Monday, January 14, 2013

Scared Heart

When I was a young kid, probably just learning to read, I used to read the signs as my Dad was driving. We lived in Houston, but the families lived in Galveston. So we drove a lot from Houston to Galveston. There was a Catholic church along our route. I read the name and it made no sense to me. Having no knowledge of the Catholic religion, that’s probably not surprising. I asked my Mom and Dad, “What does scared heart mean?” My Dad asked, “What are you talking about?” I responded, “Well the name of that church is Scared Heart.” They laughed and told me that it was called Sacred Heart. Embarrassed, I became silent.

Recently, I had the second heart atrial ablation to remedy a persistent atrial fibrillation problem I had. 

The ablation of atrial fibrillation is an invasive technique that is used in the treatment of Atrial fibrillation one of the most common cardiac arrhythmias. Ablation is the removal or melting away of an unwanted structure or tissue. Ablation of atrial fibrillation can be accomplished with different techniques; the most established approach is via radio frequency ablation around the pulmonary veins, which are the veins that bring oxygenated blood from the lungs back to the upper chambers or atria, in the left side of the heart. In other words, it’s the modern version of the medieval cauterization, albeit for a different purpose.

The purpose of this procedure is to create scar tissue around the area where extraneous nerve signals are created that interfere with the normal sinus rhythm. This scar tissue stops those unwanted impulses from traveling. Oh, and it’s inside your heart.

I had to have the second procedure in part because, as my electrophysiologist discovered during the second surgery, the scar tissue did not form completely. My heart healed without the scar tissue required. It tried to go back to the way it was.

There are many reasons to have atrial fibrillation and I don’t know what caused mine. It was a chronic problem from my 40s, an infrequent event then and a constant state in December of 2011. My own theory is that I abused my endocrine system with constant stress, caffeine and sugar in a 30 year career with IBM and 20 year stint in my consulting company. It’s the old flight or fight syndrome where circumstances require that you deny both -- too much adrenaline and no way to dissipate it.

In simpler terms, my heart was scared. Nerve patterns were established. Scarring of the heart was the last remedy. My sacred heart has been scared and now scarred.

So, my childhood reading was more accurate than I thought.

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