Abby Has a Broken Heart (The US Medical System is Messed Up)
Written by Abby Wray on March 24, 2021
Everyone has a story. Everyone has problems. Everyone has pieces of their life they don’t share.
I was diagnosed with a heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) earlier this year after struggling with heart health my entire life. SVT is a heart condition where the patient experiences extreme rapid heart rate at random; in my case, my heart rate would spike up to 240 beats per minute (aka a dangerous and painful rate). The problem is that reaching this diagnosis was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
I started seeing cardiologists in kindergarten and got diagnosed with ‘anxiety’ at 5 years old after wearing a heart monitor and the doctors finding it inconclusive. No one ever believes the little girl. Ever since then I have struggled with problems with my heart without doctor validation. It took until high school to see another set of professionals, even though I brought up this issue with my primary care physician every year. I went to a new cardiologist, wore another heart monitor and again got told I was crying wolf. At this time in my life I was suffering with mental health issues too, so my heart problems slipped under the rug as normal symptoms.
Throughout my life my flair ups would happen sometimes multiple times a week or day, or I could go a month without any issues. It wasn’t until the second semester of my freshman year of college that I began struggling seriously with my heart problem without a name. SVT can cause loss of consciousness in extreme cases and I began experiencing this last year. Passing out at work is no fun AT ALL. This is when I knew I had to find a solution for this long lasting issue.
I advocated for myself to a new set of doctors and they ran a myriad of tests. I had to do a treadmill test, someone took ultrasounds on my heart, and many EKGs. After these tests, I was sent home with a heart monitor for the third time in my life, but this time I was to wear it for a whole month. I felt self conscious the whole month and hid the monitor constantly; in fact, I only took one picture of myself the whole month with the monitor showing (see below). My self confidence fell and I hoped that after this month was over I would have some answers.
A week after I sent back my heart monitor, I had another appointment to diagnose me and let me know test results. The doctors were able to say conclusively after the heart monitor and the other tests that I certainly did have SVT and was actually born with this imperfection in my heart. SVT can be treated with either medication or surgery, but after meeting with my doctors it was clear that surgery was the best way to avoid any future problems. We scheduled a heart ablation surgery for two weeks from this appointment and I finally felt a sense of relief.
I hadn’t been making up this issue all these years. This validation made me feel free of worry for the first time in years. I knew that this issue could be fixed, and even though I hadn’t ever had surgery before this I was more excited than nervous.
The surgery itself was pretty easy, I was put under conscious sedation with Versed (Midazolam), and I was in the hospital a total of 6 hours including surgery prep, the surgery itself, and the recovery period afterwards. I experienced a lot of bruising at the incision site afterwards but other than that I was back up and running, good as new, after a weekend.
This might seem like a success story but it’s so much more. This is a story of a person who had the money to go to multiple sets of cardiologists throughout their life, who had insurance to cover a lot of (but not all) the fees and appointment costs- I only point this out because if I had not have the right insurance or financial standing to continue to seek out medical attention my story could have ended much differently. So many Americans do not have the money to seek treatment and so many women (and even more women of color) are not believed when they seek medical treatment. Numerous sources in the last 5 years-The Guardian, American Medical Association, and many more- have found that women do not receive the same quality of medical care as men. The system is clearly broken and we need to be the generation that changes it. Believe women. We deserve equal care.