting, then consulting with my cardiologist. The day was interesting, walking around in my yoga pants and tank top – because there was no metal on them. I got stared at by a variety of men in the hospital. I choose to believe it is because I look totally awesome in my yoga pants and top.
Today was my second time in the big, white tube. I hear that there are those out there who’ve never had the totally, super-exciting experience of being in an MRI, let me tell you – you’re missing out. First, you have to make sure you wear nothing with metal; this is not an easy task for me as many of my articles of clothing have metal. Secondly, it’s similar to a surgery in that you have to “fast” for X many hours prior to the test; today was no eating after 6 AM. Thirdly, you get a sexy I.V. port installed into your favorite arm. The fun only really begins after the I.V. port has been installed, because then you get a syringe full of contrast dye. The dye at this point is only a small amount, and I’m amazed at how fast I could taste it.
Once I finally got taken into the room with the big, white tube, I got the standard leads down the chest and side of chest. Now, the MRI tube is like a wind tunnel. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. Nothing like laying on a narrow table, in a cold room, in a big tube with 20 mph breeze blowing in your face. Okay, maybe I exaggerated.
I knew it’d be chilly, requested a blanket (next time, I’ll ask for two), got my knees propped with a pillow, and closed my eyes. One of the truly wonderful highlights of an MRI is that if you suffer from claustrophobia, you will NOT like it. Thankfully, I am not claustrophobic, and due to the wind blowing in my face, I just shut my eyes and pondered things, listened to the music they pumped in through the ear phones (the MRI machine is VERY loud), and counted noises the MRI makes as it scans. I had the other pleasure of having my I.V. port hooked up to an automated pump of contrast dye. I didn’t recall that the dye tastes like chemically-laden bubble gum; it was kind of weird. My arm also felt like it was getting water, cold water, poured over it as it was being pumped into my system. I am truly amazed at the speed with which my heart can pump that stuff around. I could actually follow it’s progress up my arm to my heart and lost track of it after it was dispersed a short distance from the heart. The title of this post also comes from the MRI scans, when you’re in the tube, they will tell you at various times to breathe in. Breathe out. Stop breathing. You hold your breath 15-45 seconds and the MRI makes its scan. Super fun!
Today’s scan not only covered my heart but most of my soft tissues. I’m a little disappointed that I still didn’t get to see the images – but I’ll whine about it at my next visit with Dr. Awesome. So, I hear you asking “Why did they scan most of your soft tissues, Sarah?” Good question, I’ll get to that.
I’ll fast forward over the end of the MRI scan (I got coupons!) and lunch and the waiting in Vascular and Cardiology Clinic and get straight to… 2005. So, in 2005, I started a new job in student housing in August. Dear Husband and I had moved into our second home, and in November, he and I both developed what we thought was the flu (and most likely started that way), but was, or became, pneumonia. Our x-rays were almost exactly the same, etc. I was down and out with pneumonia for a month, it wasn’t fun, but I got a rocking set of abs from all the coughing. Why do I bring that up, well, you see… it’s pertinent to the rest of this story.
Fast forward to 2011, well…. today. So, my consult with Dr. Awesome started with the normal questions. How are you? I’m great. How do the incisions look? Really good on the right side, green bruise and a lump (that’s normal and will go away) on the left. The questions continued for a few minutes and then Dr. Awesome started to ask me about my bout with pneumonia. How long is lasted, etc? Then the questions turned to things like: do you often suffer from swollen lymph nodes? Do your joints frequently hurt? You get the idea. Finally, Dr. Awesome asks if I have any questions, to which I respond: Well, I’m curious why you’re asking so many questions about the pneumonia?
The picture was becoming more vibrant as she launched into telling me about the EP Study and ablations I had last week. I had written earlier that when they tested my system, I went into VT, etc. What I learned today was that I went into a form of VT (she didn’t specify what type) rarely seen, my heart rate was over 270 bpm, and that she had a hard time bringing me out of it. The good news is: she brought me out of the VT and I’m here typing this to you now. The other good news is that she explained that she has never had to push a patient THAT HARD to stimulate VT ever before (and probably won’t ever again) and that chances of me going into that variety of VT (whatever it was) under my own steam is very remote. Fact is, she feels that I won’t be able to do it, period.
The next important piece of information in the “Sarah’s Heart Puzzle” is that they found an approximately 1 cm in size scar in the center of my heart. The MRI showed that this scar was NOT caused by a heart attack – my arteries, or as I like to call them “pipes”, are clean. Dr. Awesome then said that I need at least one more test, possibly more, because she is viewing my problem as many pebbles on the beach, and she needs to turn over EVERY pebble to make sure she’s not missing something. This is why I really like Dr. Awesome. She wants to FIX me.
I realize that you all are wondering what she thinks it might be. Me TOO! Right now, I do not have a diagnosis. I have two top possibilities, with #2 being really far, FAR behind #1.
Potential diagnosis #1: the scar was caused back when I had pneumonia, which in her opinion not only caused lung issues, but caused inflammation of the heart, thereby the scar. This is the MOST LIKELY diagnosis, and Dr. Awesome assured me that over time, the heart will compensate or heal and the PVCs will go away.
Potential diagnosis #2: Cardiac Sarcoidosis. Nope, it’s not cancer (which is how I’m familiar with sarcoids on horses). Sarcoidosis is NOT curable, but it IS manageable. The top reasons I probably do NOT have this (though it is still a possibility), are: I am not of African decent, I have NO OTHER sarcoids anywhere in my other soft tissues (this is why my soft tissues were also checked), I do not appear to have swelling of my lymph nodes or joints. So, while this diagnosis is a possibility, the “numbers” are with me that I most likely do NOT have it. How would it be treated if I did. Unfortunately, LARGE doses of steroids. I whined (with a grin), “Mannnnnn, you’re gonna make me FAT?!” I’d have to also be managed by both Dr. Awesome and a Rheumatologist.
SO. I would like to point out that I didn’t cry during the consult (hooray!) and hearing the potential outcomes. I get to go in for bloodwork to check for inflammation, and possibly a CAT scan. Neato! I haven’t had one of those before!! I’m also back to being a “guinea pig”, but this time for a doctor who really wants to fix me.
The other good news is that I get to go back to the treadmill. I can even run, but I have to do “a LONG warm-up”, and listen to my heart, dialing it back if it’s unhappy. I can travel. I do not need to buy an AED. I found out what to put on my new med alert jewelry, and that both Dear Husband and I need to be vaccinated for the Flu and Pneumonia EVERY year. My heart is also “normal” by all accounts, with the exception of the scar in the middle.
The short list of things that I need to do: stay WELL hydrated, watch my electrolytes – I was encouraged to take electrolyte tabs and drink Gatorade (or the vitaminwaters that I have been drinking), and not be a couch potato. I should also have a diagnosis within the next 6 months. Here’s looking at You, January/February of 2012!!