“I’ve Got Some Bad News…”
April 15, 2009.
Weight: 177. Hearing those words from your doctor can be devastating.
These words have shown me that fitness does not always lead to health. A
person can exercise and eat right, resulting in physical fitness, and
such conditioning will lead to greater chances of avoiding disease and
to a longer and more fulfilling life. But in spite of one’s best
efforts, it’s still possible, indeed, probable, that a negative
condition will arise somewhere in the body at some time. Whether or not
the condition can be treated is up to medical science (some of my
friends argue the validity of western medicine on its own). This is what
is happening to me. There is no way to know if exercise and a healthy
diet will remediate the condition, but it certainly could not hurt.
Last week, I went to my general practitioner (GP) for a full physical
check-up. A routine electrocardiogram (EKG) was performed. It showed a
heart beat of 35 beats per minute (BPM), which alarmed my doctor. Even
though I play an hour of basketball five times a week and lift weights
usually three times per week, he still referred me to a cardiologist “to
make sure there is no pathology” causing the slow heart rate, known as
The cardiologist reviewed the EKG sent to him from the GP. He asked me,
“did your doctor tell you have a right bundle branch block?” “No, tell
me all about it,” I said shifting in my seat. He explained that the
natural pacemaker at the top of the heart sends a signal along a set a
muscle fibers that cause the heart to beat. The bottom sections, the
ventricles, are supposed to contract simultaneously. If a right bundle
branch block (RBBB) exists, the right side of the heart does not receive
the signal. It receives the command to beat from the left ventricle as
the signal makes its way around the heart instead of running along the
nerve that branches at the center of the heart. There is no known
treatment for this condition.
He went on to say that many people have this condition and don’t know
it, and that it may be an indicator of some heart disease or damage as
yet unknown. So he ordered an echocardiogram and a 24-hour heart monitor
test for as soon as possible. The soonest it could be scheduled was May
15, but I went ahead. I had to cancel a colonoscopy previously scheduled
until after the cause and context of the RBBB condition was determined.
According to my research on this topic through various Internet
resources, people who have been identified as having a right BBB usually
go about their lives normally in spite of having the condition. Exercise
is not off limits. In fact it may be what is keeping my heart otherwise
healthy. The cause may be from calcification of the heart muscle or from
arterial clogging or even from a lung infection. I recalled to the
doctor that I did have a histoplasmosis in my right lung in 2004, when
my last EKG was done. the condition was not discovered if it existed
then. But the cardiologist said there could be a relationship between
the two events.
I am continuing to play basketball in the mornings and lifting three
times per week in the evening. I want to lose the four pounds I gained
during the past four months, so I need to keep up with cardio. I also
want to bring my LDL (the bad cholesterol) levels down from 124 to
anything below (100 is the optimum level).
After hearing the news, I have done some major reassessing of how
important relationships are in life, and I often think about how my
family would get along if I all of a sudden were no longer in the
picture. But except for following the doctor’s directions, I can’t
really do much about my future. I can also give these questions of life
and death over to God and put in my little request for healing and a few
more years or decades on this earthly plane so I can see my kids grow
up, get married, and have children of their own. I did not have the
benefit of having grandparents, and my kids never met their paternal
grandparents. I would like to be there for my children when they enter
that phase of their lives where their own parents take on a new, more
adult-like importance for them.
I do believe in the power of prayer, ones that come from me and from the
social support system of friends and family that surround me. If you are
reading this, please put me on your prayer list or think positive
thoughts for me. The RBBB might just be a “normal variant” for me and
might be safely ignored. I am asking the Great Power of the Universe to
be the “Great Physician" and restore my heart to its proper working
condition. He has helped me heal my broken heart on the emotional level.
Now it’s time to go to work on the physical one beating inside my chest.
Until next time,
And now the good
May 16, 2009.
I had the echocardiogram done yesterday. I also walked
around with a heart monitor for 24 hours as I went about my normal daily
routine. It was fascinating seeing my heart on the screen, watching it
pump and seeing color-coded blood flow. The technician took video from
almost every angle. The heartbeat line was also visible as it was
superimposed on the video as the ventricles did their repetitive action.
My heartbeat averaged about 50 bpm., which is slow for the average
person, but I little elevated for me. She asked "are you
active?" I said, "well, I play about an hour of basketball
every day." I could not say that I had been lifting weights three
times per week because my lifting has fallen off to almost nothing,
maybe once per week on the average for the past several months. She said
that my high level of activity could well explain the slower heart
When she was all done examining my heart, she said,
"well, everything looks normal." It will take the cardiologist
a week to interpret the data, and I'll drop off the heart monitor on
Monday, which will give him more to go on. I never had to hit the
"event button" on the monitor, which would set a marker
on the tape to show where any aberration might be visible in the data. I
was reassured by the tech's comments, but disappointed that the
specialist could not give me more immediate feedback. It will be
interesting to see if the right bundle branch block (RBBB) is still
visible in the echocardiogram and if there are any underlying cardiac
causalities connected to the condition. I'd be interested to know if the
scientific literature reflects any instance where RBBB resolved itself
and electrical heart activity in the right ventricle return to normal.
I'll keep you posted...