I’ve Always Known My Heart Was Fragile: Surviving SVT

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I’ve Always Known My Heart Was Fragile:

Surviving SVT


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Ever since I was six-years-old, I’ve suffered from heart palpitations in secret. Whenever an episode hit, I’d simply breathe in deeply and hope that my heart would return to its normal heart rate. It always did within a few seconds or a few minutes. As the years progressed and I grew older, the frequency of my heart palpitations also increased. They were far more noticeable to me and something I had come to expect in my life to reoccur from time to time.

While I’ve told my doctors in the past about my palpitations, I was only tested with a heart monitor for about a week to record any heart rate abnormalities. Nothing ever resulted from that test. And so I went on with my beating—and often times, palpitating heart—struggling as always to get my heart rate back to normal on my own whenever a palpitation occurred and it’s usually been successful.

But, not so, on Monday morning, June 24, around 12:00 a.m.

While talking with my brother and his girlfriend, I was hit with severe chest pain and strong palpitations that caused my vision to blur and my head to feel dizzy that I needed to put my head down. After dealing with the shock of that, I tried to take in a deep breath to slow my rapid heart beat. It didn’t slow as it usually did as per my prior episodes.

Nor did it slow before I went to bed. I tried to rest and still my palpitations continued. I thought, if I could just get some rest, my palpitations would certainly discontinue.

I woke the next morning and my chest pain and palpitations were still there. I knew something was wrong since I’ve never had palpitations occur this severely, nor for this long.

I called my doctor at 9:00 a.m. and made an appointment with the only availability at 2:00 p.m. I prayed that not only would I survive the palpitations, but that they would last long enough for my doctor to observe them. The problem with trying to diagnose my condition has been that doctors have been unable to catch my palpitations when they actually occur.

But, there certainly would be no problem with that on this day. I was seen at 2:30 p.m. and as soon as my doctor checked my heart with a stethoscope, he rushed me to get an ECG done on site, which confirmed my extremely rapid heart rate. The ECG was photocopied while my doctor wrote a note and sent me off to hospital triage to be seen right away.

After waiting in line and telling a nurse that I had an ECG and a note from a doctor, I was still asked to wait in line. (Of course, this nurse didn’t even bother to look at my ECG!) When I was finally seen by the triage nurse, I was passed over to a bed to be seen while someone was called to take my ECG test again. Because someone didn’t come quickly enough, another triage nurse decided to do it herself—and lo and behold, my heart rate was at a whopping 200 beats per minute!

The nurse ran to alert a doctor of my condition while I clutched at my literally pounding heart.

I was wheeled into the acute respiratory section of the emergency department with nurses preparing for my care. All I heard was, “Is she stable?” and thought to myself, “Well, if I can hear that, at least I’m not dead.”

The doctor on site was professional and extremely kind. He warned me of the risk of the procedure, the way in which my heart would stop for a few seconds and then re-set itself back to its normal heart rate. He also recommended that my aunt (who was in the room with me) leave because for most people, the reaction of the patient and the heart stopping isn’t necessarily something people want to see.

Thankfully, I survived the effects of Adenosine being induced even though it was extremely painful and my chest still continued to hurt.

After the procedure, I was admitted to hospital for a number of tests:

  • blood tests, which determined an elevated amount of cardio enzymes that showed damage to my heart
  • ECGs
  • x-rays
  • an echocardiogram

and was put on a nitro patch to help alleviate my chest pain; blood thinners to help prevent blood clots in my heart, and meta-blockers to slow down my heart rate.

I now know that I have a condition known as Supraventricular Tachychardia (SVT), which means that from time to time my heart beats very fast for a reason other than exercise, high fever, or stress (as if it doesn’t do that already!).  SVT causes the electrical current, which helps to make my heart contract and release, go through an extra electrical pathway that shouldn’t be there—essentially the wrong pathway—until it causes the electrical current “to chase its own tail,” causing my heart to beat extremely fast.

svt heart comparison


Symptoms include:

  • palpitations which I actually feel while my heart is racing and pounding
  • a pounding pulse
  • dizziness or light-headedness
  • near-fainting or fainting
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • throat tightness
  • sweating

Thankfully, I was discharged from the hospital with a prescription should another SVT episode occur and am scheduled to return to the hospital next week for a stress test and continual treatment with what will now be my cardiologist.

I’ve always known my heart to be fragile—but never knew to what extent.

If my posts are a few and far between, please understand that it’s due to my recent episode because of SVT and that I hope to be back on track as soon as I can.

Until then—to all my faithful bibliotaphes—happy reading!

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4 thoughts on “I’ve Always Known My Heart Was Fragile: Surviving SVT”

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