Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fear Factor Tachycardia/Bradycardia

If you had asked me two years ago what tachycardia or bradycardia meant, I would have shrugged my shoulders and given you a puzzled look. Now those two words are as familiar as chocolate ice cream and cream puffs. For those of you unfamiliar with their meaning; Bradycardia is defined as a resting heart rate of under 60 beats per minute, though it is seldom symptomatic until the rate drops below 50 beat/min. It may cause cardiac arrest in some patients, because those with bradycardia may not be pumping enough oxygen to their heart. It sometimes results in fainting, shortness of breath, and if severe enough, death. Tachycardia typically refers to a heart rate that exceeds the normal range for a resting heart rate. It can be very dangerous depending on how hard the heart is working and the activity. Normal heart rate is usually 60-100 beats per minute.

I thought I'd share what goes on in my head when I experience my friends bradycardia and tachycardia (I often refer to as brady and tachy). I could be reading or watching TV, when I begin to feel a thump in my chest and a ticht squeeze in my heart, a second or two later another strong thump, it's a strong slow steady beat of my heart against my chest. I figure because I am resting I must be experiencing brachycardia, so I check my watch that has a heart rate monitor, and sure enough I have a heart rate of 54. I'm thinking, hmmm not too bad but something to pay attention to. The thumping soon gets further apart, and I'm beginning to breath a little faster, my lungs burn and I feel a bit dizzy. I check my monitor, it reads 46. I begin to worry that my heart may just stop. I'm feeling worse and my monitor says my heart rate is 39 and fear sets in and I begin to wonder if I'm going to survive this one. Next thing I know I feel an adrenaline rush, and my heart starts to pick up; 47...58...72...94...110...143...157, now I'm wondering if my heart is going to explode! My arms and legs are tingly, my heart is beating through my chest quickly, and I now wonder if I'm going to have a heart attack! In five minutes my heart rate has gone from 39 to 157, now the chest pain begins because my heart has just had a work out. Again I wonder if I should be worried, I think to myself "I always survive these radical episodes, maybe there's nothing to worry about?" But then another part of me says "What if this is the one time I shouldn't ignore it?". Those two opposing thoughts have very different consequence. If I went to the hospital every time my chest pain was practically unbearable I'd be there every day, but one of these days my heart may just decide it's had enough and ignoring it could be fatal! I know I've survived this so many times I often chastise myself for worrying, but I'll be honest, it's just plain scary!

I have so many dysautonomia friends on facebook. They are the most brave and couragous people I have ever met. They often laugh and push through the pain they live with daily. On occasion one of them will share on their post that they are experiencing extreme heart rate fluctuations and I can usually feel that twinge of fear in their post. I often fear for them as I fear for myself, will this be the one time bracycardia or tachycardia goes too far? Will my friend survive this episode? All I can do is pray for them and give it to God as I do every time I experience it for myself.

Always inspired,


  1. I stumbled upon your blog after I googled dysautomia. It brings tears to my eyes...reading about who you were and who you are now. After MANY years of multiple diagnosis...I have now been diagnosed with a new one....dyautonomia and low aldosterone. We traveled out of town yesterday with high hopes of this "well known specialist" giving us great treatments and ideas...only to find out he just diagnoses dyautonomia.
    I was hospitalized last week because of such low b/p and pulse and a pretty purple and red picc line because I have no veins due to Ehlers Danlos, had an out of body experience after being given Florinef which seemed to increase my intracranial pressure(thank you Mr. Chiari)
    After coming home from Mr. Specialist was the first time in this long journey that I felt useless and hopeless. After everything that I have been through and put my family through...there are no answers it seems.
    My three daughters have Chiari and EDS as well, I try to hide my symptoms and pain...but with this, falling to the floor is difficult to disguise.
    The IV fluids in the hospital seemed to be the biggest help. Home Health has agreed to teach us to administer to get the doctor to agree.
    My husband and I will be going to Hawaii for our 25th anniversary in this. How will I ever make it.
    After having planned my funeral before one of my surgeries and waking up and being able to live my life (although a different life) for over a seems my spirit is gone. The "inspiration" that people tell me that I am to them is gone.
    How much can one body take. God has been with me all along....I don't want to be mad at Him. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone.

  2. Hi Michelle I love your post about Brady and Tachy I have been going through this very same thing along with syncope and I cannot agree with you more. I have given up on going to the ER as it feels like a waste of time because by the time I get there and they hook me up I am okay again, but like you I worry which time will be the time I am not okay. The worse part is people thinking it is all in your head until they see it for themselves. Thank you so much for being able to express what I have been unable to find the words for.