Arrhythm & Blues II

Waaay back in the early 1980s, I remember watching a female guest on Wogan’s chat show who had suffered from hiccups for some absurd amount of time – 7 years, or something of that ilk. I was aghast and appalled. Hiccups generally hurt me like a mofo, so their horrendous affliction of this poor woman made quite a significant impression in my pre-pubescent brain; the news that one could be inescapably plagued, without warning or cure, by such a debilitating, life-altering tribulation has remained a source of awe to me for many years.  My hiccups-that-won’t-go-home-horror has become well-known to my familiars over the years, and whenever I reluctantly undergo a prolonged session of the vexatious little fuckers, some cheery soul among my nearest and supposedly dearest generally roars ‘7 years!’ or the like at me. Cheers, chaps!

Not immediately apropos: I’ve mentioned here a number of times before that I have heart arrhythmia. A 24 hour ECG

and subsequent echocardiogram decreed me in possession of a perfectly healthy heart, that has some atrial ectopic/premature (I am foggy regarding which) beats. They’re almost always benign; everyone has them, most people have lots of them, a small minority are symptomatic with ones they can actually feel, and a smaller minority can feel them strongly and have lots of them. I usually have ~20 episodes of noticeable arrhythmia over a 48-hour period when I ovulate, and the rest of the time it varies lots, with no noticeable triggers apart from hormones. (I once – once – had a stress-induced, caffeine-stoked two hours with dozens of small ones, which was unsettling.) Generally, I would call 5 a day a bit more than normal, and a week without one is only mildly unusual. I find them unpleasant, but they generally last less than 7 seconds, and broadly consist of normal-babybird-babybird-babybirdTHUMP-normal. I find I have to pause what I’m doing as the shifting-backlog-of-blood-in-heart thump, in particular, disorders my breathing, but they’re transient and harmless.

Or so I tell myself. It’s difficult not to stress a tiiiny amount over something that feels exactly like you’d expect a heart attack might feel, only sans pain.

Still not immediately apropos, but getting closer: I have settled into an approximate 6-7 week menstrual cycle for the last year or so. Ovulation has become easier to diagnose: ovary pain, EWCM, LH peestick and arrhythmia all shout PRESENT, and period duly follows 14 days later. Except that this current cycle went badly awry about 8 weeks ago when I first tried to ovulate, and failed. Since then, 2 out of 4 symptoms have sporadically occurred at approximately weekly intervals, but at no point have all 4 co-incided. I had started to painlessly spot, then stopped, then started again, and was already seriously considering putting this alleged cycle out of its misery with 18-months-out-of-date norethisterone I had knocking about, when, last Monday night, my heart decided that it was time to kick off, big styley.

Out of the cardiac blue, I began having strong, prolonged, frequent arrhythmia. Not my usual fleeting fluttery-fluttery-bump palpitation, but many seconds worth of almighty chest-walloping bangs, liberally interspersed with stuttering, irregular quiverings. I’d never experienced  anything like this before, and they were coming between every few minutes and every hour.

By Tuesday morning, I was mildly concerned, and sat on a bench in the sun all morning chatting to my mother. By lunchtime, I was becoming quietly distressed. Despite being entirely cognitively aware that arrhythmia = benign, this was very far from normal for me, and I couldn’t help but dwell darkly on the fact that the heart is not precisely noted for one of the more redundant organs of the human body.  

By 3pm, with no cessation in the aberrant Hammer-of-Thor vs. Madly-Flapping Butterfly brawl in my chest, I caved to anxiety, on the basis that stress can make these things self-promoting, and made an appointment with my GP.  By 5pm I had been thoroughly stethoscoped, extensively pulse-takened (I’m in a mess with my tenses now, but let’s push on regardless) history-takened and cardiology-record-reviewed.

Upshot: I shouldn’t worry about it. They’re not sinister. I should come back – pronto – if the beats don’t return to regular, but stay continuously haphazard.

I lef the surgery in a moderate state of reassurance, and settled down to wait for this perturbing episode of cardiac capriciousness to subside back to the systematic.

It… hasn’t.

7 days from onset, my heart still can’t find its atrial arse with an atlas. I lay in the bath last night and watched in sinking, horrified fascination as an unco-ordinated series of incredibly powerful beats (I could feel my ventricles smashing upwards in savage leaps, slamming hard into what felt like my sodding epiglottis) both knocked the breath from me, and visibly jerked my (substantial, possessed of much inertia) boobs about.

I tell you: this does not feel fucking benign.

I have been theorising that unbeaching myself from the inchoate hormonal sandbank I suspect I was wedged on should alleviate symptoms, but I rootled out my old norethisterone 4 days ago (out-of-date, yes, but it’s stopped the spotting in its tracks and is evidently doing something) with no marked improvement except perhaps a little less frequency. If anything, they’ve got stronger, and last longer. I am also aware of many more smaller, subtler episodes that don’t feature a catch-up beat.

Said facts didn’t help me when, after a little judicious googling – always metaphorically fatal –  I read that marked symptomatic arrhythmia can, aktually, just happen. Arrive. Not go home. Not ever. The new normal. 

And that’s all, really. The medical guff states with dry sympathy that, although benign, the symptoms caused are upsetting – true, dat – and that the stress caused by them often leads to a vicious cycle of increased arrhythmia. In short, although it reeeeally feels like it might (y’know, what with the whole heart stop-start-bump-stutter-flutter-stop-thump-start thang): it won’t kill me. Apparently. My plight might be improved if I try cutting out caffeine (argh!) and alcohol (you think this week has been conducive to sobriety?). Decrease my stress. Learn to live with this new, harrassing, and seemingly tenacious botheration.

The first person to shriek ‘7 years!’ gets a hefty cock punch, or… something.

20 Responses

  1. Well, if it helps, that makes me feel much better about my entire afternoon of fluttering heart/racing pulse…and my decision not to hie off to the emergency room.

    Hope that stops immediately…uh, the arrhythmia, not your heart, just to be specific, in case the universe is listening today and decides to be a smart ass.

    • Have I mentioned that I hate wordpress and it’s determined stance on not letting me use my Google ID?

  2. I hate to pile on, but the 1st thing I would do is eliminate caffeine… It has started doing unkind things to my cardiac rhythm as well, as I feel my caudal cerebral arteries constricting in protest.
    But I’ll give up my alcohol when they pry my wineglass from my cold lifeless fingers 😉 !
    Hang in there babe…

  3. Siete anos!!!

    What? Jeez! It doesn’t count in Spanish!!!

  4. *Worried face* I pat your hands soothingly.

    I get a very minor version of these (you, know, the normal ones, just prior to ovulation, where once or twice a day I stand up and my heart goes ‘whut? Whazzat? UGH’ and my vision clouds over as everything goes bippetybippetyWHAMwhamwhamOKI’vegotthis). You, my dear, have all your cardiac plumbing arsyversy, so I’m not surprised everything keeps going jazz drummer on you, but still, HOW ALMIGHTY BLOODY ANNOYING UNCOMFORTABLE AND DISTRESSING. Also, leaping bosoms, while fun in swoony novels, distracting in real life.

    (I hate to say this, I really do, but you’re gonna have to switch to decaff. At least for a few weeks. Please don’t hate me. For the love of your own beloved head, TAPER OFF, do not cold turkey. If your heart is still wanking about by May Day even sans caffeine, you can say the hell with it and I’ll buy you a double frappucino with whipped cream and amphetamines (note I regard the odd G&T as vital stress-management medication). I say this because I… I… I am thinking of ditching caffeine myself (cue Hammer Horror stylee distant screaming)).

    Also, bloody hormones. Should be banned. Who do they think they are, messing with hearts? Why can’t the ornery little buggers stick to the organs they were designed for? For that matter, why can’t the ornery little buggers get their rise-and-fall sequences coordinated and timely? The shites. I glare at them. I glare at them over the top of my glasses.

  5. Lovey, I say this in a semi-professional capacity: have you had an ECG in this episode? If not, go to gp and demand one. If this is not normal for you, and the length of time it’s gone on for is not, it is good to get oneself checked out. Seeing as it hasn’t gone away, it’s probably good to go back to your gp anyway…

    Hormones are bastards.

    Now I shall give you a hug. And second the reducing caffeine slowly suggestion.

  6. As so often, I am being enlightened by your writing. You are articulating experiences that I share and would if I knew how. Or something. The point being, here, that I get those juddering heart palpitations too, also aggravated by caffeine. I feel deeply shaken and like an inner earthquake is ongoing – that all is coming asunder within – during my little tiny ones, so I can but imagine what it’s like to have them All The Fecking Time. Blooming heck, Ann. NO FUN. So upsetting. Hoping all settles as soon as, with application of herbal tea and lie-downs. Or a tequila sunrises, whatever works. Doctors who recommend no stress, as stress aggravates: unhelpful. Stressful, in fact! Also, telling you all is well, when it feels like anything but – what do they expect?

    I remember that Wogan, I think! Or do I? I seem to remember the (in my memory) girl concerned was finally cured by going to the Swiss Alps where the purity of the air cured her. Amazing, I thought. Funny how some things stick. Next time someone mentions the seven years, shout SWISSALPS! And they will back away carefully.

  7. Oh dear! That thing about going back pronto if it didn’t settle down is being dealt with, yes? Because it doesn’t sound benign, it sounds like something that must be watched closely. And suspiciously. With expensive equipment and highly trained professionals.

    Hearts should be calm and steady about their business. The only time they are allowed to do bam, bam bippedity, bip, BAM things is if a) Richard Armitage has leapt through your window with a rose clenched between his teeth or b) you are being pursued through dark wood/creepy castle by creature(s) of the night. Then a little irregularity can be excused. Wait, that’s not it, is it?

  8. This jazz drumming (thx May) business needs to stop right now. Thoughts of no caffeine and no alcohol as potential cures seem mighty grim. I agree with all the above in saying this may need a further double check with the docs. All very disconcerting. As to the Swiss Alps I can confirm that they do have miracle effects but then you need to cope with the Swiss who can cause all sorts of other stress…

  9. What is with word press and it’s password rubbish eh?

  10. Is it wrong that I now that that Peter Seller song – I can’t remember the name but you know the one with the vaguely racist accent that goes starts “Oh Doctor I’m in trouble!” “well goodness gracious me” and then “My heart goes Boom-diddy boom-diddy boom-diddy boom-diddy boom-diddy boom-diddy boom boom boom”?

    Like infertility and all our other medical trials don’t be afraid to go back and stamp your foot.

  11. I have set WordPress to accept anonymous comments, so hopefully that’ll unjam something. Stoopid software.

    Thank you for the virtual support! They are a lil’ bit less frequent now, but getting longer. Am keeping GP on quickdial in case I face-plant the floor!

  12. I say, go and get checked again. Just for peace of mind. And thanks to Womb For Improvement for that memory. That’s a classic song. But it’s not boom-diddy, boom-diddy – it’s boom-boody, boom-boody. And now I’ve got it on the brain. Bummer.

  13. I feel your anxiety because I had the same thing for months until I realized it was triggered by – hard to believe but true – bananas. I quit eating them and it went away. Might you have a food sensitivity? Sometimes these things creep up as you – pardon the word – age.

  14. I only get them when pissed as a parrot, me.

    Fortunately at that point in proceedings I care not.


  15. Hairy Farmer’s Wife, how are you feeling now? I could never ever, not ever give up caffeine (spoken like the addict I am, I suppose). Oddly, these final comments have me craving bananas and booze as well.

  16. Now it is may… and your silence is worrying me … a lot. I expect I am not the only worried reader. FIngers crossed it is just you are busy with good things and happy news.

  17. I’m Not Dead! I’m fine! But thank you for worrying!
    It’s John’s 40 on Saturday, and I am Busy with all sorts of things. Next week I hope to actually, you know, write something…!

  18. Hi there, are you okay? It is awfully quiet… Miss your blog posts! Take care!

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