The Time I Had a Quarter-Heart Attack/When in Doubt, Add Sparkles

It’s been nearly five years since I caught a cough that just wouldn’t go away, and three years of being on daily steroid medication (click here to read the nitty gritty about all of that). The steroids keep me stable but have a whackload of side-effects and one of the newer ones is a teeny heart issue.

It all started back in November of last year. I was sitting on the couch, chatting away with my stepmom when my heart started to race. And by “race,” I mean “started to beat so fast that I thought I was having a heart attack.” After a couple of seconds, I told her I’d have to call her back.

Now, a few weeks earlier, I’d been to see Dr. Smartypants because I wasn’t doing so hot. He switched me to a higher dose of steroids. One of the primary side-effects of steroids is amplified emotional reactions (read: freakouts over nothing. Case in point: Crying over a lack of ripe tomatoes in the grocery store. And by “cry” I mean “wail.” Thank goodness it was six in the morning so it was just me, the bakers, and the dude buffing the floor), so upping the dose meant more frequent meltdowns. Knowing that my body had a tendency to overreact, and because I had no experience with either heart or panic attacks, and because having a band of paramedics storm my house for a panic attack would be embarrassing, I took an Ativan and waited.

Then I started to feel really good.

Great, in fact.

Aside from the fact that my heart was still beating about a bajillion times a second, the world was a pretty awesome place.

So, I called 9-1-1.

I won’t bore you with the intricate details of that call because, frankly, I can’t remember them all but I do remember two things:

1.    We counted out my heartbeat and it was over 200 beats a minute, which would have been terrifying if not for the fluffy cloud of happiness my brain was sitting on.

2.     The operator told me that I needed to have my health card ready, unlock the door, and lock up any animals.

Although I thought it was odd for a 9-1-1 operator to tell a potential heart attack victim to run around their house to prep for the paramedics, I did what she asked and, while upstairs, caught a glance of myself in a mirror and noticed a small hole in the bum of my pants. Fashion crisis averted. After getting changed, I went downstairs to sit on the bench by the side door and wait.

A few minutes later (or hours, time seemed to go by quickly and slowly at the same time. Again, Ativan is cool) the ambulance arrived. The pair of paramedics came into the house and saw me on the bench. They hooked me up to a portable monitor and it revealed that my heart rate was 204. Just so we’re clear, anything over 180 is serious biz. They were all, “why aren’t you freaking out” so I told them about the drugs. Then we all had a great laugh. While one of the paramedics took my other vitals, the other noticed our toaster on the kitchen counter, which is when we became kindred spirits because we both thought it was the worst toaster of all-time but refused to throw it out because it cost too much and we'd rather suffer than admit defeat. 

Blah, blah, blah, I got to the hospital and I wasn’t having a heart attack. They figured I had something called SVT that was probably aggravated by the steroids. The easiest solution is a small procedure called an ablation and all I’d need is a referral from a cardiologist to get a referral for surgery.

Sounds simple, right? Just two steps! TWO!

Well, I had my first quarter-heart attack in November. Three months later, I finally saw the cardiologist but sometime between November and February, the print outs from the ambulance heart monitor were lost and the cardiologist couldn't refer me to the surgeon without them.


The only thing to do was get me hooked up with a portable heart rate monitor. There are two types: the Holster and the King of Hearts. Obviously, I told the cardiologist that I was all about the King of Hearts. Before I could tell him that I didn't need an explanation and that I'd pick the King of Hearts (because anything called the King of Hearts must be awesome) he said that the Holster was for 24-hours and it records your heart continuously while the King of Hearts is for two weeks and it records when you push a button.

Not-so-fun-fact's the cardiologist "forgot" to tell me about portable heart monitors:
(a) The button is on a cassette-sized box you wear around your neck which, when pushed, emits a high-pitched screech for thirty seconds that rivals any smoke alarm. Just ask the Costco employees, as that's where I was when I first pressed the button.
(b) Putting on and taking off sticky-pads every day for two weeks irritates the eff out of your skin and that, combined with delayed healing due to the steroids will leave you with a tan-coloured scar next to your rib in the shape of a square.
(c) The monitor can only record a certain amount of "episodes" before you have to go into the hospital and get it downloaded, so you'll live in perpetual sweaty fear of accidentally pressing it. 

Sounds fun, right?
Haha, I kid, I kid. That was rhetorical. I understand why he left that stuff out. You'd have to be crazy to willingly agree.

Blah, blah, blah, he booked me for both monitors because the quarter-heart-attacks don’t happen regularly enough to be sure one would be caught in 24-hours and, in late March, I got them put on. The Holster caught nothing while the King of Hearts got a good one. Awesome.

On Thursday of last week, I had a follow-up with the cardiologist. He grabbed my chart to read the report from the monitor's results, which confirmed that something fishy was going on. Then, he paused to pick up the phone to call the hospital.

Blah, blah, blah…turns out, the hospital LOST THE PRINT-OUTS!


(metaphorically – with all this talk of quarter-heart-attacks, I didn’t want to alarm you)

As I stated before, the only way to get a referral to the freaking surgeon is to have the printouts. Of which, I have zero. Despite having TWO separate sets taken by "medical professionals" (you get the quotes there, right?) and having them interpreted with full reports, the surgeon doesn't care. He wants the stupid freaking print outs. So that meant I had wear the King of Hearts for another two weeks.

Needless to say, Friday was a very bad day. And because I don’t want to get better just to end up starring in an episode of Intervention, I set aside the Ativan to feel the full throttle of the unfairness. Ten thousand tears A while later, I calmed down, which when I remembered my cardinal rule:

When in doubt, add sparkles.

After wiping my face and blowing my nose, I grabbed my laptop to do some internet shopping because if I was going to be stuck wearing the King of Hearts again (curse you Chalmers – yeah, I said it out loud) the only thing to make it better would be to dress the part.

Blah, blah, blah, I got the monitor put on Monday and my very appropriate accessory arrived Tuesday morning. Timing is perfect like that sometimes.

The receptionist at my GP’s office supports the look completely. As do the two hygienists from the attached dental office. An older gentleman in the waiting room didn’t seem to get it but three out of four isn’t bad. My doctor didn’t say anything but I figured it’s because it looks so natural.

So, although it totally blows that I have to wear this stupid thing for another two weeks, I'm really digging the tiara. In fact, I was excited to put it on this morning, which only proves my point, yet again, that sparkles can make anything better. And yes, that means I'm presently wearing it while writing this post. Haha!! 

And, just for the record, neither the cardiologist or the emergency room doctor supported my self-diagnosis of having a "quarter-heart attack." Quacks. 


  1. The heart stuff is scary!! But I'm digging the tiara ;)

  2. Wow, can you like insist on making your own copies of the print outs this time? I totally agree with your "sparkles make everything better" theory! I have a similar theory involving chocolate. Best of luck to you! Hopefully they get this all straightened out!!

  3. Oh wow, that's so crazy! I can't believe they lost the print outs twice!

    Love the tiara =)

  4. If it were me, the doctor saying that they had lost the printouts again would have been cause for another attack right then and there.

    That totally sucks...royally.

    The tiara is perfect :)

  5. How scary! I'm glad you have such a good outlook on this. I'm sure it's the tiara that helps.


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