Around seven years ago, after undergoing a routine annual physical examination, I was told by the examining physician to consult with a cardiologist. Apparently, my Electrocardiogram (ECG) test showed some abnormal results.
The findings said “Possible left atrial enlargement.” My ECG also showed prolonged QT interval which meant I could possibly have a heart condition called “Long QT Syndrome” (LQTS).
The cardiologist explained to me the possible causes of heart enlargement. He also talked to me about LQTS. Long QT Syndrome is a heart rhythm condition that can potentially cause fast, chaotic heartbeats which might trigger a sudden fainting spell, seizure or at worst, sudden death.
I remember being in a daze while the cardiologist was telling me about it. I thought I was hearing German. His words suddenly did not make any sense. What heart condition was he talking about?
The doctor was very encouraging, though. He told me that ECG results are not always accurate and there was no need to get ahead of ourselves. He scheduled me for more tests and told me to come back once the results were out.
So I took another series of cardio exams. I took tests that I thought before were only done to the elderly, like Echocardiogram (2D-Echo) or a Doppler Ultrasound of the Heart. Beside me waiting in line were people 40 years my senior. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
For some reason, my supposedly 15-minute 2D Echo procedure took about an hour because apparently, the technician told me, my heart is pretty lazy and was resting too close to the ribcage. She said a bone was covering it and she cannot take a clear image of all the chambers and heart valves. She said she couldn’t measure the heart fully.
I wanted to say, See? My heart is cool. It beats slow and steady, nothing irregular about it. It’s just resting… At least, that was what I wanted to believe.
If I seemed calm and confident during that first consult and the cardio tests, waiting for the results was another thing.
In my head, I was thinking: I am young. I am only in my mid-30s. I didn’t have any vices. Or maybe my only vice is I drink too much coffee… But I am never excitable, irritable nor hyper. In fact, I move pretty slowly. Sometimes I feel even my heart beats slowly… So how can I have a condition that may produce fast, chaotic heartbeats? It simply didn’t make sense.
I knew we had heart ailment history in the family. My maternal grandfather died of heart failure. Most of his and siblings had heart ailments, too. What if I was next in line? That worried me.
But my scariest thought was: I have a ten year old son. I want to be there for him, see him grow up. I cannot just faint one day and drop dead!
I don’t think I ever prayed so hard for myself as that one time.
The following afternoon, I was back at the cardiologist’s clinic, with my heart beating faster than normal, anxious about what I would hear.
The doctor smiled when he saw me. He said he was told about my “lazy” heart, then he assured me that nothing was wrong with it. It wasn’t enlarged, it was still good and healthy, fit for a 30-something. I was told to watch my cholesterol levels, though.
When I asked about the prolonged QT, he said my heartbeat was just like that and there was nothing to worry about. But he did tell me to be more conscious of what I eat, do regular monitoring and as much as possible, avoid stress.
Sometimes it takes a bad or a wrong medical diagnosis to wake us up, make us look at life differently.
When I thought I might have an ailment, I became more conscious of how I treated my heart. All of a sudden, I started minding it. I vowed to eat the right food, to move more so my heart will be more active in pumping blood, to take vitamins and supplements if necessary. I promised to stay away from stressful people and situations.
But then when everything went back to normal… when the health scare was forgotten… well we tend to go back to our old ways. We eat the wrong food, we get upset at the littlest things and we get so worked up over nothing.
In other words, we forget. We forget what is important. We focus on the things that are mundane. And it takes another health scare – ours, or of someone close to us – to remind us that we are not invincible.
If we want to live long, be able to spend more years with our loved ones, have the chance to pursue our passions, we need to take care of the body that we were given. We cannot be reckless and unmindful and just pray that no harm will befall us.
Your heart, as with the rest of your body, is a gift. You are responsible for it, so treat it right. No one can love it, care for it, and nurture it any better than you.
That is something that I remind myself every single day.