Bouncing Back From a Recent Hospitalization Due to Heart Problems
My plan for the holidays was to binge-watch all the Rocky movies. I love this character as played by Sylvester Stallone, and I can relate to how much he struggles to find his way through what life has thrown at him.
I particularly identify with this line from the final Rocky movie, “Rocky Balboa: “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”
I kept rewinding that part of the movie. For me, it is a remedy for going forward into the new year.
My idea of spending a peaceful holiday binge-watching movies with my family almost didn’t happen after I was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 18 for an irregular heart rate.
I woke up that morning ready to face the day, but about an hour later, everything changed. I started feeling dizzy and had more difficulty breathing than I normally do. It felt as if my heart was pounding loud and hard in my chest and vibrating through my whole body. I knew something wasn’t right.
I waited a bit to see if it was an anxiety attack, but I knew it felt different.
I called out to my husband and daughter that I was experiencing problems with my heart. I wasn’t in any pain, so I decided to go to urgent care so that they could check my vitals in case my blood pressure was skyrocketing.
When the nurse checked my vitals, she looked alarmed — my heart rate was unusually high. The doctor told me I should go to the emergency room, and that my heart problems might be atrial fibrillation, which occurs when the heart’s upper chambers begin beating irregularly. It can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.
As my husband and daughter drove me to the emergency room, all I could think about was how much I wanted to be normal. I didn’t want a rare illness or heart problems, I just wanted to lead a normal life. I wanted to be home with my family. Instead, I live with failing lungs, and now I would have to deal with a failing heart.
At the ER, doctors worked hard to bring my heart rate down. A normal resting heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute, but mine was at 165. They hooked me up to an intravenous line and administered constant medication for three hours before my heart rate stabilized.
The doctors had to work around my pulmonary fibrosis (PF) to safely treat my heart and give me medications that wouldn’t counteract with Ofev (nintedanib) and CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil), which I use to treat PF, along with all the allergies I am prone to.
It was a rough night, but the medical team was so kind, supportive, and patient. They did everything they could to make sure we didn’t worry too much.
My heart rate finally stabilized, and I was sent home with a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response. With this condition, both the upper and lower chambers of the heart respond to the same faulty electrical signals and beat chaotically, resulting in a faster heart rate.
Doctors say my heart problems were caused by my rare illness and by the many medications I am taking. It is a lasting diagnosis and I will need to have continuing treatment for it.
To top it off, the CT scans from my pulmonologist show that my lungs reveal changes to the interstitial space around the air sacs, and are becoming denser, a condition called pulmonary ground-glass opacity. This is happening despite the immunosuppressive medications I take. Now, I have been placed back on steroids indefinitely.
I am reminded of these words from Rocky Balboa: “You gotta be willing to take the hits. … [U]ntil you start believing in yourself, you ain’t gonna have a life.”
I believe that while my illness may be a part of me, it doesn’t own me. I decide what my outcome will be. So, this new year had better watch out. I am coming with a fire in my belly. I am going to kick the pants off this rare illness! I will live my best life!
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.