I was officially diagnosed with SVT back in February of this year after wearing a Holter monitor for a few days. I had been having “episodes” over the past couple years that began to serve as unbearable and debilitating as they grew worse in nature. However, I had no idea what they were associated with.
The episodes presented themselves in the form of intense chest pain that seemed to radiate into my arms. Some might describe it as a similar feeling to a heart attack, or that someone is sitting on their chest making it difficult to breathe. That sensation was following by shakiness, fatigue, dizziness, and sometimes fainting. I could feel palpitations, and it was as if my heart was racing and pounding against my chest wall. I could not only hear every beat, but feel it pounding in my head. Episodes could last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. My resting heart rate would consistently sit around 130 bpm (whereas a regular rate is closer to 70 bpm), and anywhere up to 200+ bpm when in an SVT episode.
Cardiologists put me on Atenolol, a beta blocker designed to curb the symptoms associated with SVT as well as slow the heart rate to a manageable speed. While the beta blocker med ending up making my asthma worse, it did help in the management of the symptoms I was experiencing. My resting heart rate usually sat around 80 bpm on Atenolol and I was seeing less episodes. But as time went on, the medication stopped working. I began experiencing numerous “break through” episodes where I ended up on the phone with on-call cardiologists, ruling out if a hospital visit was in store to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.
I eventually met with an arrhythmia specialist to determine if I was a potential candidate for an ablation procedure. Luckily for me, SVT is not only treatable, but a curable heart disorder. After a consultation with a doctor out of Scottsdale, I was approved for an ablation procedure in early June. The surgery was scheduled for July 11 (I just underwent it).
The nerves I experienced leading up to the surgery would come and go. It never really became reality until the day before and of the actual procedure. The doctors explained the procedure (in extreme detail, nonetheless) and I won’t lie, I was scared shitless. Basically, the surgery is essentially burning out the electrical wiring in the heart that doesn’t function as it should. They do this by puncturing through the femoral artery/vein by accessing it in your groin. They feed catheters up these passageways into your heart and begin “shocking” the heart to induce the SVT arrhythmia in order to determine the part of the heart that is not functioning properly. Once they locate the short circuit, they feed wires through the catheters and literally burn out the part that is not working.
The nurses on the day of the surgery explained to me that I was going to be awake for this surgery. The reasoning was that so I could tell the surgeons if the procedure was hurting me…and I’m not even kidding. I was put under a “conscious sedation” for the duration of the surgery and was assured I wouldn’t feel much other than the initial poke of the numbing agent and that I might feel the actual burning process of the ablation. Not the most comforting words as they were ready to wheel me into the operating room, and frankly, I questioned my sanity in agreeing to this, but I figured a few hours of this sure as hell beat a lifetime of symptoms.
The “operating room” (formally called a cath lab) had a 6 screen monitor system, designed to aid in the ablation procedure. They placed a collection of pads strategically along my back and torso, which was explained would recreate a 3D picture of the inside of my heart, like a customized map. This would guide the catheters safely into my heart and would help the doctors locate the problem. The table I was to lay on for the next 3 hours was actually a Tempurpedic, and I was allowed to pick the music, but even the conscious sedation medications knocked me out cold. I woke up a few times during the procedure and only felt a little bit of the burning sensation before the anesthesia nurse knocked me out again. The surgery lasted about 3 hours and with a few complications, the doctor was 98% sure he burned the right part of the heart (we hope).
Recovering a few days later, it has been a little bit rougher than I was initially informed, but all I can do is keep telling myself that it’s worth it. My atenolol has officially been discontinued and I’m looking forward to a life ahead living symptom free. My heart is currently experiencing extra beats and the occasional painful tinge throughout, but it’s recovering from the trauma of the procedure. Other than that, I only have bruising in the groin area at the sites of the puncture wounds, but they’re healing nicely.
For anyone that is suffering from SVT and is looking to find a way out, consider the ablation procedure. While it is heart surgery and an overall scary and perhaps overwhelming concept to process, it was completely worth it to regain control of my life again.