On more than one occasion, I have been asked different questions about my heart condition. Some may find this constant questioning rather annoying, but I look at it as an opportunity to teach others about the heart, from what I have learned, so that they can truly understand what it is I deal with as well as an opportunity to open their eyes to the necessity of understanding their own body and learning how to be cautious and not ignore potential heart problems they may experience or may encounter in the future themselves.
Unfortunately, when I say living with a big heart, being generous, caring, and giving isn’t what I am referring to. I’m actually referring to literal terms in that I literally have a big heart, as in my physical heart is larger than it is supposed to be.
If you checked out my “About Me” page, you would have read that in 2008, I was diagnosed as having Dilated Cardiomyopathy with Ventricular Ectopy. What the heck is that? you may ask. This essentially means that my heart is enlarged and it experiences irregular heartbeats.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart is enlarged and is unable to pump properly. This has caused my left ventricle to become very large and stretched out. As with anything that is stretched beyond its capacity, over time it becomes very weak. A weak heart that doesn’t pump efficiently is unable to circulate oxygen rich blood throughout the body. And as we all know, the other organs in our body depend on the circulation of blood in order to function properly. Without that circulation of blood, the other organs will begin to fail.
The term Ventricular Ectopy essentially means that the ventricle is experiencing extra heart beats. Because of these extra beats, the hearts normal electrical rhythm is thrown off, causing the heart to pump irregularly. In some cases, you can feel an irregular heartbeat as a flutter or pounding heartbeat. As we all know, if an engine is misfiring, it isn’t going to start and the car is not going to run. Same goes for the heart; if the hearts natural electrical rhythm is out of whack, the heart itself and ultimately our bodies aren’t going to function properly. In my case, the types of irregular heartbeats I experience are known as Premature ventricular contractions (PVC’s). Although occasional PVC’s in individuals is common (too much caffeine, drug use or heighten anxiety can cause an extra beat), too many PVC’s and the continued irregular pumping, however, will cause problems for the heart as it won’t be able to pump the blood efficiently.
To deal with both of these issues, I have been placed on multiple medications as well as being equipped with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) (I’ll get into that on my next post). I am now, just like my mother and other family members, a cardiac patient for life. Whereas most individuals visit their family doctors once a year for a checkup and occasionally when they are sick, I have added multiple trips to the Heart Failure Clinic, Cardiologist, and the Cardiac Device Center to my list of things to do. At times, constant running to doctors offices and hospitals gets tiresome; but it is those times that I remind myself that working with the doctors to keep me on the mend in much better than the alternative.