For a (relatively) healthy and (relatively) young person, I have quite a long list of medical specialists. First there is my Endocrinologist, then my Fertility Specialist, and then my Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.
And now I can add a Cardiologist to the list.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have seen that I had a bit of drama on my night-shift in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The dramas actually started during the night-shift before – which was night five of seven in a row. I think I have mentioned before that I work in an Emergency Department. I’ve recently moved back to my home base from a different hospital where I have been seconded for 6 months. My base hospital is walking distance from home and better staffed, so I was expecting this, my final week of night shift, to be easier on my mind and body than my last few sets.
Thanks to not having to drive and a slightly later start time, I was certainly getting more sleep. The pace was less frantic and there was usually time for a brief break during the shift (quite a novelty!) but I was finding myself just as exhausted, if not more so.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning I noticed that I was getting short of breath just standing up and talking. I wandered over to the nearest pulse oximeter machine and popped the probe on my finger to check the oxygen levels in my blood. My oxygen saturation were fine at 99 to 100% but I was surprised to see that my heart rate was between 120 and 130 beats per minute. I sat down to rest for a few minutes and rechecked my heart rate. It was slower but still between 105 and 110 which I thought seemed a little high but in the end I just disregarded it and went back to work – after all, heart rates do go up in pregnancy.
At about 4am the following morning a similar thing happened, but the symptoms were more pronounced. Probably since about 18 weeks of pregnancy I have occasionally been aware of a pounding heart – nothing that I would have described as palpitations, but just an awareness of my heart pounding. My heart rate always felt regular and not particularly fast so I attributed the sensation (probably quite rightly) to the fact that my heart was pumping an extra 2 litres of blood around my body compared to pre-pregnancy. However on Wednesday morning I felt decidedly off. I had the same sensation of shortness of breath as the previous morning, to the point that I felt uncomfortable speaking in full sentences. I also felt very tight in my chest and my heart was really hammering. I put the probe on again and what do you know – my heart rate was 150! There was no way I could put that down to a normal physiological response to pregnancy. Like a nutcase, I kept on working. Within a few minutes I became very hot and started seeing spots. I went outside into the freezing air for a few minutes (which felt great) and then found a seat inside and sat down. It was 4.15 and I decided to text my dad to ask his opinion. It was 6.15 in New Zealand and I figured there was at least a 50-50 chance he was already awake.
His opinion: No this was not normal and I needed an ECG immediately and medication to slow my heart if it didn’t resolve in the next thirty minutes.
So feeling embarrassed and a little foolish I found my boss and told him what was going on. And that is how I ended up in a cubicle at work, naked from the waist up, getting an ECG. As I mentioned on Twitter, the worst part was that my underarms were due for a wax! I also had to provide a pee sample because my blood pressure was quite high (150 and I’m usually around 110). Thankfully there was only a trace of protein in my urine and my BP came back down to 130 with some rest – I’ sure it was elevated due to my anxiety. I lay on my trolley thinking about Egg and telling myself to “be Zen, be Zen”, and it did see to help my blood pressure! Thanks for the inspiration Egg!
By the time I got my ECG my heart rate was back down to 105 and looked perfectly normal (except for being slightly fast). In the end I called H to come at pick me up and take me home. I had my appointment with my Endocrinologist at 9.45 that morning and the plan was to get an emergency appointment with my Ob while I was there.
“My Morning of Medical Mayhem”