I’m still alive!
After a battery of tests last Thursday, I had an appointment this morning to go over the results. There were a lot of complicated words and assurances that my liver has not fallen out (more on that later), but the bottom line is that my heart is operating at 35%.
As terrifying as that sounds, it’s actually an improvement! When I dragged my half-dead ass into the ER, I was actually much closer to three-quarters-dead: my heart was operating at 20%. The drugs I’ve been taking and my steadfast, noble refusal to run any marathons no matter how tempted I am has brought me UP to half-dead, which feels pretty good (so that should give you some idea of how terrible 3/4 dead really felt).
Because I have ovaries and also am not a cardiologist, math is hard. It took some mental gymnastics to figure out my Ejection Fraction, which is not only a thing but also the name of my death metal Starship cover band:
Ejection fraction is usually expressed as a percentage. A normal heart pumps a little more than half the heart’s blood volume with each beat. A normal LVEF ranges from 55-70%. A LVEF of 65, for example, means that 65% of the total amount of blood in the left ventricle is pumped out with each heartbeat. The LVEF may be lower when the heart muscle has become damaged due to a heart attack, heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy), or other causes.
An EF of less than 40% may confirm a diagnosis of heart failure. Someone with diastolic failure can have a normal EF. An EF of less than 35% increases the risk of life-threatening irregular heartbeats that can cause sudden cardiac arrest (loss of heart function) and sudden cardiac death.
That cheery information comes with a handy chart:
It always comes as somewhat of a surprise to me just how REALLY FUCKING SICK I WAS/am, because I am adorkably naive when it comes to my own person. I’ve honestly just been going about my business as usual and treating all of this as a minor annoyance like a cold or not enough ice cubes or my handmaidens missing a spot when they anoint me with fragrant oils, but I guess it’s much more serious than that. I mean, look at that chart. I am at risk of life-threatening irregular heartbeats! That doesn’t sound like much fun at all.
As of today, my heart is ejecting fractions at 35%. That is officially one half of normal, so it’s not great by any stretch of the imagination .. but it’s so much better than where I was, so things are looking good. The meds are doing what they’re supposed to, Doc Awesome is pleased at my progress, and he doesn’t know why the hell I’m so itchy all the time either.
Apparently, most heart failure patients have their follow-up ultrasound done 6-9 months out. Mine was done pretty early, but I’m glad it was – this gives me a good idea of where I’m at (and also a much needed reminder that it’s okay if I feel lousy sometimes because I am really for real sick and not just a big baby for not powering through it). I’ll be scheduled for another one come January.
The only real downer news from the appointment is that I’m going to be married to this old person pill sorter for the foreseeable future – I’ll be taking this delightful assortment of medication for something like 18 months. That’s insane! At least my medic alert bracelet investment won’t go to waste, though. That’s good.
completely a little worried going into the appointment this morning, because it felt like the ultrasound took an inordinately long time. Ramon the Technician prodded at me for what felt like hours, and seemed to be rescanning certain areas repeatedly while peering at the screen with a furrowed brow. That’s disconcerting at the best of times, let alone when you’re waiting to find out where you sit on the scale of one to dead. However, I’m pleased to report that I’m very slowly but very surely getting better. Hooray! Unless you hate me, at which point I apologize that I’ll be sticking around for some time yet. Sucks to be you!