October 3, 2008

Woke up yesterday morning with no real plans except relaxing (the day before was something of an ordeal) and working with my physiotherapist. For a while, that was pretty much the case; I spoke with various visiting members of the team (showing off my ever-leaner right leg and complaining about my new chest pains), watched Gatchaman episodes, burned a CD to get through the boredom of an upcoming MRI, things like that.

Around noon things got a little too exciting. Several nurses had been trying to clear out a blockage in my feeding tube, with the fear that the visible blockage hid stuff farther up that might be far harder to remove, possibly necessitating the tube's removal and reinsertion. I felt a familiar sensation in my chest, on top of the various pains that made it hard to speak.

"Katie? Could you... check... my heart rate?"

Many of the nurses here check pulses the old-fashioned way, by holding your wrist. When she realized how fast my pulse was going, she tried to use one of the machines—only it couldn't read pulses that fast, either. Eventually they were able to get a reading of about 220, and I found myself explaining my history of tachycardia again.

By now a good deal of time had passed, and my heart wasn't slowing down. Katie told me they were going to call the RACE (Rapid Assessment of Critical Events) team.

Soon, my transplant physician showed up, and gave me a once-over physical exam, and asked a few more questions. Just then, my not terribly large room just filled with people and equipment. An EKG, a heart monitor and a blood pressure machine were hooked up to me to provide continuous testing before, during and after treatment. I was a complete mess of wires and tubes.

Once everything was ready, I was told what the present course of treatment was. They were going to inject me with adenosine and flush the line over about six seconds, which would get the complete dose into me in moments. What it would do was, essentially, stop my heart for a few seconds; when it restarted, the part of my cardiovascular system that regulates things would restart it at its regular rate.

"Until your heart restarts, you'll feel pretty awful," said Tom, the RACE doctor who would be doing this to me with a smile. At the same moment, I was asking, "What will this feel like?"

"There'll be a crushing sensation on your chest for about 3-5 seconds. If it hasn't restarted by then, you'll pass out until it does. It usually isn't more than 10 seconds."

What could I say? I had long passed the point where this was a danger to me. A distal (lower) port was used on one of the lines, and Tom went to town. Almost instantly I had trouble breathing, as invisible rhinos sat on my chest. I knew I wouldn't last much longer, when suddenly I felt my heart beating again (oddly, I'd never felt it not beating—but apparently it had).

Everyone's happiness was short-lived when someone noticed the truth: my heart rate had returned at the same rate as before!

Tom went off to confer with some other team members, leaving those of us in the room to talk amongst ourselves, organize things a bit, and make small talk. While doing those things I also listened to/felt the strange polyrhythm of the various devices attached to me.

Tom came back and gave me the new plan of action, which was remarkably like the old plan of action—only preceded by beta blockers and possibly alpha blockers to reduce my heart rate before hitting me with the terrible stuff.

So I braced myself, and we started the process. I got the first injection of beta blockers, and there was a wait as everyone who could see the monitor (i.e. everyone except me) looked at it intently and compared it to whatever they needed to compare it to. Eventually I noticed that no one was mentioning the terrible stuff anymore. Tom turned to me and said, "Quick, think of the most relaxing thing ever!"

I turned to Katie and said, "Quick, pass me my PSP!", fired up David Sylvian's "The Healing Place" and closed my eyes. A few moments later, Tom declared, "We did it!" They'd dropped my heart rate to 108 using only beta and alpha blockers.

There was a lot of activity as people milled about, exchanging information and keeping an eye on things. Gradually people started to retreat, disconnecting me from this or that gadget.

And in a wink of an eye, it was over. Jocelyne returned, and as Katie watched she got the feeding tube blockage cleared. Problems solved (and thoroughly tired), I went to sleep.

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posted by Emru Townsend at


Blogger Will Shetterly said...

Okay, that was a great piece of writing based on something I'm really sorry you had to go through.

October 4, 2008 12:24 AM  
Blogger Kathy - Eric's Mom said...

That sounds like way more excitement than you need. Hoping today is boring and somehow relaxing...


October 4, 2008 7:55 AM  
Anonymous Andy Gural said...


Gotta be careful with that because once on 'The Six Million Dollar Man' Steve Austin keep seeing a ghost of himself. Turns out when he was recovering from the M2F2 that crashes in the titles, his heart stopped. Turns out bad guys were using a hologram to trick Steve Austin so they could get their hands on his technology.

Let that be a warning to you. If, a year or two from now, you see a vision of yourself, it's gotta be Russian spies.


October 4, 2008 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Martin said...

Holy smoke... I thought after the last update that things were getting exponentially better. I wish you or someone close were posting news more often... I really hope you get well Emru!!! Happy to see there are people watching this closely.

October 8, 2008 12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been 10 days... is a family or friend available to write a post?


October 13, 2008 9:08 PM  
Blogger Tamu said...

Hi Jenise,

Emru is resting and nothing as exciting has been occurring the last few days. As you can see his message is part one of two, and there is more to tell, and it also took quite a while to recover from, but I'd rather Emru tell it in his own words.

October 13, 2008 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tamu, thank you so much!

Yes, it's best Emru writes the posts on HIS blog. LOL

You both inspire me a great deal!


October 13, 2008 10:51 PM  
Blogger Marie said...

Happy One-Month Birthday, Emru. Batz Maru Misses seeing his favorite fan!
~ Marie

October 16, 2008 4:00 PM  
Blogger jenniferch said...

You don't know me, I'm a friend of a friend, but I wanted to comment on your episode of tachycardia. I have PAT (paroxymal atrial tachychardia), whose name basically means they don't know what causes it. And when it showed up I went to the ER and had the same procedure. Arrived with a heart rate of about 220. I remember asking the nurse if I were going to die, and she laughed gently and assured me it wasn't serious. Not fun! But the treatment worked. Eight years later I take both atenolol and diltiazem and the maybe once monthly episodes are short, about 3 minutes, and the rate doesn't get above 135. There's an electric cathaterization procedure that is suitable for some people and can help a lot.

And I developed cancer 3 years later. The PAT influenced the choice of chemo, since chemo drugs that are known to affect the heart aren't possible for me.

Good news about your transplant!

October 16, 2008 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have SVT too. i HATE adenosine. but at least it's over fast.

October 31, 2008 11:32 PM  

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