Monday, March 7, 2016

Brent's (very) full heart

Time for a Reichman family update. Wow, so much has been going on!

Let's start with Brent for this post, because some of you may have heard some things and we'd like to make sure everyone knows what's going on so no one is needlessly worrying.

About a month ago, Brent and I were watching a movie (I don't remember which, but it wasn't a high-action or suspenseful one), and we were cuddling and I could hear Brent's heartbeat. I noticed it seemed to be beating particularly fast, so I pointed it out. He commented that sometimes that just happens, that his heart will beat fast for seemingly no reason. This wasn't the first time I'd noticed these strange and random palpitations, but this conversation made Brent wonder if he should get it checked out.

He asked his dad, who is a doctor, (an ENT surgeon to be exact), if this was something he should be concerned about. My father-in-law's usual remedy for any ailment is, "Sleep on it, you'll feel better in the morning." But this time he suggested Brent should get it looked at, just in case. We called up his Uncle Howard, a well-respected neurosurgeon in the area, if he knew anyone he could recommend, and he immediately recommended Wong and Hwang (pronounced the same), as the experts in the state of Utah for irregular heart palpitations. Unfortunately, Brent couldn't see either of them until he'd had a visit with a general practitioner, who would then refer him to a specialist.

After an appointment with a general practitioner and an EKG, Brent was possibly diagnosed with a rare but treatable condition called Wolff-Parkison-White Syndrome, or WPW (more on that later). The doctor wasn't entirely sure, and he sent the EKG off to the cardiologist, telling Brent if the doctor saw anything to be concerned about, then they would schedule an appointment with the specialist. Later that day it was confirmed that he would have an appointment with the cardiologist the next Friday. That naturally had us worrying about what could be wrong. We did what research we could on our own, but without an actual confirmation of what was wrong we were mostly left with a lot of anxiety. It also didn't help that the next day I found out that a commission I had spent a lot of very stressful hours on had arrived to Alaska, only to be damaged by a mailman determined to fit the package into the mailbox by folding it into thirds. The piece, which was extremely sentimental to the client, was irreparably damaged. Add that Caleb slept terribly that weekend because he has a bunch of new teeth coming in, and it just made for a really *awesome* weekend, and I may or may not have had a bit of an angry breakdown.

On Saturday night and Sunday morning, Brent felt some pressure in his chest. Not pain, just some tightness. We thought we better play it safe, so we dropped Caleb off with a friend and headed to the urgent care. We waited 3 hours there to get another EKG done, only to be told we needed some more lab work done, but sorry it's Sunday so everything else there is closed so we need to go to the ER. We went to the ER across the street, where they took some samples, did another EKG, and we waited for almost 4 hours. The people watching was much more interesting at the ER than the Urgent Care, but at least Urgent Care had Toy Story 2 playing, which is preferable to sitting next to a poor barfing elderly patient. Still wondering what was up with the female patient who arrived with the cops in handcuffs though.

Finally we were seen by a doctor. He immediately confirmed that Brent has WPW, but was extremely matter-of-fact and optimistic about the treatment for it. He and the nurse also know the cardiologist Brent would be seeing and confirmed that he was one of the best around for this particular condition. The chest pressure remained a mystery, but seems to have been brought about by stress (probably from the recent heart diagnosis!) We left feeling so relieved and much more confident.

On Friday, Brent finally saw the actual cardiologist, who confirmed that Brent has WPW, and that a procedure called an ablation was necessary, but would totally take care of the problem. Brent needs to have an echo cardiogram done first before we can schedule the procedure (he was very careful to never use the word "surgery"), just to make sure there are no other underlying issues that could interfere with the ablation. After listening to his heart, Dr. Hwang said he was fairly positive that they wouldn't find anything new with the echo cardiogram, but it needed to be done just to be extra sure. We are still waiting to hear when the echo can be done, but once that is done the ablation will be scheduled. Our best guess is that the ablation will happen in April. Just pray it doesn't happen in May, because we got a baby due then!

So, what is Wolff-Parksinson-White?

Turns out WPW is something you are born with. This condition is when you have an extra electrical connection in your heart. Most people are born with just one, but some extra special people, like Brent, are born with two (his wonderful heart was one of the reasons I married him!). This extra connection can make your heart beat really fast sometimes. (And not just when your wife is extra good-looking.) For Brent it happens about once a month and lasts for about five minutes. About 1/20,000 people have it, and some people go their whole life without realizing they have it. So, it's rare, but not unheard of.

Now, WPW is not something to be worried about most of the time as a young person, but it can definitely be a problem in the elderly years when one's ticker starts having other issues. Because of this, the connection needs to be removed by a procedure called an ablation. In this procedure, a catheter is stuck up a vein near the groin, goes up to the heart, and the connection is burned. It lasts anywhere from 3-6 hours. Easy peasy. It's not even technically a real surgery (they don't even put you to sleep), and the success rate of this surgery is 96%, with 1% chance of complications. So the numbers are really in our favor here. As far as recovery goes, the patient stays in the hospital for a day, just to make sure there are no issues (since it's the heart they're dealing with), and then about 2-3 days of recovery at home with no heavy lifting for about a week.

So, that's what's going on with Brent's ticker. We are not worried about it at all, and feel like if Brent's going to have a heart problem, this is definitely one of the better ones to have.  I feel like we have had so many tender mercies with all of this, all of which makes me feel very reassured that Heavenly Father is watching out for us and that everything is going to be okay. For example, we are living in Provo instead of doing grad school somewhere else, and this is where one of the best cardiologists for this specific condition resides. When we went to the appointment, we found out to our frustration that our insurance wouldn't cover this doctor without a 2 week pre-authorization (even though their website stated otherwise), but when the doctor saw Brent's name, he thought he better see him, since he knew Dr. Howard Reichman. So, they saw Brent for the first visit and didn't charge us a dime, and we didn't have to wait 2 extra weeks to see the specialist. At the ER we were able to see a doctor and nurse who could actually confirm a diagnosis and answer our biggest questions and left us feeling very reassured. Caleb was an angel with the friends we left him with while we were gone for 7 long hours. So, we are feeling very good about all this. Does it stink that it's happening at all? Of course, but life is not without it's bumps.

Long story short, Brent has a heart condition, but he will have a procedure soon to get it taken care of, and everything is going to be a-okay. Special thanks to Uncle Howard and your wonderful connections, and to the Southern family for taking care of Caleb, and everyone else who has been checking up on us.

If you have any questions or concerns, please just ask us, as we don't want anyone to be worried about us. I never know how to end a blog post, so here is a comic.

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