Behind every smile

I feel my head bang against the stone floor; one time or repeatedly, I’m not sure.   In my dream-like state I am vaguely aware of my hands, and maybe my arms, shaking. And as a strange male voice creeps into my conscience – asking if I am okay – things gradually start clicking into place.  Disoriented I sit up and it slowly dawns upon me that I have just fainted and my front tooth possibly broke my fall, as it hurts like hell!

They say that behind every smile lies a story and this is mine; the most difficult and deferred post I have written.  For as long as I can remember I have had low blood pressure: feeling dizzy and having to lie down after a hot bath or sauna, eschewing the temptation of a bubbly hot tub and experiencing momentary blackness if I stand up suddenly. But it was okay, it was manageable.

Now that certainty has been thrown into disarray as I am no longer sure my low blood pressure has always caused my dizzy spells: in the past year and a half, I discovered I have ectopic heartbeats (an irregular heart rhythm).  News that was freshly and inconveniently delivered as my husband embarked on a four-month deployment overseas.  I threw myself into filling the lonely months ahead with an endlessly busy diary; anything to stop wandering thoughts about a dicky ticker!  I tried not to dwell [too much] on who would get the children ready for school, how I would get them to school, who would help with their homework and cook their dinners and who would look after me, if I experienced bad dizzy days whilst he was away.

Four months later my husband returned and I had thankfully only experienced one dizzy – yet perfectly manageable – day.  Interestingly, this was the day after he left, so in all likelihood it was caused by stress.  Many hospital appointments and tests later – 24 and 48-hour heartrate monitors, two echocardiograms, countless ECGs and one hour-long MRI  -and I am a patient at a specialist hospital and on the waiting list for catheter ablation.  Thankfully, it can be cured; through the wonders of modern technology I can have catheters inserted to zapp away the offending electrical impulse.  But should I; would you?

You see on the one hand I have been assured that my heart is perfectly healthy and that I can (unless having a dizzy day) carry on as normal.  I am very active: I spin, I cycle, I hoop and sometimes I even jump rope!  And in one a half years I have only had two bad episodes; both flu-related.  But on the other hand my recent faint was a bit of a turning point, my volte-face: when an operation suddenly didn’t seem so implausible.  After four days of worsening-dizziness, I reached a stage where I couldn’t walk more than a few paces.  It was debilitating and terrifying.

Hopefully the faint was a one-off, I suspect caused by the flu jab, as the only other time I have had bad dizzy spells was a year before, in the days leading up to the flu.  But a nagging doubt wonders if the dizzy episodes are worsening. I know that I don’t want my first thought every morning to be wondering whether it is a dizzy day or not.  I don’t want to worry about re-discovering the unforgiving stone floor every time I come up from bending down to retrieve my children’s dirty laundry, or unloading the dishwasher.  But, like most, the procedure is not without risks.  And so behind my smile is a furrowed brow as I weigh up the pros and cons of an-almost impossible decision.

I would love to hear from you.  Maybe you have had catheter ablation and felt it was the best thing you ever did.  Or maybe you decided to not risk tinkering with your heart and plough on without?

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