When this posts I will probably be in the hospital. I am “electively” having my heart fixed. Two months ago, I was having dizzy spells and I asked a friend who is a healthcare professional to check my ears. I thought I had fluid in them from a sinus infection I had been battling. She said, “Sure. But, let’s do your vitals and everything first.” I thought that would be fine, but knew everything would be fine with my vitals. I was wrong. The first thing they do when checking your vitals is stick a little doohickey on your index finger called a Pulse-Oximeter, or Pulse-Ox. It checks two things, your heart rate/pulse, and your Oxygen concentration in your bloodstream. My oxygen looked fine. But my heartrate. OH MY GOODNESS! That little doohickey said my heart was flying along at 176 beats per minute. My normal resting heartrate is right around 60, so this was a bit of a shock. I said, “That’s got to be wrong.” So, they stuck what is called a 5-lead EKG on my chest and re-checked it. Sure enough, I was experiencing tachycardia. Or, a REALLY fast heartbeat. They wanted to send me to the local hospital (I was out of town) by ambulance. I told them that my doctor and my family were in Birmingham so I would drive back. I had to sign a release that I wouldn’t hold them liable if something happened to me on the way back to Birmingham.
I got to Birmingham, and a close doctor-friend had gotten a cardiologist to see me when I got there. He checked my heart with the EKG and this time it said 181 beats per minute. For a bit of perspective, I checked max heartrates on a couple of riders in the Tour de France during an intense climb in the Alps or the Pyrenees and they were in the 180-183 range. The simple formula for calculating your maximum heartrate by age is 220 – your age = Estimated max heart rate. I’m 52. My max heart rate, according to that formula should be 168. During the time I’ve been sitting here writing, my heart rate has been all over the place, including up to 165 beats per minute. The doctor looked at the EKG then looked at me. He looked back at the EKG, then back at me and said, “Man, you are flying!” He then told me to go over to the ER and to give them the EKG strip. He said, “You won’t be waiting in the ER. Watch how fast they move when they see this.”
Part of the story that I think is important is what I may have done to contribute to my heart going crazy. As I’ve said before, I am the poster-man for ADHD. Up until this happened with my heart, I had been on medication for this disorder. I also was a caffeine FREAK! Caffeine didn’t affect me like you would think. I was calmer and it helped with my focus. I could even sleep right after a cup of coffee. That said, like many people, I was constantly pushing the limits on work/play/life…always wanting to get the most possible out of every day. I had a serious case of FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. So, in line with this screwed up perspective, I bought some coffee that was supposedly, “The Strongest Coffee in the World.” It didn’t list the caffeine amount, but I found out later, that it was outrageously high in caffeine. Like, 479 milligrams per cup instead of 150-ish mg in normal coffee. That would have been bad enough, but I was drinking about 5 cups a day. I was so jacked up trying to go-go-go, all the time that I may have nearly done myself in. In trying not to miss out on life, I nearly cost myself my life.
That’s what brings me to this point. The heart is an amazing creation from an amazing Creator. It is a perpetual motion machine that works from the time a baby is around 5-6 weeks in the womb. And for most, it keeps beating until the day they die which in America averages out close to 80 years later. Wow. That is a remarkable part of an incredible conglomeration of parts that allow these bodies to take us through life. As I lay in the hospital bed with skilled healthcare workers buzzing around me, I was awestruck by how incredibly fragile yet resilient we are. I was also surprised by the peace that I had about whether this was the end for me. I am grateful for life. It is a miracle. I am grateful that God put me right where He put me, with those whom I have gotten to share this life. I did tell Him that I’d like to keep on living, but I was at peace either way. The main thing is that I didn’t want my kids to be without their Dad. I knew Jenn would be sad, but losing your Dad early is really tough for anyone.
After three unsuccessful attempts to normalize my heart rate and rhythm with a drug called adenosine, they decided to put me in the ICU. There, using various drugs including one called amiodarone, they finally got it to slow down. Since then, various drugs have been used to try to keep it down. I have had a few weeks of normal rate and rhythm. But, with the procedure coming up to fix it, they had to take me off one of them two-weeks prior and the others a few days before. So, now I’m back to flying. But, I’m ok. God is using this to teach me about being still. Listening to the wind…Enjoying my kids…Enjoying my wife—she’s really pretty…my dog Bo...A good meal. Stopping. Listening. Life is in those relationships, moments, and pauses.
Going forward, I’m hoping I will be ever more grateful for each beat of my heart. God knows how many I have left. I trust Him with that. I just want to make sure I make the most of the rest of them and I hope you do the same!
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.