There are some evenings when I can’t help but think about the nights when my heart would struggle to beat. By the end of the day, my blood volume would be so low because I was never educated on my health conditions or how to manage my health and had no idea what was going on. I would go all day without drinking water. I avoided salt because I assumed that’s just what you do, especially with heart issues.
Here is a quick run down about my health history:
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome was just a small fraction of what I had going on. Last January (2017) I was still very in the dark about my health. Even though I already had four cardiac ablations for Supraventricular Tachycardia, caused by being born with an extra electrical pathway in my heart that caused rapid heart rates and extra beats, I still never had a real team of doctors who had my back.
Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome made it very difficult to have a fully successful ablations due to the extra pathways in very difficult and rare spots of my heart. My electrophysiologist often noticed two P Waves on my EKGs. The P Waves are the little squiggly line that shows where the heart beat originates.
After four cardiac ablations, I needed an aortic valve repair. This is done with open heart surgery and cracking open my sternum. My aorta valve was regurgitating blood flow backwards. This caused shortness of breath and other issues.
Having the ablations did not fix my rapid heart rates. It reduced them but I still got them and often. I needed medication to slow down my heart rate but I also had bradycardia (slow heart rate) so I was unable to take medication for about a decade. I would bounce from 45 beats per minute and jump up to 150, all day. I was diagnosed with Neurocardiogenic Syncope and Sick Sinus Syndrome. This means that my heart would randomly plummet, while doing simple tasks, causing me to blackout or set my heart into a scary arrhythmia. I developed a dysfunctional sinus node. The sinus node produces your heart beat, like a natural pacemaker.
Back to 2017… As if nothing mentioned above wasn’t scary enough, including my brief encounter with cancer, January 5th, 2017 was the scariest day of my life. Unbeknownst to me, my blood volume was dangerously low and I was dehydrated and creeping up to pre-diabetic status due to a careless diet and love for sugar. I wasn’t taking care of myself the way my body desperately needed me to. My heart went tachycardia, which wasn’t anything I wasn’t used to, but then the rhythm changed to chaotic. I was going into a potential fatal arrhythmia.
We called 911 and my husband (boyfriend at the time) held me in his arms as my limbs fell to the side, with no blood flow. I was going into circulatory shock. I told him I loved him and to tell my kids I loved them and the blurry lights in the distance arrived closer. Suddenly I felt my heart convert back to a normal (but fast) rhythm and I could breathe again and move my arms. This happened again and again, several times a week, for months.
I was continuously dismissed, labeled with anxiety and even prescribed acid reflux medication for heartburn. I did not have heartburn, I was having chest tightness and pressure but this was just a small example of being disregarded and carelessly misdiagnosed. Eventually, I had a 30 heart monitor on to capture every episode. The monitor was hidden under my shirt and robe. My body would shut down before the doctor’s eyes as he mocked me and stated it was just anxiety and an EKG or heart monitor wasn’t necessary. Despite my history and the fact that I was the happiest I had ever been, I was always sent home or they couldn’t catch an episode.
Six months later, I finally found an electrophysiologist who set me up with a pacemaker that I needed ten years ago. My neurologist also looked at the tests and confirmed that what they thought looked like an anxiety attack was my body going into circulatory shock. I can also finally take heart medication to keep the fast rates at bay, now that I have a pacemaker.
Like a thick gloom, blanketing you and swallowing your body, the memories take over. There were times that I literally begged for my life. I could barely breathe and my arms and legs lost color and I couldn’t move. My body would start shaking vigorously as I took small rapid breaths. “Please help” was all I could pathetically mutter to the unconcerned nurses who assumed I was a drug seeker.
Those six months still haunt me, especially at night. No doctor EVER thought to ask, “Why does this young woman have such a unique health history?” No one thought to do genetic testing or to ask questions. They all let me slide through the cracks.
I’m here and I am still fighting. I will always fight, until I can’t anymore. I am here to stand up for others like me. I am here to inspire others to advocate for themselves and to not give up. I am still here.
Even though my story isn’t over, I still continue with sleep apnea and my aortic valve has hypertrophied. I will need open heart surgery once again, with a pig valve and possibly in the near future. I will need a new pacemaker years to come. I don’t have insurance so my sleep apnea is not being treated. I don’t know what to expect in the future but I do know that I will love every moment that I am given.
- Educate yourself on your health conditions.
- Get every medical record and keep a file
- Print information on your rare diseases or disorders to give to your medical professionals
- Find a support group or therapist
- Eat healthy and stay hydrated
When your medical team thinks you are just stressed or maybe have a common ailment and never test you for anything out of the norm, it can be frustrating. You feel lost and alone and just want answers. Sometimes this process can last years!
Up to 12 million people are misdiagnosed each year (1 in 20) and medical errors are the THIRD leading cause of death in the US (CDC, 2006) and kill 150,000 people per year. It is also disheartening when friends and family start to question you and think that maybe it is in your head. I have been there!
I am lucky to have a beautiful support system and people who care about me and I have made leaps with my health care, though I still have much more to discover. Advocacy is so important. Though my hands are tied due to finances and lack of health insurance, I still do a ton of research regularly and do what is best for my health and wellbeing with nutrition, detoxing my body, supplements and cutting out emotional toxins. If you are suffering from anything, I got your back. I am on your side. I am always here. Don’t ever be afraid to reach out.
Banana Bag Oral Solution is a specially formulated solution for vitamin deficiencies and dehydration. It is a drink mix and can replace the costly IV from an emergency room visit. The term “Banana Bag” is from the medical field, referencing IV fluids. The drink does not taste like bananas. In fact, it has lemon-lime taste to it. I prefer it to sugary sports drinks that are loaded with dyes, preservatives and artificial flavors. It is also gluten-free.
Banana Bag has been a huge hit for those with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and also other Dysautonomia patients. It is beneficial for athletes, hangovers, the chronically ill, people with gut issues causing malabsorption and keeping general health issues at bay that are caused by deficiencies and dehydration.
This reliable solution restores the body with electrolytes and vital nutrients. It has been a crucial staple in managing my health, especially living with the Florida heat.
No sweeteners | No preservatives | No dyes | No artificial ingredients | No artificial flavors | No GMOs | No gluten.
I had a tubal ligation in 2005 after having twin boys and a beautiful little girl. Having heart issues and pregnancy complications, it was the best choice for me. I am allergic to latex and birth control made me incredibly ill.
I was under the impression that they cut and tied or burned the fallopian tubes. I was never aware of anything being implanted or a device. Fast forward to Early 2017, when my heath issues are all over the place. I was having stomach issues, losing weight and dealing with an array of deficiencies and heart issues. I had many ER visits due to severe episodes of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and had an xray done at the ER for stomach pain. As usual, I was sent home with no answers and told it was just anxiety.
Being the advocate that I am, I always head to the medical records department soon after a hospital trip. I gathered my medical records, labs and reports and sat down in my car and read through them. You find out much more about your health this way and it’s much faster than waiting for weeks or months for results or follow ups. I found over the years that medical professionals leave out a lot of important information.
One important piece of information that was left out, but mentioned on my radiology report, is that my right tubal clip was dislodged and located on the right side of my pericolic gutter. I was shocked. No one told me. I would still not know today had I not checked my report. I am sure that most of my health issues were not related as I have a long history or heart issues and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome but I’m sure it couldn’t have been healthy to have a metal clip lodging itself into multiple organs.
I made an appointment with my new gynecologist, not the one who installed the Filshie Clips. The doctor who put my clips in was the high risk obstetrician who delivered my daughter. The new doctor took on the challenge to located the clip (at one point was lodged in my bladder) and remove it and the other clip as well.
I am sharing this story because I urge women to ask questions, research and educate themselves. This story is another scary example of why it is so important to advocate for ourselves.
I always try to smooth my hair and conceal my tired eyes. I always dust on a peachy pink blush and a fun lip color, regardless of how I feel. This is the mask of an invisible illness warrior. Occasionally, there are days that I struggle to even lift a limb to put on my war paint. On those days when I bare a naked face and join society, I get told over and over and over again, “You look tired.”
When someone looks exhausted or drained, instead try asking if they need anything or offer help, a compliment or anything positive. I wear makeup to hide when my face goes pale while my blood pressure drops and my body starts going numb, ringing in my ears or the sound of my pulse takes over while my vision starts to sparkle or fade. I wear lipstick to hide the loss of color while I brace myself against the wall or casually sit down and continue to smile and listen to your day.
Every day is a struggle, whether it is big or small. On the really bad days, it is a lonely world and it feels like no one understand. When you try to reach out, no one listens because they think you are young and healthy and perfectly fine. It feels dismissive and disheartening, quiet and empty as you hope for tomorrow to be a better day.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a group of inherited disorders that weaken connective tissues. Connective tissues are proteins that support skin, bones, blood vessels, and other organs.
My childhood consisted of chronic stomach issues with pain and constipation, never ending growing pains, Supraventricular Tachycardia, easy bruising, joint hyper mobility, sleep disorders, chronic fatigue, abdominal wall hernia, autonomic dysfunction such as temperature and blood pressure regulation, headaches, frequent urination, mouth ulcers, heat intolerance, just to name a few!
I could pop my hips out of place like it was nothing. I could twist my arms over 360 degrees and freak people out. Once, I bent my arm around in my physical education class and showed the teacher, asking if I could see the nurse. I often tried getting out of gym class due to my heart rate in the 250 bpm range from Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) that did not get discovered or diagnosed until I was 15. So, I am in 3rd grade and when the teacher sees my arm, she was horrified! Guilt set in and I instantly said I was kidding and ran off.
I was also an expert and hide and seek. I could bend and fold into any tiny space and would always hear everyone give up on finding me because I would fit into such unexpected places.
When I got to my teens, you can also add that I had sleep paralysis, migraines with aura, vertigo, dizziness, POTS, adrenal surges and crashes, sleeping in school, ADD, brain fog, endometriosis, Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia, depression, IBS, MCAS, and anxiety.
However, I was a healthy young girl. Everything was missed and overlooked because this was all normal to me and having such a rare disease is always too far outside of the box for most doctors.
It was not until I had 4 cardiac ablations, 1 endometrial ablation, 1 open heart surgery for aortic valve repair and a pacemaker for neurocardiogenic syncope and sick sinus syndrome, hundreds of ER visits and dozens of hospitalizations later that I got diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. After desperation and never any answers, I was the one who asked the doctors to diagnose me after I stumbled upon this rare diagnosis from research and from my Mother in law suggesting that I look into it. My entire life I was told that I was young and healthy and a hypochondriac. When I saw the Beighton Score and had 8/9 I knew this was me. This all finally made sense. Then, I presented it to my doctors. 33 years.
My goal for this blog is to share my story and daily life hacks and struggles. I want to support others and inspire people to advocate for themselves. If I did not research and push for tests and get copies of my medical records I would still be lost because no doctor took the time to dig and most won’t.
When they hear hooves, they assume it’s a horse but rarely it is a zebra. We are the zebras and we need to raise awareness for EDS so that we are not dismissed anymore. We are in an unfortunate gray area in the medical field where we have no specialist to go to, just multiple doctors for each of our many ailments and most doctors have to google it.
I plan to have many more blog posts on specific health issues that come with EDS and to share as much information as I can.