The first time you feel it your blood goes cold. The hair on the back of your neck might stand up. Your pulse almost certainly rises quickly, which does nothing to help.
You sit perfectly still. You’re probably holding your breath, but you don’t realize it. Like your rising pulse, this also does nothing to help.
You wait expectantly, but nothing happens.
You go back to what you were doing. Maybe you were working at your desk, or mending a garment, or working in the garage. As you work on the task at hand, the thwump fades away, and your current task regains your focus.
Then it happens again: Thwump.
Any hope you had that the first occurrence was a fluke, or perhaps just a figment of your imagination, is gone. That thwump truly happened; there can be no doubt about it. If the first thwump made your blood run cold, the second fills it with icebergs.
Those thwumps that you felt were right in the center of your chest, or maybe a little to the left. They were about as hard as someone flicking your sternum, but it came from the inside.
That thwump was your heart, and that thwump was not a normal heartbeat.
At this point you are almost certainly wondering if you’re having a heart attack. You’re not, but it’s hard to imagine that one would feel any different.
You’re probably breaking out in a sweat, and as frightened as you have ever been. If you’re young, you’re wondering how this could be happening to you at this age. In any case, as you sit at your desk you’re wondering if this cubicle is going to be the last thing you’ll ever see.
But, like the first one, the second thwump fades, and time passes. The third one follows at another random interval, maybe shortly after the second, perhaps not for several hours.
That first day, you’ll probably only experience a few. If you haven’t already gone to the emergency room by the evening of the first day, you’ll probably sleep that night, though rather fitfully. The lack of sleep the next day does nothing to help the symptoms.
If you haven’t made a cardiologist appointment (thwump) by the next morning, it won’t be long before you do.
When you have your appointment with the cardiologist, you’ll receive an EKG that says everything is normal. You’ll wonder if the cardiologist understands what normal actually means.
Your cardiologist will ask you to explain your “symptoms”, perhaps asking in such a way as to imply that you probably don’t even have a heart in that chest anyway. You’ll feel stupid, because when this first happened you were sure you’re dying, but here you are a few days later an, honestly, you feel pretty okay.
You’ll do a stress test, which involves running on a treadmill with a series of electrodes taped to your chest monitoring your heart while you run. It might even involve an ultrasound of your heart at the same time.
You’ll wear a “halter pack”, which is a heart monitor that you wear all day under your clothes, gathering data. You’ll have a button to press every time you experience your “symptoms.” You’ll press the button several times, but those thwumps never seem to happen at quite the frequency they do when you aren’t wearing the monitoring equipment.
A few days or weeks later, your cardiologist will come into the room with a smile to let you know that “everything is fine” and that it’s “probably just PVCs.” She’ll say just in that way that makes you pretty sure she’s wondering why you’re in this office in the first place.
“There’s really nothing to worry about. They aren’t harmful. Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, and stress. Get more sleep and exercise.”
You have three kids and thwump your own business, and now your heart seems to need to remind you randomly that it’s still in your chest, though frankly, it’d rather be doing something else. Stress? What stress?
Oh the way home you’re wondering how you’re going to adj-_thwump_-just.
For the next few days you’ll probably find yourself sitting in your chair for a long while, just waiting for that next thwump to kick you in the chest.
Eventually you really do adjust. When you survive enough thwumps without any obvious side effects, you start to believe your cardiologist. You Google PVC too much, read too many articles, but start to realize that you probably will survive this thwump just fine.
Hopefully, you find some ways to cut back on stress and increase sleep and exercise. Prayer, meditation, and relaxation techniques are actually very helpful in this regard.
While you might be able to adjust to these irregular heartbeats, it’s impossible to get used to the feeling of your heart kicking you in the chest when you least expect it.
If you’re able to make some lifestyle changes, you can go weeks or months without experiencing that kick. You might even start to forget that it can happen.
Then, one day, when you’re making your coffee in the morning, you’ll be reminded of your mortality in the way know one else around you will know.
While taken from my own experiences, people with PVCs can experience a wide array of symptoms, and for some people the condition can be debilitating. Thankfully that has not been the case for me up to this point.
I have found that there are 2 main contributors to my PVCs: lack of sleep, and anxiety, the latter of which is often amplified by the former.
Getting regular sleep has taken on a new priority for me, which has meant giving up on certain things I’d rather do to ensure that I don’t miss out on a good night’s rest whenever possible.
Dealing with stress and anxiety is a large enough topic that it deserves its own post, but I can summarize my approach by saying that I now take specific steps to try to get ahead of anxiety rather than waiting for symptoms to crop up and force my hand.
If you suffer with PVCs and feel the isolation that can come along with that, I hope you’ll find someone to talk to. If you don’t have anyone in your life you can confide in, I’d be happy to talk.