Donna Marie's journeyFirst, I am a very fit woman. I eat clean, healthy, whole foods. For many years, I worked out almost daily. I took high intensity spinning classes three times per week, high intensity heavy weight training two times per week, Pilates three times/week and yoga once/week and I walked every day for 30-45 minutes. I was the epitome of fitness. I began to have symptoms a week before going on vacation to France in September 2015 but attributed my dizziness and racing heart and near fainting to being hungry or dehydrated from working out. I had another episode in France and then, one evening, I passed out. I got scared at that point and emailed my primary care physician and made an appointment to see her once I returned from vacation. I had several episodes after that and, once we returned home, had several more before I had a chance to see my doctor. She initially thought I had issues with vertigo but none of my subsequent tests indicated vertigo, including a brain MRI which was perfectly clear. After about a month, it was then suggested that I see a cardiologist who gave me an EKG, ECG, stress test and I wore a Holter monitor overnight (saw a cardiologist for the very first time on a Thursday). The very next day (Friday), after reading the results of all these procedures, the cardiologist told me to go immediately to the hospital for an angiogram because she was concerned that I could have a heart attack over the weekend or faint and seriously hurt myself! The Angiogram showed that I have perfectly clear arteries and I have normal blood pressure (the good news!). But, the bad news is that I was diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia and a leaky mitral valve.
I stayed in the hospital over the weekend for fear of a heart attack and I would rather have been there, too! It turns out that my heart is enlarged and functioning/pumping at 30% ("sick heart")--whereas 60% is considered normal. The cardiologists think I had a heart virus--especially since all of my arteries are squeaky clean. Or, I could have had a mild MI or threw a blood clot due to atrial fibrillation. I had a heart MRI which showed some scarring but the cause was inconclusive. As a result, I was given an AICD (implantable cardio-verter defibrillator). I never thought I would be in this position--I am not yet 59 years old! I now have a new normal: I religiously take 7 pills a day (I still firmly believe that food is medicine, however), have cut out spinning and weight training and am focusing on Pilates 3x/week and yoga 2x/week. I do lift light weights. I have always walked every day (thanks to my dog!) and have always done 10,000 - 12,000 or more steps/day--albeit a lot more slowly than before. I am hopeful that my heart will heal over time; as I understand, it can take a year or more to shrink back to normal size. At that point, we are hopeful that the mitral valve will also shrink and close. If it does not, it will have to be surgically repaired.
I am on this journey to health and well-being. I still look fit and healthy and no one would ever know that I have a "sick" heart unless I tell them. Because of this, though, I have to be somewhat careful because I still tend to "overdo" things. But, I am grateful to my family, friends and my cardiology team that I am alive.
I found this site as well as "GetFit GoRed for Women" when I went to the AHA site for additional information on women and heart disease. I have read and shared my journey with other women and find that the support and encouragement of women who have gone down this road and others has been very inspiring to me.