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Prior to going out on leave from work in December, I regularly had chest pain, high blood pressure, migraines, chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and a zooming heartbeat that was so intense at times, I could actually hear it pounding in my eardrums. It usually occurred when job demands piled up, so I assumed that my physical symptoms were the result of anxiety, depression, and a diminished ability to cope as a consequence of my personal issues related to Roman’s death. But whatever the cause, the symptoms became so intolerable that I could not keep up with my workload any longer.
Prior to December, just as I suspected, two separate doctors I consulted also chalked my combined symptoms up to anxiety and depression due to work stress and lingering grief. Treatment options cenetered around antidepressants for anxiety and stimulants for difficulty concentrating. However, when one of my doctors moved out of state, I began seeing a replacement doctor in January. Since I began seeing him, my new doctor has been regularly monitoring my heart rate and blood pressure in addition to my cognitive and emotional symptoms. According to him, based on my vital signs, I meet regular criteria for tachycardia and Stage 1 Hypertension. And given my time away from my stressful work environment, particularly when considered in light of my average height and healthy weight my doctor has been alarmed by my functioning enough to refer me to a cardiologist, to rule out any serious underlying heart conditions before giving me anymore stimulant medications to address my inattention and inability to concentrate.
So on Tuesday, I went for an EKG with the specialist – expecting fully for him to quickly see my results and send me on my merry way. Instead though, it was confirmed that my vital signs are of concern, so I was asked to come back for four more appointments to run a series of screening tests. Follow up appointments are now booked with my cardiologists through May.
And in the meantime, no stimulants will be prescribed for inattention or fatigue, due to the increased risk for heart attack or stroke when combined in patients with similar heart symptoms. I must confess too, that going all the way until May, without any medication to help me focus, sounds like a long time to struggle with productivity. But given the potentially serious consequences of continuing, I understand the reasoning.
That said, being a person who is generally not overly concerned with every little ailment, I likely would otherwise be willing to risk continuing to take my stimulant medications while participating in screening tests because stress, anxiety, and lack of adequate exercise could still be to blame for my symptoms. Though, given Roman’s sudden death at the age of 27 of cardiac arrhythmia due to an unknown congenital defect, the irony of potentially having a heart condition of my own, is definitely not lost on me now.
If Roman had followed up with doctors orders after he had his first collapse when he was told to see a cardiologist, it is possible that he would still be here today. Strangely, I am also now finding myself facing similar concerns with the functionality of my heart. But unlike Roman, I plan to follow up with testing to rule out or treat any problems that could potentially cut my life short without warning. How ironic that my husband died of an undiagnosed heart condition four and a half years ago, and now I am being examined to rule out similar defects. Really, I mean, he was 27 when he died…and I am now 37 – both of us vegetarian, nonsmokers, nondrinkers, with a healthy weight; both of us developing heart concerns. What are the odds that we would both have defects? Hopefully, slim to none – but still. I said it before and I’ll say it again. They irony is definitely not lost on this widow.
Recently Studio30Plus posted a writing prompt about irony.This seemed like the perfect opportunity to share my brush with the topic.