Friday, December 21, 2012

Right Heart Catheterization

About 6 weeks ago, I shared on here about how I had been experiencing shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pains, and some other odd sensations.  After the receiving the fantastic news of my clear PET scan, we decided to look into my symptoms further.  One of the chemo drugs that I had, Adriamycin, is known to cause heart problems, so we felt that it was important to get everything checked out.

Along with my oncologist, I have been seeing a pulmonologist and cardiologist throughout this past month.  My days have been filled with a plethora of medical tests, including: a CT scan, VQ scan, Pulmonary Function Test, 6 Minute Walk, Echocardiogram, Stress Echo, and extensive blood work.  The results were mostly “normal” except for the fact that I had low levels of oxygen with exertion.  These particular tests gave us the ability to rule out some conditions, but it was still unclear about whether or not I could have pulmonary hypertension.

Some of the equipment used for the pulmonary tests that I had.
Pulmonary hypertension occurs when there is high blood pressure in the arteries between the lungs and heart, ultimately enlarging the right side of heart and leading to heart failure.  It is treatable, but not curable.  You should not become pregnant if you have this disease, since pregnancy puts additional stress on the heart and there is a high risk of death.  The only way to completely diagnose or rule out pulmonary hypertension is by having a right heart catheterization.

The cardiologist told me that I did not necessarily need to have this procedure done, because “pulmonary hypertension is rare” and I “probably didn’t have it”.  These words brought me back to what my original breast surgeon told me before I demanded to have the lump in my breast removed: “you are too young for breast cancer” and “it really isn’t necessary for you to have this procedure.”

The most important life lesson that I have learned is to always err on the side of caution when it comes to your body.  I would much rather know than not know if I have a serious disease.  Being proactive saved my life the last time when it turned out to be breast cancer, so of course I told the doctor that I wanted to go ahead and schedule the right heart catheterization.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable getting pregnant if there was even a chance that I had pulmonary hypertension.  Plus, I would much rather catch it in the early stages.

So, this past Wednesday, I checked into the hospital for my procedure.  We brought a bag full of activities to do with Ryan for 7 hours in the waiting room, and he got compliments from all of the nurses for being so sweet and well-behaved. He sure knows how to make mommy and daddy proud!  I am so thankful to have these two amazingly supportive guys by my side.

Me after the heart catheterization.  Ryan in the waiting room.
I had to stay awake during the heart cath because they do not use anesthesia for that procedure.  They did give me xanax and another sedative (not sure which one) to make it more bearable.  I remember random bits and pieces of the procedure.  I kept my eyes closed the whole time, but I heard the doctors say things like “that looks good” and “no pulmonary hypertension there”.  I was happy and relieved about the news of having normal pressures in my heart and lungs.  But I was not prepared for what happened next.

After laying down flat for a while, they told me that I could go ahead and change back into my clothes to get ready to go home.  I was starving, so I eagerly grabbed my clothes and started walking in the direction that they told me to go.

All of a sudden, there was blood gushing out of my femoral artery, all over the floor, and I blacked out.

I was in and out of consciousness and while I was hemorrhaging the nurses tried to apply pressure to the site.  I could not remember why I was there in the hospital or what had just happened.  I woke up confused, to a blurry picture of doctors running around and hovering over me, and then within seconds, I would black out again.  This repeated about four times.  It was, by far, the scariest moment of my whole life.  (Yes, that includes chemo).

Thankfully, they got the bleeding under control and I regained full consciousness.  They told me that I needed to spend the night in the hospital to make sure that it didn’t happen again. The night turned out to be uneventful, and so I was allowed to go home the next day.  Since then, I have been taking it easy at home.  I am so happy with the fact that I do not have pulmonary hypertension and that we WILL have the opportunity to try to have more children.  Ruling this out was the most perfect present that I could ask for this holiday season!

I am considering altering my diet to make sure that I am getting enough nutrients in case a vitamin deficiency could be contributing to this.  I am also trying to get more rest than I was getting before.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend and enjoys their time spent with loved ones!


  1. You amaze me over and over again. You are one of the strongest women I know. You are a fighter. You are a winner. You are a survivor. You are my breast cancer sister. You are my friend. God Bless YOU, Dana.

  2. @Annette- You are too kind! Thank you very much for the words of encouragement! Happy Holidays to you!


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