Nurse Cynthia Andrade, 47, has suffered from fainting and malaise since childhood. For a long time, he tried to investigate what he had, but heard from doctors that it could be “teenager stuff.” When she was already training and working on arrhythmias, she fell ill in the operating room and discovered she had two heart syndromes. For this reason, he had to put on a pacemaker and change his life habits.
To his surprise, even though he had the device, he started playing sports, jogging, and putting aside the sedentary life. Below, she tells her story and alerts to the early diagnosis of heart disease.
“Heart disease started showing up when I was 12 years old. There were days when my symptoms were stronger and other days they were less. I was very dizzy and sometimes I was sick during physical education classes.
On very hot days, I would have fainting, severe cramps and period pain. My parents took me to several cardiologists, but I never got an accurate diagnosis.
They even said I don’t have anything and they want to get attention. I even began to suspect I was suffering from something. I thought it might be in my head.
I remember that in physical education classes, I fainted, and because the doctor did nothing, the teacher himself pushed me away.
I remember I didn’t feel bad while swimming, I started doing some activities and took it that way for a few years. I started learning how to live with the ‘no name’ disease and remember that when I got to a hot place I kept fanning myself and if I started feeling weak I knew it was before I passed out.
I started making my own survival guide so I wouldn’t pass out on the street, because whenever it was hot, I got really sick.
“I found out what I had because I passed out at work”
I majored in nursing and specialized in arrhythmias, ironically. Although I was aware of some of the symptoms and lived with some patients, I didn’t really know what I had.
Even during the surgery I was in, I passed out while working. This caught the attention of the arrhythmia specialist who was working at the time. He asked for tests, but nothing was found. I remember that the EKG never picked up the trace of the heartbeat.
I had to implant a heart monitor for six months and it detected a seven-second pause in my heartbeat: it had a fast rhythm and then decreased.
This device is implanted in the patient’s chest like a Holter, and records the impulses. That’s when I was diagnosed with neuro-mediated syndrome and tachybrady syndrome, at age 29. Then, in less than 20 days, I started treatment and the doctor said I would need a pacemaker.
Its job is to make the heart beat when it doesn’t respond normally. After this implant and also while I was working in the area, I started hearing reports from many patients who had the device saying that they were limited to doing daily activities. I’ve also heard from some in my family that I can’t bear the weight, let alone clean the house.
I had the technical and scientific knowledge, but limited beliefs allowed me to get away. Some people said, “Poor poor girl.” I started asking so many questions and I was letting myself down more and more every day.
Racing changed my life.
Because of all these bad thoughts and people letting me down, I stopped being physically active and was drawn to the victim. At the time I had the pacemaker implanted, I weighed about 60 kilos, however, after four or five years, I had reached 90 kilos.
I was eating a poor diet, a sedentary life and was neglecting myself. My quality of life has also deteriorated dramatically.
In 2018, after an invitation from a friend, I remember being 44 years old, came up with the idea of getting a group together and starting to run every Sunday morning. I remember we burst out laughing and he told me to go for a walk and that I didn’t have to “run, run.”
I liked the idea and of course I talked to my doctor and he said, “Of course you can do physical activities.” He even said he had no reason not to.
This way, it gave me more safety and started the process of re-educating food, started weight training and started walking.
The project took off, I started participating in races and walking and seeing other people with some problems made it happen on the right track.
I reprogrammed my brain and started to realize that I could prove that someone with a pacemaker doesn’t become out of order.
At first, it went slow. We started with 3 km, 5 km and 10 km. I remember starting out on a 5 kilometer circuit in two and a half hours. Today, I run 5 kilometers in 35 minutes. After a while, the group of friends who were running calmed down and I followed them on my own.
I was careful with the frequency of my heartbeat and adapted to it. At that time I became a half-marathon runner: I managed to run 21 kilometers.
I prepared myself for triathlons until I became a triathlete. In the Olympics category, she swam 1.5 km, ran 40 km and ran 10 km. I remember the race started at 5:30 and ended at 11:30.
Today, I have a twice-weekly training routine, I go to the gym to tone my muscles, and on weekends I run.
I also invest in nutritional re-education, follow-up with a nutritionist and my heart rate control. If I feel my frequency is too high, I try to slow down.
What motivates me are greater distances and when I ran the 21km in three hours and 10 minutes, that was number one for me. Every jog or run counted and when I hit another kilometer, my mind won.
Now, I plan to run a marathon, if possible, and do obstacle courses.
The most I’ve learned throughout this whole process is not to listen and to care about other people’s opinions. We have to learn to filter what we hear often. It is better not to listen to what people say. Also, not hurting yourself is important, because the obstacles you will face.”
What are neurogenic and tachybrady syndromes?
The vasovagal syndrome or vasovagal syndrome are cardiovascular responses commanded by the autonomic nervous system.
The problem can cause low blood pressure, slow heart rate, sweating, blurred vision, and fainting. This is mainly because part of the body’s blood is in the legs when we are in a standing position and there is a reaction that lowers the pressure. The condition can be divided into three types:
- Vasopressor: only when it comes to pressure
- Cardiac suppressants: related to heart rate
- Mixed: that has to do with both systems
The condition is associated with young men and is more common in females. From a behavioral point of view, it is known to be associated with people who drink little water. Diagnosis is difficult because devices that monitor cardiovascular activity are required.
On the other hand, tachybrady syndrome occurs when the part of the heart responsible for electrical impulses is too slow or weak, giving way to other arrhythmias to take over the body.
Placing a pacemaker in patients is an exceptional treatment. Generally, they are the people who received the diagnosis late and therefore need the technique. Oftentimes, behavioral changes can improve the condition, and always preventative treatments can help reverse a crisis or symptoms of the syndromes.
Even with the device, experts say it’s possible to have a normal life, exercise, and other activities. Limitations occur more frequently in MRI scans and other electrical part tests.
Sources: Carlos Duarte, a cardiologist at BP – A Beneficência Portuguesa de São Paulo and a specialist in cardiac stimulation; And the Bruna Waldigma cardiologist at Instituto Dante Pazzanese (SP) and Rede D’Or.
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