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Terrified...can anyone help?

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Old 07-05-2005, 08:41 PM   #1
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Terrified...can anyone help?

For the last 5 months, my husband has been on meds for GERD, that were not helping. In all of that time, he has been saying to the doctor that he didn't think that the GERD was the problem, but something setting of GERD. The whole time, he was taking Nexium and Xanax.

He was right.

He is only 29, but suffers with palpitations/racing heart rate (65 bpm one moment, 180 bpms the next), anxiety, chest tightness, and he's just exhausted.

On Friday, a new GP determined that he definately has something going on with his left atrium. He's not saying, but we think that he's thinking along the lines of I.S.T. or some type of related sinus condition. He said that he wasn't in any danger, but we needed to get him to a cardiologist & maybe an electophysiologist. The doc just about lost it when my husband told him that he is up to 1.5 mg of Xanax a day. He's not in love with the stuff, trust me; but it helps with his "attacks". The doc decided to switch him to Ativan, because it's "safer".

He had been taking the Ativan just over a day and a half when at 11 pm, last night, his heart rate went CRAZY. At one point, I had him at 97 bpm, then it was up to 130, then down, then up, and finally at 3am, it went back to normal.

I called the doc this morning and told him everything that happened in that event, plus the whole weekend was a loss due to these attacks (my husband's word). He said that he would try to get him in to see a cardio.

We couldn't wait. I got a really great referral from a close friend, whose sister goes to a nearby practice. After telling his story and telling them who referred him, we were blessed to get him an appointment for tomorrow afternoon. The doc didn't call me back until well after 5:30 this evening and he hung up on both my work and personal voice mail without leaving me a message.

I don't want the GP to be offended that we took matters into our own hands and made an appt with a specialist. Unfortunately, I think that he will be. However, my bigger concern is that my husband gets this taken care of now. He can't take anymore of the pain and disruption, not to mention the fear of the unknown.

I don't really even know what kind of help I'm looking for here. I feel completely helpless and useless. I don't know how to help my husband when this happens. I feel more guilty because sometimes I can't be there or, even worse, his attacks make me anxious and he can see the fear on my face. I need to stay strong and positive for him but I can't rest until I know FOR SURE that he going to be ok. We are both very impatient and determined people. Once we make our minds up on something, that's it. This treatment process is the same way. Something has to be done NOW! Now that we KNOW it's his heart, wouldn't you think that the doctor would be a bit more proactive? We still need the results of his thyroid tests, but I would think that a doctor wouldn't waste time once you determine that a heart problem is present!

I don't know what they will do with him or for him tomorrow, I just hope someone here has been through this and can tell me what to expect. Can they start him on beta-blockers right away or are there risks involved? Also, has anyone heard of Ativan causing a tachycardic reaction? I would think that it would only act like Xanax, but with a longer half-life, but I was proven wrong by what I felt in his wrist yesterday.

I have so much to ask and so little stamina for typing. I'm hopeful for him and I believe that we are doing what is best for him by getting to a cardiologist who specializes in palpitations/arrythmias, pace makers, etc. But, I am also overwhelmed by the amount of info available online as well as the horror stories of misdiagnosis leading to sudden cardiac arrest.

Right now, I am going to take the dog for a walk so that I cry in the dark. I spent the last 4 days crying, then getting hopeful, then crying again. I just need some encouraging words I suppose.

I'm more needy than I thought! If you have endured the great length of this post and have absolutely anything to say that might help, be it clinical or spiritual, please let me know.

Thank you

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Old 07-05-2005, 10:13 PM   #2
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Re: Terrified...can anyone help?

Hi there.

I have walked in your hubby's shoes but not quite the same size.

I had the attack like you described and got myself to the ER room as quick as I could get there. I was in A-Fib with HR at 187 bpm. Sinus Tach also showed up on the EKG. I was weak and fatiqued and nauseated and very short of breath while I was in A-FIB. Some also have A-Flutter. The first thing they did was check my Thyroid as they thought I was in a Thyroid storm. TSH was normal. Since I was a new A-Fibber (non in the past) they were able to Covert me back into Normal Sinus Rhtym via an IV med called Corvert. Within, 10 minutes, I was fine. A-Fib, I was told can be common in older people and with those having some sort of a structual heart disorder and some for no reason at all. I am on Meds now for this and am monitored closely via an Echo, EKG and and Event Monitor and also 24-48 monitors.

I was seen in the ER room by a Cardiac Electrophysiologist. They specialize in rhythm disorders for whatever the reason. This is what your hubby may need to see or be referred to. I also have a regular cardio doc but the electro doc will over-ride the other one. It happened this week with a change of meds.

Good Luck To You.

Old 07-05-2005, 10:43 PM   #3
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Re: Terrified...can anyone help?

Thank you!

Fortunately, the doctor that we are seeing tomorrow works closely with an Electophysiologist. They are integrated into the practice, treatment, and monitoring, which is why they came so highly recommended.

The story is actually much longer than I could possibly write in one evening, but to sum it up, all of his tests in the past looked good. His echocardiogram and stress test displayed no problems with the atriums, but something has tipped off the doctor to what the problem is.

The most frustrating thing is that those tests were so unimpressive, that they had ruled out the heart as being the problem for the last few months. I don't know if the EKG lends itself to interpretation or if the doctor had been timely enough to listen to my husband's heart just as one of these events transpired.

In your experience, are you finding that the meds are working? The big stressor for me is knowing that he may have to endure several different courses of treatment before he finds the right one. Is there one med that works to help regulate the heart, for just about everyone, and quickly?

Old 07-05-2005, 11:53 PM   #4
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Re: Terrified...can anyone help?


You poor kid - I can see how scared you are. Don't be!! Your husband will finally get the diagnostics and treatment he needs. He'll be fine! That's great that his echo and stress test looked good. That makes it far less likely to be something serious. Remember, often a completely benign and harmless heart condition can bring about terrifying symptoms. The reassurance of a highly qualified cardiologist and EP is going to make your husband feel so much better, and that in turn will probably help the symptoms (it's a vicious circle, as I well know)

This stuff is scary! I don't know why your GP had such a tizz over the Xanax. It seems completely appropriate that your husband should have anti-anxiety meds. I have a closet full of Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin - all prescribed to me because of my palpitations. Now that they're under control, I've stopped taking them, but when my symptoms were bad, I don't know what I would have done without them. It's my understanding that they're all very safe, other than the habit-forming issue, but once your husband is feeling better, your doctor can tell him how to wean himself off Xanax. That shouldn't even be an issue right now. All those drugs are in the same family, btw, and I don't see the point of switching your husband from Xanax to Ativan, if the Xanax was working better for him. I know Xanax is supposedly more habit-forming (and my doc made a distinction between "habit-forming" and "addictive") but it also works more quickly and dramatically, from my experience, and when your heart is doing weird things, you want something that works fast.

I wouldn't worry about your GP's feelings AT ALL. I think it was very insensitive of him to drag his feet on getting your husband to a cardiologist. You don't need to live with this worry one day longer than need be! And I know exactly what you mean about horror stories on the internet! I spent hours obsessing and it was such a mistake. Not that I don't think it's good to be informed and fully understand your own health, but if you can somehow manage it, try to let those horror stories roll off your back. That is someone else's story - not your husbands. Put your trust in the cardiologists and I'm sure your husband (and you!) will be feeling much better soon.

Please let us know how it goes - but I'm betting he'll be just fine

Old 07-06-2005, 05:17 PM   #5
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Re: Terrified...can anyone help?

Originally Posted by PA2LA
He is only 29, but suffers with palpitations/racing heart rate (65 bpm one moment, 180 bpms the next), anxiety, chest tightness, and he's just exhausted.
Sounds like, for some reason, your husband's heartbeat has become sensitive. The reasons behind that are many. It is important to find out what has caused this sensitivity, if you can, just to rule out anything seriously wrong with the structure.

Once you go through a plethora of tests, and hopefully they rule out any serious structural problems, then you are faced with finding options to regulate your husbands heart and to make it beat correctly, so that he can feel well and strong.

Once a heart becomes sensitive, some kind of medicine is required. Even after someone's heart is regulated somewhat on medicine, there will still be stimulants, or allergens, or irritants, or pollutants that will set off your husband's heart. If you could totally eliminate all irritants from your husbands environment, then medication might not be necessary, but finding the irritants and eliminating all of them is very difficult if not impossible in some cases.

I've got serious heart disease, including blood pressure problems, heart rhythm problems similar to your husbands, and a weak heart, among other health problems. In my case, I've spent years trying to find the correct meds, and the correct combination of meds, and to discover and avoid the irritants that make my heart condition worse. As a result, I have seen much improvement in my heart problems.

Just wanted to pass on some of the things that I have found out about my own heart disease, and what I have done to improve it.

Regards and best of luck and health to both you and your husband.

Last edited by Machaon; 07-08-2005 at 04:53 AM. Reason: Spelling error.

Old 07-06-2005, 10:03 PM   #6
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Re: Terrified...can anyone help?

I saw a gastroenterologist in November for digestive problems. I had an endoscopy and besides the reflux, etc. I was diagnosed with H. Pylori. After starting the medications to eradicate the H. Pylori I started getting the racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath.....I saw a cardiologist in March for a stress test. It showed my heart was fine, but I was having premature atrial contractions (extra heartbeat). I take xanax to help with the anxiety, and the palpitations. Here it is July, and I still get frequent palpitations. If I am sitting close to my husband he can feel my heart beating and it freaks him out. I'm just wondering how long this can last? Has anybody had them stop as quick as they started? Are they related to digestive problems? The cardiologist seemed to think heart medication would cause more problems than it solved. Any suggestions to deal with this would be appreciated.
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Old 07-07-2005, 05:55 AM   #7
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Re: Terrified...can anyone help?


Personally, I think that ATIVAN (lorazepam) is the suingularly WORST drug in the entire pharmacopeia. It is too short acting and many people who takes it at night will awaken in a PANIC after a couple hours with heart racing and an overwhelming feeling of terror.
A dear friend, who is ALWAYS, the mildest easiest going guy, went into an almost suicidal depression for several days after taking Ativan ONCE!

My mother was strung out on it for years and thought she needed it to prevent the everynight panic at 3 AM and little did she know the drug was CAUSING the panic. She also suffered from GERD and died of a slow progressive arterial clogging, both causing chest pain...she never knew which at any given time!


I think the GERD was a misdiagnosis for the cause of the pain...long term Nexium will almost always stop that but it has no effect on cardiac pain. First order of business is a stress test with nuclear imaging. I think they will find ischemia in part of his heart (a guess) and then an angiogram will tell the tale...with a repair if needed. MAke sure that a cardiologist is doing the test, if and when you have it done...he can angioplasty and stent, if need be, without your husband having to move from the testing table!

For the time being, I think beta-blockers are the perfect drug class for him til everything is resolved.

Good luck to you both. Get a NEW GP!

Last edited by Lenin; 07-07-2005 at 06:02 AM.

Old 07-07-2005, 08:00 AM   #8
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Re: Terrified...can anyone help?

Quote: MAke sure that a cardiologist is doing the test, if and when you have it done...he can angioplasty and stent, if need be, without your husband having to move from the testing table!

I recently was informed there are cardiologists that do interventional procedures and some who do not. When I inquired further on the subject, I was told the cardiologist in question could do an angiogram, but the placement of a stent (intervention) would be done by another cardiologist. Two cardiologists for the price of one!? If one is going to have an angiogram, have a cardio that does intervention.

This information came from a hospital administrator.

Old 07-07-2005, 08:55 PM   #9
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Re: Terrified...can anyone help?

Thank all of you for such valuable information! You do not know how reassuring it is...or perhaps you do!

Right now, he's wearing the monitor and recording events as they happen. He's had a few events in the last two days, but so far he's only recorded 4 that he thought were bad enough. Now that I can see for myself, I can report that his heart rate is almost consistantly over 90 bpms. He ranges anywhere from about 88-125 at any time.

The doctor will call him in when he has seen enough of the records to make a better evaluation of the situation. He was very reassuring and comforting. He agreed that if the XANAX is working, don't mess with it. He wasn't the biggest fan of Ativan either and is confused why the GP is so hell bent of getting my husband off of Xanax.

If someone is not ABUSING a drug and it serves for their greater good and contributes to their quality of life, how is that really bad? (I've been on the same dose of Methodone for a loooong time for chronic pain from Lymes Disease and any doctor that thinks that's a bad thing is welcome to treat the underlying cause! I don't like being in severe pain, so thank God there is something out there that allows me the luxury of getting out of bed everyday...but I digress...) I think that some people in this world are over medicated and that can cause more harm than good. But, for people with these heart conditions, I can't imagine how they wouldn't just WANT to die after going through all of the pain and anxiety. These medications are vital to their existance and if they are fortunate enough to find one that does work, that's WONDERFUL!

Now, as far as the structure of his heart goes, the echo and stress test all looked good. I was allowed to watch the echo and everything was pointed out to us; what they were looking for and was very cool to see. The cardiologist said that he didn't think that he needed to repeat those tests in his office, so I trust that he pretty much knows what is going on and just wants to see the results of the monitor.

I feel much better knowing that we are doing everything that we need to do right now. I know that we will need to watch this and maintain proper treatment, but I'm so glad that we are on the right path now AND he's not alone.

We really do appreciate all of your posts and by all means, if you have anything else to share: experiences, treatments, bad doctor stories (we have one that I would like some opinions on in another thread in the near future), etc, share away! Thanks again!

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