Tag Archives: cardiologist

Not a heart attack, part 3

So, Doctor B. wanted me to see a cardiologist “urgently” and made it happen by sending me to St. Maarten with a box of medical supplies.


Only while boarding the plane to St. Maarten I had the time to check my ticket. I found out that my flight back to Statia was scheduled for the next day and it looked like a hotel reservation was made for me at Paradise Inn. At least, that’s what I assumed:

Paradise Inn

After some more calls home and cancelling swimming practice (I coach the Goldenrock Leatherbacks) I made it safely to St. Maarten and the St. Maarten Medical Center. For some strange reason my heart was beating pretty normal now, unlike the last few weeks.

The box and me were welcomed with open arms by cardiologist Haan and we could go straight into the doctor’s office. I never had such a preferential treatment since I was 8 months pregnant. Was I carrying Pandora’s box?

Haan questioned me, examined the paperwork and holter results and explained to me that it didn’t look like an AV block to him. In the 24 hour monitoring period it showed only once that the electrical impulses in the heart didn’t go through properly. That can happen to anyone. Also the fact that I did not collapse regularly was a good sign. I agreed with him on that. But… then what was wrong with me?!

It did show irregularities (arrhythmia), so he did some more tests. An ECG with brand new Statia electrodes. An echo with more Statia electrodes. I never liked to watch this on TV, I’m always afraid of a sudden flatline. Now of course I had to watch it; it’s almost as weird as an echo when you’re pregnant. Every time I felt my heart dance, the echo danced with me. It looked something like this:

boom beat

Next was a stress test: running on a treadmill. As a runner, that shouldn’t be too complicated under normal circumstances. But what was normal these days? I didn’t run since I first started to feel my dancing beats. But surprise surprise, the test went very well, I scored above average for a female of my age and length. Barefoot, in my work pants and a naked upper body except for the famous electrodes and a fishing net for some “support”. Thank God I only have size B.

Conclusion: premature ventricular contraction (PVC), also known as ventricular extrasystole. Simply put, my heart makes extra beats. Every now and then there is a beat that comes too quick, when my heart is not filled with blood as yet after the first contraction. This is some lousy beat that I don’t feel (it feels as if my heart is skipping a beat…), then there is a relatively long pause (still skipping that beat…) and then …***BOOM!!*** an insanely loud beat.


The symptoms: irregular heartbeat (check!), shortness of breath (check!), dizziness (not really), feeling your heart beat (check!!), feeling of forceful beats (check!!!), anxiety (check!!!). It all came together.

According to Haan, this is nothing to worry about. It’s completely harmless and (in my case) no treatment is necessary. Beta-blockers may take away the scary feeling, but it doesn’t do much more than making me feel out of breath and in bad physical shape. So thank you, but no, thank you.

The good thing is: it becomes less when you exercise! When you’re doing sports, your heart rate goes up and there’s literally no time for extra beats. Ha!

So what could have caused this?? It can just appear out of the blue  and **yay!!** it can also disappear out of the blue! It can be stress-related (some of you probably start to wonder now if the word stress even is the Caribbean English dictionary), it can have something to do with adrenaline access (mwwah), thyroid problems (nope), heart attack (thank God, no), coffee (yes please), alcohol (who, me?), smoking (no), drugs (should I really stay off heroin?) and after some Googling I learned it can also have something to do with E-numbers in the food. A friend of mine from Curaçao had the same problem and in his case it has to do with chocolate (noooooooo!!!!!)!


So my personal remedy is: stay away from coffee & stress, take it easy on the alcohol and eat natural food. I’ll experiment with the chocolate 😀 Make friends with freaky beats and last but not least breathing techniques when freaky beats occur. Breath in… breath out… Relax!


After my encounter with the cardiologist, I was released back into the wild with the official notice that I had no serious heart problem. Pffff!!!

brief cardioloog

For the 99,9999% of the world population that doesn’t understand Dutch: zonder onderliggende cardiale problematiek means without any cardiac problems 😀

Since I couldn’t change my ticket, I had to stay the night in the Paradise Inn in St. Maarten. But that’s another story…

And the miraculous thing is: after seeing the cardiologist, who assured me I wasn’t going to die any minute (at least not of a heart attack) I feel so much better. I still have “the beats” sometimes, but they are under control. I know what they are and I will get to know them and slowly defeat them.They don’t freak me out. Freaky beats are friends!


Not a heart attack, part 2

So, Doctor B. wanted me to see a cardiologist “urgently”.

drop dead

The downside of living on a 21 km2 island is: there’s no cardiologist.

As a matter of fact, there are hardly any specialists on the island. That’s why a good percentage of Statia’s population is always off-island. For many medical problems you can go to St. Maarten. For more complicated issues it’s Colombia, sometimes Guadeloupe. Sounds nice, huh? Free trip to some other hot place in the Caribbean.


But not so funny after the first week, when you have your family, friends, pets etc. at home. And even less funny after two to three months sitting in your hotel room waiting for the hospital to give you a call. Because that’s how long it often takes in Colombia. Talk about efficiency. Luckily for me I didn’t have to go there.


Once a  month a cardiologist from Aruba comes to Statia. For me that meant waiting 2 more weeks. Or I could fly to St. Maarten to see a cardiologist in 2 weeks minus 3 days. Because before that day, no cardiologist was available on St. Maarten either; on St. Maarten there are cardiologists from the Netherlands that fly in for some weeks, but there is not always one there. I realized my type of “urgent” was not the urgent type of urgent.

I agreed with dr. B. that I would take it easy for now, write down exactly what I felt when, and that I would report back to him in 5 days time. In the meantime my heartbeat wasn’t doing anything like normal. Especially in rest, after some activity or before going to sleep, it would beat like crazy. I thought I could have a heart attack any minute. That thought, of course, only makes things worse. What if I just drop dead? What about Makeda? She’s only 8 years old. There’s still so much to do! There’s still so many dreams to live! I prayed to God to please give me some more time. I always thought I’d become 100 years old 😀

Dr. B. told me to call him back on Monday. I called from 9:00 to 4:30 without getting through to him. Great. I wanted to tell him I really wished to see the cardiologist on the 21st on St. Maarten, instead of waiting for the Aruban cardiologist that came on the 24th. One day with scary beats seemed like a week to me. Tuesday morning I went straight to the hospital after dropping Makeda at school. I could see dr. B. right away. The day before he really didn’t have time to call me back.

He agreed that it would be better for me to see the cardiologist in St. Maarten the same week. The good news: the Dutch cardiologist arrived on St. Maarten already. The bad news: St. Maarten hospital ran out of electrodes. REALLY???

electrodesDr. B. had me waiting in the hall for only an hour when he asked me what I was thinking all along. If I could go to St. Maarten today and bring a box of electrodes. Sure! No problem! That was 10:30.

Medical record and letter were printed out, box with electrodes was packed, nurse came in to tell me my flight was at 11:30. What?! Left a message with my boyfriend’s boss, called my superhero friends to take care of Makeda after school, called the teacher and asked her to explain Makeda in a gentle way that I had to go to St. Maarten today, kickstarted my scooter, drove home with the box of electrodes between my knees, packed a bag (Dr. B. couldn’t tell me if I was coming back today), drove with a box of electrodes between my knees and a backpack to the SVK office to pick up my ticket and arrived at the airport at 11:15 for the 11:30 flight. Again, only on Statia!


To be continued…