Friday Dec 02, 2022

I went to the emergency room this week – The Nevada Independent


Before you ask — no, I did not have nor do I now have COVID-19.

My trip to the emergency room was of a more ordinary variety. While driving home from work on Tuesday, my chest felt a little tight and my heart felt like… well, like it was idling roughly. I’m not sure how better to describe it, but it felt exactly like a car feels when it has a failing spark plug, pounding erratically but not rapidly, only inside my chest.

This, by itself, was not entirely unusual. My heart has done this for a few minutes at a time out of nowhere for years. After talking to my friends about it and learning many of them felt the same thing from time to time, I just attributed it to “getting old” and added it to the short list of recurring annoyances my body produces, like my newfound need to wear glasses if I want to see clearly at a computer screen. Besides, I started exercising more over the past few years and noticed these heart stutters mostly went away. I told myself that it might be worth hitting the exercise bike before dinner.

This time, however, it didn’t stop. Instead, after I got home and ate some dinner (I passed on the exercise bike), it got worse. When I started to get a little dizzy, I decided it was time to collect some data so I better understood what was going on.

When COVID-19 first appeared, like a lot of Americans I did some impulse shopping for home health equipment. One of the items I picked up was a personal electrocardiogram, or EKG, device which wirelessly communicates with my phone. Normally, when everything is working as it should, it produces an EKG which looks something like this:

This, according to my phone’s EKG app (I’m an IT manager, not a doctor, so please take this all with a grain of salt) is “normal sinus rhythm”. Just as a properly running car coordinates the firing of its spark plugs with the motion of the pistons in your engine (unless you’re driving an electric car or an older Mazda), your body times the triggering of each heart muscle contraction with the pumping action created by the rest of your heart’s muscles. When current is flowing correctly from the brain, through the nervous system, into the sinoatrial (the “sinus” in “normal sinus rhythm”) node, then finally to the heart’s muscles, it produces that trademark “thuh-THUMP” heartbeat pattern we all know and heart emoji react to. The above EKG reflects that trademark pattern by showing a sharp wave, followed by a longer wave, followed by a regular interval until the next sharp wave.

That evening, however, my EKG looked like this:

My heart wasn’t going “thuh-THUMP”. It was going “thuh-THUMP thuh-THUMPthumpthump”. This, according to my phone’s EKG app, wasn’t “normal sinus rhythm”. Instead, it was “unclassified”. Now, speaking from personal experience, it’s incredibly reassuring when your body does such a lackluster job of performing a routine yet vital bodily function you ordinarily don’t think about that it completely baffles an internet-connected medical application.

Filled with the sort of confidence an “unclassified” heartbeat pattern gives a man, I decided I collected enough data to start a conversation — first with my fianceé, who was growing increasingly concerned over my sudden fascination with collecting personal medical data about my heartbeat (especially after she listened …….


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to Top