Sunday, March 24, 2013

So I thought heart palpitations would be fun.

First of all, I'm totally kidding about this title.  I've just got a sick, sarcastic sense of humor.  Forgive me for that.  It's just the title I came up with when I started thinking about this post.

Ok, so anyway.......get cozy.  This one's going to be long, but I wanted to share what happened to me this past week.

Several years ago I complained to my ob/gyn at my annual check up about having some fluid retention trouble.  My rings were tight & my lower calves were perpetually puffy.  Of course, we discussed drinking more water and exercising, but she said that some people, who are otherwise healthy, just have a fluid retention issue.  (My blood is tested every year---my heart is healthy.  I have no obvious signs of any kidney or liver troubles.  My blood pressure is perfect.  Circulation doesn't seem to be an issue.)  So in the end, she prescribed me a very low-dose water pill (diuretic).  It was 25 mg of hydrochlorothiazide (aka HCTZ).  It looks like this.

I took 1 of these pills daily for a number of years.  It worked well.  But over the past few years, I've adopted a bit of a healthier lifestyle--eating better, exercising more, drinking more water--so I'd begun to notice that I was (ahem...) relieving myself a LOT every day.  I tried to do without the HCTZ, thinking I just didn't need it anymore, but alas, after a few days without it, I would notice the fluid retention again.  When I saw my doctor in the Fall, I asked her about reducing my dosage.  I knew I still needed a little help but felt like I could get by on a lower dose.  She agreed that I should drop down to a 12.5 mg tablet for my new dose.  It looks like this.

Umm, yeah...they look pretty much idential.  The pill manufacturer of the 2nd pic is different, but other than that, they look basically the same.  Still pinkish-peach in color, still a tiny pill about the same size, still scored on one side.

When I filled the prescription for the smaller (12.5 mg) dose in the Fall, the cost was way higher than usual.  But since it was the first time I'd filled a prescription in that fiscal year, I figured it was the deductible that made it so much pricier.  I didn't question the pharmacy people & just paid it.

Fast forward to mid-February when I went back to refill the prescription.  The pharmacy tech rang up my medicine & the cost was $47.00.  I just about croaked.  Our money is way tighter now than it was back in the Fall, so this time I questioned her.  I pointed out that these pills have never cost more than $5-10 in the past.  Why were they so pricey now??  She said that this manufacturer is crazy.  The lower dose pills cost WAY more than the higher dose pills.  Call me crazy but if they can use LESS of the drug to make a pill, shouldn't it cost LESS?  The pharmacy lady agreed that it was nuts!  I asked if she could give me the 25 mg pills (what I'd been taking until the fall) and let me just break them in half every day.  She readily agreed & fixed it.  When she rang it up, it was $1.69!  Holy inflated medical costs, batman!  {Yes, I'm totally serious.  Giving me half as many pills at a higher dose cost me $45 less!!}


The week before Spring Break, I decided that since I am not a fan of medicine at all (if I can avoid it), I wanted to cut the pills into quarters & see if I could still get the same benefit with less of the medicine.  After all, if I could do that, it would make the medicine last longer and I could feel better about taking even less.  I filled my little weekly pill box with tiny little pieces of the pills and went ahead with taking them that week.  By Thursday or Friday, though, I realized that I was retaining fluid and I needed to just go back to the regular dose.  Since I fill a little pill box thingie (yes, like the ones old people use) a week at a time, I determined that when I refilled for the following week, I'd just go back to the regular dose then.

So last Sunday morning, 3/17/13, I took the first full pill again.  By late that afternoon, I noticed a few little palpitations.  I could feel my heartbeat up in my throat.  It wasn't painful, but it was just enough of an odd feeling to make me recognize it each time it happened.  I've had that happen a time or two over the years, but nothing ever came of it.  I assumed the same this time & just sort of blew it off.  I don't think I even mentioned it to my family because it was such a non-issue in my mind.

On Monday morning, 3/18/13, I woke up & before I finished breakfast, I noticed a couple palpitations again.  I thought it was odd that I was still feeling them the next day, but again dismissed it.  For a few seconds, I was a tad nervous to work out that morning because I was a little afraid that maybe I had some sort of problem and my family would find me dead in the living room floor still holding my hand weights that night.  But I went ahead & worked out anyway.  I didn't feel the palpitations while I was exercising and only felt them occasionally throughout the day.  They were very infrequent and mild, but I felt them off and on all day long.  By late that evening, I was getting a little nervous and began googling 'causes of palpitations', 'heart disease symptoms' and ya know...'death from palpitations'.  Nothing on the lists of possible causes fit me in the least.  Ultimately every place I found online said that palpitations are not usually a cause for concern and if you're healthy you should just sort of try to ignore them because worrying can make them worse.  Hmmm...

Tuesday morning, 3/19/13, the first thing I was aware of when the alarm went off was a very strong, powerful palpitation.  It alarmed me.  Throughout the day, I felt them almost constantly.  They were hitting every 10-30 seconds ALL DAY LONG and growing stronger.  I couldn't imagine WHY it was happening or how to make it stop.  I only see my og/gyn annually.  I am very rarely sick enough to need a doctor.  So when my 'regular' doctor retired a few months ago, I haven't made a priority of finding a new one.  And with no regular doctor to call on, I spent most of the day trying to ignore them, but growing more concerned by the hour.  So I did what every smart girl does these days.  I went to Facebook & private messaged a girlfriend who is a nurse! (Love ya, Karen!!!)

I described my symptoms & medical history briefly to her and asked if my changing the dose on my medicine might be the cause.  She said YES!  She told me I'd very likely dehydrated my body of sodium & potassium and my electrolyte imbalance had caused the palpitations.  Apparently that is a very common cause of palpitations!  She advised me to go get some Powerade & drink up!  With that advice, I high-tailed it to CVS & bought several and began chugging.  Sure enough, by morning I was feeling pretty good with far fewer palpitations.

After taking my morning medicine and drinking half of a Powerade with my breakfast on Wednesday morning, 3/20/13, it hit me!  I had not gone back to my normal dose on Sunday!  I had gone back to taking a FULL PILL.  My correct dose is HALF a pill!  So overnight, I went from taking a teeny 6mg to FOUR TIMES THAT MUCH.  And I was on my 4th day of taking that incorrect dose when I discovered the boo-boo!  I laughed at myself, but then realized that my palpitations would take a while longer to stop since I'd already taken a FULL pill again that day!  I was forcing my body to flush out massive amounts of electrolytes over & over.  (and boy was I ahem...flushing them out!)  Sigh!  When I told my nurse friend, she laughed with me at my mistake.  I think her words were "Well no wonder you are so out of whack!"

Thursday 3/21/13 and Friday 3/22/13, I was very tired.  I slept all night, then after taking the kids to school, I came home to crawl back into bed & sleep for another 45 minutes or so before I had to get up & get ready for work.  In the afternoons I'd doze a bit more.  I continued drinking Powerade throughout the week, feeling like I had to be careful to continue replenishing all the sodium & potassium I'd flushed out for four days while taking the messed up dosage of medicine.  On both Thursday & Friday, I continued to feel some palpitations.  Even though they were slowly decreasing, I was soooo ready for them to STOP!  I was a little nervous to do much at all, for fear my heart might explode!  Saturday 3/23/13, things were greatly improved with only a tiny handful of palpitations that only hit late in the evening after a full day without any!

And today, Sunday 3/24/13, one week after the whole ordeal began, I've finally had a full day palpitation-free!

Friends, I share this very crazy personal boo-boo to tell you this.  Don't toy with your medicine dosages without talking to your doctor.  Even if the medicine is something simple like a water pill!  What seemed like a "no big deal" dosage adjustment to me gave me a week of cardiac fears.

I am so grateful for good health!  I am overweight, but I am blessed with a strong immune system, good cardiac health, decent vision, good hearing (well, unless you ask my husband) and strong arms and legs.  Although I having digestive issues (IBS) and an aging body, I am so thankful to have the ability to continue doing things to improve all the time!  Exercising, eating well, drinking tons of water and trying to continue to learn better habits all the time are important!

Be careful with your meds, friends.  A week of palpitations is not nearly as fun as it sounds.  :)

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