Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Maybe progress

On any health journey there may sometimes be good news, other times bad news, and lots of times deliver wait and see news. That’s what I have today, but, despite myself, I’m very hopeful. It could be that a truly awful year may soon end.

For the past year I’ve been struggling on beta blockers because of the often severe fatigue they cause, along with the problems with memory and focus/concentration. They’re the reason I haven’t been up to blogging or podcasting or any of the other things I want to do. Which is why I say it’s been a terrible year for me. Truth is, it’s been worse for Nigel who hasn’t had ME for the past year.

Today I saw a cardiologist in private practice, which, while expensive, was a very good move. Waiting for an appointment in the public system could take months, and this particular cardiologist is a specialist in heart rhythm.

This whole sub-journey began, as I explained last November, after a third tachycardia incident, which means I had an unusually fast heartbeat. The after-hours medical centre I went to put me on beta blockers, and everything started then.

Since then, I’ve changed drugs and dosage, with no real improvement in how I felt, even if the specific problem went away. After I saw my new GP back in March, I wrote:
I knew that people who’ve had a heart attack are put on the drug to help their heart heal. I didn't have a heart attack. I also knew that they’re used for irregular heatbeat (and migraines, even). But it turns out that when someone has a heart attack, part of their heart is damaged, as we all probably know, and when someone has a blockage like I did, part of their heart is weakened. As a result, one half of the heart isn’t strong enough and has trouble keeping up with the healthy part.

Beta blockers slow down the heart, ideally to no more than 70bpm or so, so that that weakened part can keep up with the strong part. This is almost certainly a permanent requirement (or until new treatments become available). So, she said, the trick is finding a beta blocker that balances the life-saving properties with having a life.
The problem with all that is that it robbed me of energy and mental focus, and when I did something that made my heartrate got up, I felt absolutely terrible afterward, almost anxious, even. It affected literally every aspect of my life.

Today the cardiologist explained that it is standard practice when someone has a heart attack, but I never had one. In my case, they wouldn’t necessarily prescribe beta blockers unless an ultrasound scan of my heart showed a problem. No scan was done when the stent was done, and I don’t know why it wasn’t. But because it wasn’t, there’s no proof that half my heart is weakened, particularly since my ECG shows normal heart rhythm.

The cardiologist also said that certain calcium channel blockers are good for my particular kind of tachycardia because, in addition to controlling the rhythm, the drugs have fewer side effects than beta blockers, and nothing as bad as they have. Based on the evidence, there doesn’t seem to be a reason why I have to be on beta blockers.

One can’t just stop beta blockers, though, so I’m to cut the dosage in half—to ¼ tablet—for two weeks, then start the calcium channel blocker. This may be manageable with drugs alone, but, if not, there’s a surgical option to fix the tachycardia, because, as he put it, it’s basically “a wiring problem”. However, right now there’s no reason to assume that will be necessary.

The bottom line is that I should soon start to get my life back, with more energy and better mental function. I have no idea how long that will take, but I’m more excited about that than worried about tachycardia returning. And if the new drug can keep that in check, then I’ll definitely have my life back.

For the past year, I’ve been completely aware of my age—and often feel older than I really am. That’s not because of actual age or ageing, it’s because of the prescriptions I’ve been on. But now it really feels possible this may be about to end.

Right now, having what may be progress is a very big deal.

Important note: This post is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.


rogerogreen said...

Well, I hope we can get the old Arthur back blogging. Of course, you're feeling old, so maybe it's the new Arthur. I mean... Oh, just get better.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

LOL, thanks—I think?