A medical intern changed the course of Patty Borkowski’s life. During a routine check up she was examined by “an intern who was raring to go and practice being a doctor. He kept listening to my heart beat and didn’t look happy. I thought it was just the over-active intern trying to find something wrong with me.” But then Patty’s regular doctor came in for a listen.
“She listened, frowned at me and said, “you have an irregular heart beat. At the time, ironically, I was working for the American Heart Association and even though I knew how common an irregular heart beat was, I promptly said, “No I don’t’.”
An EKG confirmed Patty had atrial fibrillation, the most common irregular heart beat and she was referred to an electrophysiologist, a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythms.
Patty was unaware of any problem prior to her check up, but soon discovered she was in afib almost constantly. She wore an event monitor for a month and was to push the button every time she felt an afib episode. “I felt afib so often. The easiest place for me to feel my pulse and figure out what my heart was doing was in my neck, so I thought I was going to have permanent indentations in my neck from my fingers being there. I would actually alternate sides thinking I was going to get an old lady neck before my time just feeling for my afib.”
“My kids were 11 and 13 at the time, and they were fascinated by the event monitor’s phone calls to send information. Of course when the monitor is talking over the phone it makes a very loud noise, which interrupted their TV, so it wasn’t much fun anymore!”
Patty’s afib was so constant, and her pulse rate would go so high (higher than the monitor could track) that her doctors were very concerned.
“I still didn’t have any symptoms,” she said. But the toll on her heart was enough to make the doctors consider scheduling an ablation. However, after consulting with a doctor from the Cleveland Clinic, they determined her afib was related to her high blood pressure. Her doctor was quite sure if her blood pressure was under strict control, her afib would stop.