"Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome (WPW) is one of several disorders of the conduction system of the heart that are commonly referred to as pre-excitation syndromes. While the majority of individuals with WPW remain asymptomatic throughout their entire lives, there is a risk of sudden cardiac death associated with the syndrome.
WPW is caused by the presence of an abnormal accessory electrical conduction pathway between the atria and the ventricles. Electrical signals travelling down this abnormal pathway (known as the bundle of Kent) may stimulate the ventricles to contract prematurely, resulting in a specific type of supraventricular tachycardia referred to as an atrioventricular reentrant tachycardia.
The incidence of WPW is between 0.1% and 0.3% in the general population. Sudden cardiac death in people with WPW is rare (incidence of less than 0.6%), and is usually caused by the propagation of an atrial tachydysrhythmia (rapid and abnormal heart rate) to the ventricles by the abnormal accessory pathway."
Here's my story:
So every now and then, usually in periods of exercise or excitement, my heart rate would all of a sudden start beating at 180-200 beats per minute. It calms down on its own after a few minutes, although in the past few years, the length of time has been as long as half an hour.
The first occurrence happened during freshman year of college at a Gonzaga Basketball game when Derek Raivio shot a three pointer. I got SO excited with anticipation, my heart jumped into a Rapid Heart Rate. It didn't take long to go away, so I just assumed it was adrenaline.
Most of my recent episodes have happened whilst running. Three weeks before my Cascade Crest 100 mile race in 2011, I ran a 50K with my pacer Matthew Carrell called Grand Ridge. After getting excited about being in 2nd place at mile 20, my heart rate jumped up and I was forced to walk to prevent the lightheadedness. I tried everything to slow down my heart rate by sitting, to lying down as if to take a nap, and even pretending to take a shit (my sister said the pushing would help). After 30 minutes or so, it went back to normal. It was a loop course, so I ran back to the start of the race and dropped out at the 26 mile point.
My latest two instances have happened while running up Dog Mountain with Amy in the winter, and during my DNF at Miwok 2012 in May. Each occurrence is several months apart and seems to show up at random times. Surprisingly, it has never happened at a Timbers game.
Here's what I'm doing about it:
When the cardiologist diagnosed me, he was almost giddy with excitement. Why? Because it's a 100% curable syndrome, and he was able to spot it on the ECG. So he then sent me down the hall to an electrophysiologist (EP) to discuss the matter further (who was also giddy). The EP said that this syndrome probably wouldn't kill me, but nobody likes to hear the words "probably" and "kill" in the same sentence. So I opted to schedule the procedure that would cure me.
The procedure involves inserting a "pacing catheter" through my leg that will follow the blood vessels to my heart. The doctor will then use the catheters to identify the tissue on the heart that is causing my WPW syndrome, and he will use radio frequency energy to destroy the area of heart tissue. Since this area is an "extra" piece of muscle tissue that I was born with, destroying it shouldn't affect my healthy heart at all.
The procedure is tentatively scheduled for July 12 (but may be delayed until I can cure the pneumonia that I've been dealing with for the past 2 months), and should take maybe 5 hours plus 6 hours of laying flat with my legs strapped to the bed to prevent bending and re-opening the incisions from the procedure. Spending the night at the hospital should be expected, and I'll be discharged the next day.
How do I feel about it?
I'm glad I went to the cardiologist! And if my Plantar Fasciitis hadn't prevented me from going to Bighorn 100 last weekend, I wonder how risky that would have been...I'm starting to take a little more comfort in my Plantar Fasciitis, it may be a blessing in disguise.
So I've decided not to do any real cardio until I have my procedure. I'll keep biking to work, but this is also a great chance for me to work on my core strength and flexibility. I mean, I've never had this much free time since I started ultrarunning...maybe I'll read a book or two? Hmm...I'll definitely save a ton of money on food. I'll put the savings towards my 'puppy' fund.
Moral of the Story
BE HEALTHY! Get checked out if you have any possible signs of bodily dysfunction. And listen to your heart! And always tell people how much you appreciate having them in your lives, because the world needs more expressed Love.
It's been one hell of a month. I'm grateful for my roommates, because without them I'd be doing a lot less singing and dancing. Especially Todd W...Love you.
Love you all!
|Finishing the White Salmon Half on June 16th,|
Photo by Jenn