Why I Haven't Been Running: My Journey With Heart Failure.

I've been pretty healthy throughout my life. Of course there was the random cold or infection here and there, but as far as anything serious went I was always fine. My blood pressure was always on the low side. My cholesterol was good. My thyroid levels were good. Anything the doctors ever checked for during normal bloodwork always turned out okay. I did suffer from migraines, but I didn't consider that anything terrible. I took a pill every day (topamax) to prevent them. 

I thought I was pretty healthy. I was a runner. I had run 18 half marathons, 2 full marathons, and numerous races of other distances. My diet could have probably been better. I wasn't really a fruit and vegetable eater. I didn't have a terrible diet. I wasn't shoving fast food down my throat every day, but I did indulge sometimes. And I had a big sweet tooth. But again, my numbers on the scale were good. And blood work always came back okay. I was young. I was healthy. In fact, when I moved to Florida, I didn't even have a primary care physician anymore. I didn't really need one. 

Then I got pregnant. The beginning of my pregnancy was brutal for me exhaustion-wise. But that was normal. All those crazy hormones. And you are creating a try little person. I read somewhere that the amount of energy your body uses to make this small human is like running a marathon. EVERY SINGLE DAY. So I understood why I was so tired. Plus I was anemic. Double whammy. The exhaustion is supposed to get better after the first trimester but that didn't really happen for me.

Towards the end of my pregnancy I had all sorts of symptoms telling me something was wrong. I had trouble breathing. I couldn't even sit down and have a phone conversation without being out of breath. I couldn't lie back without having difficulty breathing. I would get dizzy, have blurred vision, palpitations, was extremely swollen, and had gained an incredible amount of weight. (I gained 95 lbs over the course of my pregnancy). 

I kept telling the doctors there was something wrong and even went into the hospital a few times, only to be told I was just dehydrated, given fluids, and sent home. After I delivered I went to the hospital by my house with shortness of breath and was admitted due to the excess fluid and pneumonia. I wound up having flash pulmonary edema and going into heart failure. You can read more about this whole experience here

After being released from the hospital I needed a primary doctor. Luckily one of the home health nurses I had (yes I had a nurse coming to my house) recommended an awesome doctor. She was very thorough and also recommended a good cardiologist. 

When I first saw the cardiologist he took a full medical history, did a thorough exam and then decided to send me for some preliminary tests. I was also told I wasn't allowed to do any kind of workouts. I wasn't even allowed to go for walks. I was pretty bummed about this since this was the one thing I would do for some fresh air with the baby in the stroller - just to get out of the house, sometimes to calm her and get some sanity. Plus I still needed to lose some weight AND I eventually wanted to get back into running. 

I was send for a lung scan test when they inject you with some radioactive stuff to test your blood flow and oxygen flow into and out of the lungs. I joked around about possibly getting some super power out of it but I was told that wouldn't happen. Darn. I was also given an echocardiogram because the doctor suspected I might have cardiomyopathy - problems with the muscle in the heart. 

I just went for my first follow up this Friday and was told that my lungs are clear and the echo showed good news - there was no structural damage to my heart. The muscles and valves are fine. Now I am being sent for a blood test that measures a hormone that tests the level of heart failure you have - mild, moderate, etc and I will be doing a stress test and wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours. This is because I have a heart murmur and my heart rhythm is off and I also have a rapid heart rate and get out of breath and dizzy upon slight exertion. 

After these tests I will be back at the cardiologist in another month and hopefully I will have some answers. I was cleared to start walking again so I will probably start doing that slowly this week with my heart rate monitor on. Hopefully there won't be anything more serious than what I already know and I will be able to get back to a normal routine eventually.