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junenek, October 12,  2019  4:18pm EST

The Apple Watch Saved My Life

The Apple Watch feature for atrial fibrillation saved my life. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure after a few months of caring for my 42 year old brother who went into cardiac arrest as a result of massive pulmonary embolism and suffered a stroke. He was without oxygen for 20 minutes and that put him in a vegetative state. My blood pressure was 196/115. I had severe chest pains that hurt every time I took a breath. Every trip to the emergency room yielded no results. The doctors couldn’t find out where the chest pains were coming from. They simply ruled out a heart attack or blood clots. I was placed on HBP medication as well as medication for anxiety and pain. Nothing took the pain away. Through all the tests I found out I had the Factor V Leiden deficiency which put me at a higher risk for blood clots.  An auto immune disease was detected but Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis was ruled out. I have to take pills for the chronic inflammation and pain.

I was asleep one night and my Apple Watch woke me up with vibrating alerts that my heart rate was 145 and had been that way consistently for more than 15 minutes while at rest. I tried to get up and take deep breaths hoping it would go down because I had experienced this before, unaware of what it was but there was never anything done about it. My heart rate got up to 186 and I was just sitting still. My chest began to hurt and my heart was seemingly jumping out of my chest. I felt faint. Hours had passed until I finally called 911. My speech was labored to the rapid beat of my heart. The paramedic arrived and said I was suffering from SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) my blood pressure was extremely high. My heart was stopped and started back once in the ambulance by way of medication. It was the most uncomfortable feeling that I’ve ever had. I coded in ambulance and was rushed to emergency. Shortly after I arrived my heart rate shot back up and my heart was stopped and restarted again.  This made two times. I was informed that this could only be done twice, after that I would need to be shocked. Later I was told I had to have a procedure done (catheter ablation) to correct the problem.  I stayed in the hospital and underwent a stress test that showed that the left ventricle of my heart didn’t fully relax which was a dysfunction. It was 2 days before my 40th birthday. I was released with beta blockers to prevent my heart from speeding up and looping until the procedure was done. They didn’t always work and the chest pains where still there on a daily basis. I finally had the procedure September 18th (over a month later). I still suffer from HBP and chest pains as the procedure didn’t eliminate those. The next step is to find the source of the chest pain. I take it one day at a time. I scare easily and I can always feel my heart speeding up when it happens. I have become reliant on my Apple Watch to let me know when to breathe and to be aware of what my heart rate is. It’s a daily realization of who I am and the resilience that has a larger call on my life than heart disease. My grandfather died of congestive heart failure, my grandmother died of congestive heart failure, my mom has high blood pressure, has suffered a heart attack and so has my brother. I remind myself that the wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented but the buck must stop here. My life is valuable and my heart matters.

4 Replies
  • grandscheme
    grandscheme, October 12,  2019  8:12pm EST

    Hi Junenek,

    Yes, your life is valuable for sure, and your heart matters and it sounds as though you are doing what you can.

    I love this comment: "It’s a daily realization of who I am and the resilience that has a larger call on my life than heart disease."

    For sure.

    You're likely right on top of all possibilities but -- and everyone on this site talks about this -- have you ever had a sleep study? I mention that because you were awkened from sleep. Not to suggest that your symptoms relate to apnea, but I wonder if it might be an extra step in your journey of discovery.

    I imagine you already have thought of this too -- but it can frequently help to talk with a professional counselor. The grief counselor I see has a behavioral approach and has helped me deal with health challenges, way beyond the original reason I consulted with him, which was the sudden loss through death of my two best friends.

    It's been helpful to spill to someone who is not family or friend. I will be wishing you the best of good fortune as you move ahead in discovering the source of your pain. No doubt everyone here will be rooting for you. As you said "My life is valuable and my heart matters." YES!

  • Thumper2
    Thumper2, October 13,  2019  7:59am EST

    Junenek, I certainly agree with Grandscheme that a test for sleep apnea is essential, and seeing a professional counselor could be a very good thing.  I assume that you are on a blood thinner (such as warfarin) and are seeing an electrophysiologist, not just a cardiologist.  By being here, you are working on self-education, which is always good.  One other thing -- have you considered getting a second opinion on your heart issues?   The Cardiology area of the Cleveland Clinic, for example, is considered one of the best in the country.  Another name that often crops up here is that of Dr. Andrea Natale, who is especially successful at ablations.  It is important that whoever does such a procedure has a long and successful record of doing them.   Please keep us posted!

    Thumper2 (Judy)

  • grandscheme
    grandscheme, October 13,  2019  8:54am EST

    Excellent suggestion from Judy on getting a second opinion.

    My health situation (lone atrial fib with a pacemaker now for heart pauses) is largely unrelated to yours.

    However, at the urging of my daughter who lives in another state (and she says I try to be too headstrong and independent -- and she's right) I got a second opinion two years ago an hour away and that same day was immediately taken off a medication which was creating severely negative symptoms (I had just figured it was my condition getting worse) and they deftly adjusted my PM, which was not managed capably in the former practice. That too immediately relieved certain symptoms. 

    Now, second opinions are not necessarily solutions. But I'm highly in favor of them. I can't say with certainty that the second opinion folks at the big teaching hospital saved my life, but they absolutely saved the quality of my life. They are attentive, smart, direct, funny, caring, warm and --  most of all -- capable. 

    Yes, keep us posted. Persevere! 


  • junenek
    junenek, October 15,  2019  7:20pm EST

    Thank you all for your comments. To answer the question. I have never had a sleep test for apnea. My mother has. The incident just happened to go down while I was sleeping. It’s happened before while I was awake but never stayed that high that long. I’m always in favor of getting a second opinion. This has been going on for some time and the doctors always dismissed it as something else. The chest pains have still not been identified. At first they said it was just stress, then pleurisy both of which the prescription was to just relax. I failed to mention that I’m in my second term of the graduate program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling so I fully realize the benefit of talking to someone (even if you do know all the tactics.) I know there is something greater going on than what they have identified. However, the ablation has seemed to take and I do not have to take the beta blockers that I once had. I will definitely help you all posted and toro ally appreciate your suggestions and concern. It’s great to have a support system. 

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