Monday, August 27, 2012

I was a certified lunatic. The Afib was a funny thing; it just keeps beating. The erratic beats are gone.

Heart-Stopping Afib


Fall colors are turning, the wood stove stoked and little slivers of frost on the pane. I live in  Pennsylvania in 1953. School was starting and I was a bright, eager reader. I was 6 years old in the first grade. The chubby hands lugged the book, almost as big as the size second grade.

My mother and I read fairy tales, Aesop’s fables and Uncle Arthur’s bedtime stories by heart. I love to read. So, the texts were easy for me in the first grade. I spouted words and phrases constantly. I went to the second grade and debut as a reader.

The room was sizeable, filled with kids, and I read Henny Penny. Henny was a chicken with extreme paranoia, the fable goes. Disaster is imminent. The teachers and children were impressed. I continued reading.

Harbinger Henny Penny exclaimed, “The sky is falling!”  She bopped the acorn mistakely to her noggin. "A piece of sky fell on my head!" said the fowl.


Before the stroke in 1999, I had Afib for twenty years. Full-blown palpitations with hammering, pounding in my chest wall, thought-I-was-dying at least one or two times a week. The heart was frantic. Yes, I had myriad physicians. No chest pains and no labored breathing though. No toxic screen for the blood work.

The sky is falling.

I showed up countless times to the emergency room, Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania. I traveled for Chrysler Motors.  I was a certified lunatic. I saw physicians and cardiologists and Holter monitors, EKG's, whole-body ablution and new-age therapy. Once, an ER episode, I shocked the heart with a basin of ice-cold water for my head.  Couldn't hurt, right?  I massaged the carotids in my neck and nauseam. Scoping the internet, I saw magnesium tablets for heart palpitations. I tried everything.

I went to Harrisburg for the week-end and I won The Daily Courier and the Associated Press for editorial comment in 1999, six-months before the stroke. The AP snagged first place for Viagra for the Military, a wry observation on humor, and The Daily Courier yielded a second-place.

Ruth Ann and Bill Kantor hosted me on Sunday at their home. They lived in Lebanon,  Pa., just out of Harrisburg. Second-cousins removed, Ruth and I were amicable friends. They had a huge garden and tasty, healthy meals. She was a dietitian, recently retired. Bill baked bread, wonderful loaves of whole-grain edibles and home-made wine.

Monday, I said goodbye to Ruth and Bill and buckets of rain fell. Gloomy, lighting-cracking, thunderballing rain. The Pennsylvania Turnpike grew dark and I turned on my flashers in the berm of the road. I waited till it's over. Sheets of rain pummeled the Chrysler Neon.
"Well, that's just wonderful," I said, caustically.

I turned on the radio, but it's static. And just like that, the pounding, the heart-stopping Afib were here with the vengeance. I massaged the carotids, put my head down and lay down with my feet elevated. Nothing works. By now, I know the drill.  Wait it out. Ten minutes later, I'm fine.

It's not fine. I waited an hour or more, till the erratic beats stopped. And just like that, it stopped. The heart is a funny thing; it just keeps beating.

Come September, the violent Afib and my teeth were unbearably painful. I called the dentist and scheduled the appointment. I cancelled, fearful of the Afib. I rinsed and gargled and, finally, after two weeks it waned.

On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1999 in Allegheny General Hospital I lay in supraventricular tachycardia as fast as 220 beats per minute and a stroke to boot. I was mute and aphasic. Completely.

Enter Heathsouth, a rehab facility in Monroeville, Pa. My right arm and leg were dead. The doctor, every blessed morning with out fail, took vital signs. It was extremely early and the dead of winter. He had a congenial smile, fluffy, fuzzy hair, albeit a receding hair line, and thick horn-rimmed glasses. He flicked the light switch on my bed. The stethoscope was frigid.

"Good morning. How are you? Breathe please?"

I breathed.

"Teeth," I indicating the lower jaw.

"Excuse me?"

 See? The teeth are inflamed, red and infectious.

"Huh," he inspected the teeth, "you need a dentist."

Oh, do you think?

The nurses and nurse's aide brought mouthwash, floss and Plax. I gargled vigorously and often. The metallic taste was stale and reeking.

Next door to Forbes Regional Health Center, I had rampant Afib. The Healthsouth was custodial care, Forbes Regional had an emergency room. The ambulance took me. Numerous times, four times in the ER, I had heart-stopping Afib. I was admitted for the third time for dental surgery and erratic beats.

So, a gloomy Saturday morning, six o'clock yet, I had surgery. I looked at my window, it's sleeting in Monroeville. Well, that's just wonderful.

The postoperative diagnosis was an mandibular abscess, septic tooth and supraventricular tachycardia and Coumadin/heparin therapy. I had intravenous sedation.

Heathsouth didn't want me back. The fourth time was the charm. The ambulance took me to the ER, yet again, for erratic beats. The Forbes Regional said  "the patient will not be accepted back to Healthsouth..." forever, I presume. The discharge summary physician suggested Lopressor; it's beta-blocker and slows the heart.

Harmon House was a manse in Mt. Pleasant, Pa, a sprawling edifice for geriatrics. It's a nursing home.  Me.  How did I get here?  I'm 52, an indentured by my wheel chair.
My cardiologist has neckties with Loony Tunes, specifically, the Tasmanian Devil.  Actually, quite competent with my heart muscle.The doctor prescribed the patch. The deliberate heart slows down to a standstill.

In the morning, there's something wrong.

"Heart? No," I vehemently indicating the patch from the heart. The slow-paced heart, the halting heart, was crawling.

I ripped the patch off. The nurses understood and cardiologist knew. The heart guy discontinued the patch.

Meanwhile, my teeth hurt. I had soft teeth as a teenager, always going to the dentist. Filling after filling, tooth after tooth, the drill cleaned out the cavities and silver fillings intruded insidiously. Little silver fillings of mercury.  I didn't know. Nobody knew. Well, the dentists, apparently.

Years ago, 60 Minutes had a segment about mercury and the repercussions of mercury.  Mercury can interfere with dental and periodontal disease, allergies, GI disorders, palpitations, high and low blood pressure and central nervous system.  Mercury is lethal and poisonous to all cells.

I went home from the nursing home in 2000. I took the metoprolol (generic Lopressor).
Fayette Transportation carted me, actually a bus, back and forth to the dentist in Scottdale, Pa. four long years worth and violent Afib in the dentist chair. I was deep cleaned from the hygienist and had four apicoectomies (an infected tooth). I had numerous teeth from the mandible to the jaw and a dead tooth.

Meanwhile, I still couldn't speak.

"Pull?" I said.

"Pull them out?," said the dentist, disbelieving, "all the way out? The teeth are fine."

"Pull!"  I said, emphatically.

I waited for authorization from the insurance group. A crazy lady with a stroke.
The dentist pulled the teeth mercury fillings in '05. The stench in my mouth was unbearable. One by one, the dental forceps extracted the teeth. Forty years is a long time. Cell by cell, organ by organ, took it's toll. The long, slow, process is over and I was overjoyed. The blood coagulated and dentist placed the dentures in my mouth.

Today, I have no Afib. Mercury fillings stays with you for a God-awful time. Remember, I was mute and aphasic.The doctor is skeptical. The dentist is skeptical. I can speak and converse to the lawn guy, the wood guy and Culligan guy. It's a wonderful feeling.

Consider the source of the problem. Everybody's looking for a quick-fix. Let the body heal itself.
Mickie Yezek Roller
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