WPW Syndrome

I’m laying on a table with multiple wires hooked up to me while a new doctor is taking an EKG reading. He says rather excitedly, “this is the kind of rhythm I tell my students to look for and they can never find. If they were here right now, I’d have them come over and look.”

These were not comforting words to hear just prior to taking a treadmill stress test. He said I had an abnormal rhythm which I already knew from two previous doctor visits. I went ahead and did the test, he and my cardiologist of one month both said I was very fit. They didn’t say much else. I went home with an appointment to see my cardiologists colleague, Dr. D, a specialist in ablation, the following week as well as an appointment to get an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of my heart.

The last time I posted on here was back in March. I had just received a cortisone shot for my plantar fasciitis and was starting back up running. I was excited to be able to run again. Until I started running. Man, it was hard. Harder than I can remember. It took me forever it seemed to build back up to running 4 miles. And honestly, I think in the last 3 months, I ran 4 solid miles maybe once without having to take a walking break. I thought this was really odd, but chalked it up to the fact that I hadn’t had any real physical activity for 4 months. When I was running, I’d think to myself… ‘I cant believe I ran my fastest half marathon just six months ago. I can’t even imagine running that far anymore.’

I haven’t felt like posting because, there was nothing exciting about my running. In fact, it wasn’t so fun and I thought maybe I didn’t want to run anymore. Although my mind still wanted to, my body didn’t.

On top of not feeling right running, I was also experiencing chest pain daily. I also thought, great, now I have heartburn again. I had this happen to me 5 years ago and at that time, I had an endoscopy performed and although they didn’t find anything, they told me I had acid reflux. So, I was really careful with my diet after that. When I went to the doctor a few months ago for the “heartburn”, I was also given a resting EKG and that is when they first noted an irregular rhythm. At first, they said it was nothing, but a week later I was told to go to a cardiologist. Okay, kinda scary.

The cardiologist performed the same test, with the same finding. It only takes about a minute. So what I have, is ALWAYS going on. He told me there was a pause in my PR interval. I didn’t really know what that meant. He said to do a stress test where they test you hooked up to the EKG while walking to running on a treadmill for about 20 minutes that gradually got harder. A few days after my visit with him he called me and also recommended I do an echocardiogram. I was starting to get a little nervous. But he told me I could still run, just nothing crazy and to keep taking my walking breaks. Listen to my body. So I didn’t think too much about it.

When I had my visit with his colleague, Dr. D… She was rather serious in what she was explaining to me. Very matter of fact. She pulled out an illustration of a heart and starting drawing on it. I didn’t fully understand what she was really trying to tell me, but basically she said I had an extra electrical pathway in my heart that if left untreated, I risk passing out or worse, dying (Holy F!) and recommended I do this procedure; an electrophysiology study and ablation. This is where they go in with cameras through your groin and see where the extra pathway(s) are. Doing the procedure doesn’t really bother me. I mean, I am a bit scared thinking that they will be inside my heart, the organ that keeps me alive. No, what really scared me was her telling me not to do anything physical. No running. Stationary bike may be ok, and I could walk WITH A FRIEND. I took that as no walking alone. Don’t do any boot camps. Um… yeah, now I’m scared!

Again, still in shock I asked if there was medication I could take instead and she said no. I said, do I really need to do this? She told me, “look, as your doctor I’m telling you that if you don’t, you risk passing out, or… people die from this.” Ok, still in shock here. I said ok. I got it. Do this or you could have a heart attack. I went to work and was pretty much in a haze the remainder of the day. I made a lot of mistakes that day. Two days later I did the echocardiogram. A woman sitting next to me in the waiting room said, you look to young to be here. Ah… yes, I feel like that when I look in the mirror. But I just turned 49 the beginning of May. ((sigh))

I also found out that day the official diagnosis. I had forgotten to ask. I have Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome. This is a congenital heart condition. It means that you were born with an extra electrical pathway in your heart. That means that when the main pathway we all should be using to regulate beats between the upper and lower chambers of the heart says not to send the blood to the lower chamber, my heart says screw you… I’m using my own super highway to get there. That is when problems arise, like the above mentioned passing out or worse. That’s my description of it anyhow.

Dr. D asked me a bit about my family history. I told her I have and uncle and his mom (my grandma) who both died of heart attacks. They are on my moms side of the family. I later found out that my grandma’s sister has a pacemaker. So heart issues are in the family. Dr. D also asked me if I had ever passed out before or felt like I was going to. I did once when I was in my early twenties. I always thought it was because I was on medication that lowered my blood pressure. Still think that’s why. But i also remembered this and it’s actually funny in a way. I said… geez, when I was married, I used to say all the time, “I don’t feel well. I feel like passing out” to the point where my now ex said, “well then pass out already!” I know, not very compassionate. I asked him the other day if he remembered me saying that, that I felt like passing out and his response was… “OMG… ALL THE TIME!” At least I wasn’t imagining it. I also told the doctor that there have been a few times when I’ve done a longer run, like 10 miles, and when I’m taking a shower after I would feel really bad like I was gonna pass out. I always thought it was just because running is so hard. But now it makes sense to me.

Having something wrong with your heart after you’ve run two marathons in one year, a spartan race and a handful of half’s seems so ludicrous. I mean… me? Seriously? In some ways I still don’t believe it. How can it be? But then I start getting tightness in my chest and I think… okay, maybe. It is still all so surreal. The only time it really resonates is when I think of my running and how hard I was training and how I always still felt out-of-shape. That never seemed right. That and the fact that I was ALWAYS tired. Isn’t running supposed to make you have more energy? There were some days where I had zero energy and just could literally do nothing. So in that sense, this syndrome does make some sense.

For the past week I have worried everyday to not get too stressed and not overdo anything. I’m scared to death that something could happen even though nothing has happen in all my 49 years. It’s crazy to think it could have.

I don’t want to waste any time in getting this thing fixed, so I’ve scheduled the procedure for this Wednesday. The procedure takes about 2 hours of studying the heart. They go in through your groin with cameras and such. Then find the extra pathway and destroy it. Then I am supposed to lay still for 4 hours and lay low a few days. I will be overnight in the hospital. The procedure is pretty routine. And the prognosis is good. This can permanently fix it. I did ask Dr. D what happens if it doesn’t fix it. She threw out that I may have to get a pacemaker. That is the worst case scenario. I don’t think that happens too much. I think the ablation will likely be successful and I will be a brand new woman and ferocious runner. Its funny how when you are told you can’t do something you want to do it all the more.

Right now I’m sporting a groovy paper bracelet for the next day. It’s got all my info on it courtesy of the hospital and the pre-op blood work I did this morning. They did two blood draws, one from the inner elbow and one from the back of my hand, which ouch, was painful. 13 vials of blood. One more day before my procedure. The waiting is the hardest part.

this is an awesome look for work tomorrow.



One thought on “WPW Syndrome

  1. It sure was nice to read your blog and I felt the same way when I started running. I was passionate to keep going and I really enjoy it. When I run I have so much energy after exercising and running that it makes me feel good.

    Been running all my life and would like to run at least a half marathon. I was diagnosed with WPW about two years ago and never got it fixed. The doctor said it is not that bad or at least with the diagnosis. I have this in my head that I have an extra path for my heart and I just keep going. I know I should get it fixed, but it seems to not occur much at all. Next week end I will be running my first 1/2 marathon.

    Reading this blog about being diagnosed with WPW and running makes me feel better. It does make me thing that I should not run this race until I get it fixed. I believe after I ran 10miles the other day that 3 more should be ok. Did not experience any light headiness or any fast heart rates. I will after this race go back to the doctor and talk about the procedure you talked about in your blog. Thanks for the encouragement to keep running with WPW. Are you back running again?

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