So here’s an update that I wasn’t expecting to be posting: I am writing from my bed on the cardiac ward of my nearest hospital. I have been here for five days now. Apart from going slightly insane due to inactivity and the ever-present grim reaper who seems to walk up and down the corridor every night (there is constant wailing and gasping coming from the rooms up and down the ward…), I’m fine. Well, almost fine.
I was admitted to hospital on Thursday morning. I woke up with what I thought was severe indigestion. Sitting up in bed, and trying to flush it out with lots of cold water, the sensation got more and more intense, and I was experiencing significant heart palpitations that radiated up into my throat, and echoed around my chest cavity like it were a tympani.
I started to feel anxious. A weird anxiety, like something was closing in around my chest. When the pain became more intense, Jarrod took me down to the GP at the end of our street.
It wasn’t my usual doctor. It was just the closest. A tiny Asian woman in her fifties – immaculately dressed in a Chanel-like dress, with a red silk scarf draped elegantly either side of her neck – ushered me into her consulting room. She didn’t offer her name. She said hardly anything and just listened to my symptoms:
“I’m very embarrassed, I can’t believe I’m at the doctor’s for indigestion etc”.
She made me de-robe, and she performed an ECG right there. Looking at the graph on the screen, she said it looked fine, and walked me out to the front desk to pay, handing me a pack of antacids on the way. Phew. Embarrassing, but phew.
At the reception desk, she asked the young chap for the printout of the ECG. I handed him my card to pay, as she looked at the readout close up. Without lifting her head, she raised her forefinger in a sharp movement to motion ‘stop’, and then twisted it into a ‘follow me, immediately’ move as she ushered me back into her consulting room.
She tapped away at her computer, printed me out a letter, along with the ECG printout, and told me to go to The Alfred Hospital emergency department immediately.
That was Thursday, and it’s now Monday. Two ultrasounds, one angiogram, ten ECGs and about a hundred blood tests later, I’m still here. It turns out my troponin enzyme was elevated to 18,000 (when it should have been around 25?), and that this significant rise is usually something that happens during or after a heart attack. However, I have no other signs of a heart attack – my heart is apparently looking ‘fantastic’.
I am now waiting for an MRI to determine if I have a virus such as Myocarditis or Pericarditis that would have caused the pain and subsequent enzyme elevation. The MRI is tomorrow morning, so fingers crossed for the all-clear.
In the meantime, I have been told that I can’t do any sport for four weeks. The doctor said I’m permitted to ‘walk, but definitely not power-walk’ (and I had always dreamed about taking up power-walking…). So that has put my training in a holding pattern for now. Fortunately, my new coach has been a phenomenal source of knowledge on this topic, not only sending me a couple of clinical papers on the connection between the elevation of troponin enzymes and endurance athletes, but also reaching out to find cardiac specialists who are also runners/athletes. She also noticed that my heart was exceptionally high on Monday during a run that was meant to be easy, but I did it more at a ‘tempo’ pace. But still, even at that pace, my heart rate usually would have been around 170-175bpm. Instead it was above 185 most of the time, and peaked at over 190. At one point I actually stopped as the little voice inside my head jokingly said to myself “Piper, stop. You’re going to have a heart attack.” It was of course kidding, but did I run too hard? Or was I already sick?
The doctors have since told me that my heart shows none of the classic signs of damage from endurance sport (long term damage to the right ventricle) and that is is most likely a virus caused by a cold and chest infection that I only just got rid of last week. The funny thing is (well, none of this is particularly funny haha), is that on Sunday, I took part in a girls’ ride organised by Specialized, and the Australian triathlete Emma Carney was leading the ride. Afterwards, she was interviewed by WITSUP chief Stef Hanson on her athletic success, and of course, her subsequent cardiac failure and heart problems that brought her racing career to a halt.
A couple of us discussed this quite a lot in the day or so after the ride, and when I was sitting with ‘indigestion’ and heart pain, I thought I was imagining it, and had somehow manifested some kind of sympathy symptoms. But as my friend pointed out, had I not been on that ride, and had I not had Carney’s story in the front of my mind, I might not have even considered that something was wrong with my heart, and might not have sought medical advice.
Very peculiar, but serendipitous, cardiac synchronicity.
So tell me, has anyone out there had any cardiac-related incidents in their sporting lives? Or heart virus? It would be great to get some feedback of your experiences. I have another couple of days in here so I need positive stories of people being able to do more than ‘power walk’ again!!!