Please be careful with my heart, doc! (Part 1)-A A +A
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
RECENTLY, on September 10, was my third encounter with surgery, but this time it was totally different and I could honestly say I was truly ambivalent about it.
First and foremost, I was not sick all my life (well, not true, of course) till like six years ago.
I started having shortness of breath (SOB), and chest pains when I try to walk fast, lift heavy objects or being emotionally ignited.
I ignore this thinking it would just go away. Symptoms come and go.
So, I was in denial until I was walking the streets of San Francisco in 2007 and felt a different kind of exhaustion.
It was unlike before, say like after running or doing some extra heavy workload.
I can literally hear my heart pounding, some chest tightening and experience some light- headedness.
As soon as I was back home, I consulted with my classmate in medical school (yes, I was one of the pioneering medical students of Dr. Jose P. Rizal College of Medicine at Xavier University) who is one of the best cardiologist in town, Dr. Angie Magbanua-Alaba.
After several tests that include EKG, 2D echo, stress test, blood works, and chest x-rays, I was found out to have Left Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (thickening of walls of the ventricles) and HTN (hypertension), plus heart murmur.
I still wasn’t so concerned about it.
Just took anti-hypertensive meds prescribed and everything seems back to normal with occasional shortness of breath. But I felt fine.
However, Dr. Angie told me to have follow-ups once I get everything in place.
I also went to see another medical classmate, Dr. Marlon Co in Cebu City, another best in the field of cardiology.
Just like before, I was asked to do the same tests again.
But because of the high costs of it all, I never went for anything. Wrong decision! And never went back to see him. Poor me.
When I went back to nursing in NYC, with all the insurance and everything, it still took me a year to see a cardiologist. Mañana habit.
Dr. Joseph B. Helft, a board certified cardiologist in the Bronx, was extremely helpful.
After the usual question and answer portion, he did a mini 2D echo on me, looks concerned and asked me to come back for a full one which I did.
I also did a 24-hour Holter monitor (to check on the heart’s activity at rest and at work).
The results were not good, I was told, my heart is really thick.
So he decided to introduce me to Dr. Bette Kim, another board certified cardiologist and an assistant professor of Clinical Medicine, specializing in Cardiomyopathy, who is beyond words.
He was really wonderful, compassionate and helpful.
Here, I went through a series of laboratory tests again but now included Cardiac MRI where it became much more definitive. I have almost a 3mm thick ventricular wall.
I saw Dr. Kim a few times in her clinic and asked her tons of questions which she happily and gladly gave answers.
It truthfully helped me understand my condition. Plus with the web, where I searched and read all the possible questions I have in mind to really visualize what will happen to me.
But of course, there are still doubts.
She told me that the best treatment for my condition is surgery. Boy, was I devastated! All alone, confused and helpless.
There is another less minimally invasive procedure, Alcohol ablation (injecting absolute alcohol through an artery where it then creates a small controlled heart attack, killing the area of heart muscle responsible for the obstruction, and eventually causing it to become less thick.)
It is similar to coronary angioplasty, and if not successful, one can have the surgical intervention known as ‘septal myectomy,’ which I chose over ablation.
Again, I had a long talk with Dr. Kim and she explained everything to me. (to be continued)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 19, 2013.