Two weeks ago I went to the blood bank to donate. I followed the typical routine: waited in the empty lobby for an inexplicably long time before a nurse emerges, confirmed on the checklist that I was not in Eastern Europe between 1992 and 1997, avoided eye contact while answering sexual history questions that the nurse felt even more awkward asking, have my blood drawn and my pulse taken.
It was all smooth sailing until the last part.
Long story short, the nurse noticed an irregular heartbeat and, after consulting the thicker-than-a-Bible (and less organized) manual, disqualified me from donating. A couple days later an EKG revealed that I have PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) and RBBB (something like right bundle blockage). Yesterday I was in the waiting room of the cardiology department. And today I’m wearing a bundle of wires strapped to my chest like I’m going undercover to help nab a mafia boss.
It’s been a weird few days. I still don’t have any answers; hopefully those will come after the battery of tests I’m doing over the next couple weeks, including the Holter monitor, a stress test, and an echocardiogram. All signs point to a harmless “athlete’s heart”-like condition, where the muscle is just too damn strong and is sending electrical impulses to beat when it shouldn’t. I haven’t had pain or other symptoms. But then again, PVCs can be the result of more serious structural issues, and there’s a history of heart issues in my family (thanks a lot, grandma).
When you’re young, you don’t think about your heart. You don’t worry about your body failing you. I know I never thought about it. I exercise and eat healthy. Why would I need to worry?
But, at least for the time being, I am worried. It is scary to feel your pulse jump and wonder if that beating thing inside your chest is suddenly going to give way. It is scary to ponder a future without your favorite activities, the things that comprise part of your identity. It is scary to listen to your heart thundering in your ears against the pillow at night, wondering if your fears are making it worse. It is scary to sit in a waiting room surrounded by people decades older than you and notice something like curious pity in their eyes. You shouldn’t be here, they seem to say. I know why I’m here. But you?
I wasn’t really considering returning to racing and interval training, but now those are out of the question. Strava KOM hunting may be as well. After this scare, I’ll be happy to just be able to stay on the bike, to keep things moderate. My hammering days are likely over, whether or not my condition turns out to be serious or not. The risk/reward calculation just doesn’t work out. There’s no point–I don’t love hammering enough to threaten my life.
I’ll be taking it easy until the tests all come back, probably just going for long walks and spinning on the trainer. Not a fun way to close out 2017, but I think it’s the smart thing to do.