Short story, cuz it doesn’t need to be long, really. I started having chest pains Sunday night/Monday morning. You know the kind where it’s a sharp pain in your left side around where your heart is, and if you breathe in deep it hurts sharper and MORE? Kind of like that, except instead of going away after a few shallow breaths, it stuck around. Diminished, sharpened, diminished, and then just kind of stayed there, achy and crampy and off-putting.
So today I stayed home from work, called my general practitioner, and got an 11:10 appointment. They gave me an EKG, blinked at it, and sent me to a cardiologist at Banner Heart Hospital. They gave me another EKG, blinked more knowingly at it, and explained.
The symptoms point to pericarditis and/or pleurisy. Follow the links for more info, but basically those conditions are inflammation of the muscles around the heart or around the lungs, which makes the heart’s beating motion bump into stuff it shouldn’t bump into or the expanding lungs bump into stuff they shouldn’t bump into, hence the crampy pain. It’s usually caused by a virus of some sort, or the beginnings of pneumonia. The doctor told me to take Aleve (naproxen specifically, it’s the type of pain killer that helps with this sort of thing that ibuprofen and acetaminophen don’t help with) and I should see a cessation of the symptoms fairly quickly.
Then the doctor said, “However, separate from your current issue is something else that you need to be aware of.” That made me sit up and listen, boy howdy. The EKG revealed that I have something called “short PR interval“, which have nothing to do with the symptoms I’m feeling at the moment. I’ll explain it as it was explained to me – basically the electrical current that passes through/over/whatever the atrium of the heart gets slowed by a resistor type thingy as it passes through/over/whatever the ventricle of the heart. That’s why you get a double bump-bump of the heart – the atrium fills first as a reservoir, then the ventricle fills. Because electrical current travels so fast over an area as small as the heart, there needs to be something to slow things down between the two heart parts. Apparently MY electrical wiring is such that the current from the atrium to the ventricle isn’t slowed as much as it should be slowed, which results in a heartbeat that can get set to racing very easily. To the tune of, like, 220 beats per minute (my resting HR is 68, by the way). My doctor gave me a print-out of my EKG to show to medical professionals if I ever experience that racing heartbeat and need to go to the ER. Because it’s much easier to hand them that so they can go, “Oh, I see,” instead of me trying to ‘splain.
It hasn’t happened to me yet, though I did notice that I can’t keep my heartbeat in the “optimal” range of 130 to 150 BPM when I work out – it’s usually up around 165 and I’m not even pushing myself. The doc was unsurprised when I passed this observation on to him. As long as my heart beat returns to normal speed in a reasonable amount of time (which it does) then I should have nothing to worry about. Again, he said, “Just something to be aware of.”
So, an adventure filled day, but now Bill and I are having a couple of beers and listening to music and he’s upbeat and dancing around and making me laugh. Because he takes care of my heart-parts just as well, if not better than, any cardiologist ever could.