Broken Heart Syndrome

You hear of stories where people have been married for a long time and love their spouse so much when they lose them, they end up dying from a broken heart. It makes you wonder can someone really have a broken heart. Can you die from a broken heart? What might it feel like to have a broken heart?

When you are young and have been in love, I am sure you've experienced a bad breakup and were sure you had a broken heart. How could you go on without this person? So in love and can't imagine how you'll go on with them no longer around. But is that truly a broken heart? Time goes on and you learn and heal and move on but don't forget.

If you have read any of my other blogs, you know that I am a military spouse and have 3 young children. About 2 weeks after my husband left on deployment, I embarked on being the one and only person to take care of a kid, a toddler, a baby, and a dog while living in our beautiful new fifth wheel.

I moved closer to family to have support but only a few days after I arrived my family contracted covid and we had to stay away for 2 weeks.

Everyone recovered thankfully and my mom took the two older girls for a sleepover and to give me a break. I was feeling great! just had the baby, was coloring my hair doing some me time even had one Truly. The baby was in a great mood, and I finally got to video my husband and talk for a few hours uninterrupted.

What happens next is probably one of the scariest things I've been through ever! I thought I was dying. My chest became tight, my arms were going numb, my teeth started chattering, I could hardly walk my legs felt like jelly. I have had anxiety attacks in the past and I knew what they felt like, but this was like an anxiety attack on steroids. I was panicking what if I passed out or even worse died, and the baby was left here? How long until someone would get to her?

I didn't know what was happening to me, I tried to calm myself down I started doing breathing techniques to try and calm my mind. I was moving around too much, and I woke the baby, so I nursed her and that seemed to take my mind off things. She fell back asleep as it was about 1:30 am and then it started coming back in waves. I texted my brother because he was the only one, I thought would be up. I was trying to do anything to get my mind off it. Unfortunately, that didn't work he happens to be a man of few words.

I texted my husband but what was he gonna do, he was across the world in Japan? He was getting chow, so his responses were not quick enough for me. I was feeling worse and worse I was ready to call 911 but what would happen to the baby? I tried to stay strong. I bit the bullet and called my mom.

My mom was 15 mins away but felt like 4 hours away. It was the middle of the night and I know she felt helpless because what could she do over the phone? She asked if I wanted to come over there. I was like I can't! I can't even walk right now. So, she tried to talk to me calmly and talk me down. It seemed to subside a little then my husband responded try to take a hot shower and see if that helps. So, I got off the phone and did that. It seemed to relax me enough to calm me down it was now past 2:30 am. Exhausted from the whole ordeal I was able to finally fall asleep.

This happened early Saturday morning and it happened to be Halloween weekend. I really was trying to avoid ruining my kids' weekend and didn't want to spend hours sitting in an E.R. So, I decided I would go to my moms and take my blood pressure. If it were high or low, I would go. I took it twice and it was fine. I was still feeling off but not to the point where I needed immediate medical attention. I decided to stick it through and find a functional medicine doctor to go to.

This is where I learned a lot. I was having more episodes every day nothing to the scale of the first one, but it was still concerning and luckily, I was able to fill a cancelation and get in fairly quickly. I saw the doctor told her about the initial episode the symptoms and the lingering daily symptoms. At which point she said I'd like to do an EKG on you and so they did. After which she came back and said we found some abnormalities in your EKG. I almost started to cry... I asked is this serious do I need to contact the Red Cross to have my husband sent home for an emergency? She said that is up to you. I said is it life threatening? She said in rare cases yes but, not likely for me. We discussed having lab work done and some natural supplements that I should start for heart health many of which I knew about. I was to start the regimen of CoQ10, ALA, baby aspirin, and L-arginine. I was to take 1,000 to 2,000 mg of L-arginine a day specifically when I was having extreme symptoms. I have worked out in the past and had this at home and was very familiar with it.

After we went over those things, she explained the abnormality that was found in my EKG. She said that I was having low blood flow to my heart. This condition is called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (aka broken-heart syndrome). This happens to occur mostly in older women. The good news is most people recover without any concerning long term heart damage.

Symptoms of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy are:

  • Chest pain and shortness of breath

  • EKG abnormalities that mimic those of a heart attack

  • Movement abnormalities in the left ventricle

  • Ballooning of the left ventricle

Essentially it is weakening of the left ventricle which happens to be the hearts main pumping chamber. It's like your heart has a bruise or a sprain which is usually caused from severe emotional or physical stress.

From my research I have found that it can last anywhere between a week and 2 months. I am currently going on week three and I have good days and bad days. I had an echocardiogram which was fine and reassuring, however my lab work showed I had low progesterone. This is concerning because it causes some of the same symptoms of anxiousness, depression and what not.

I am hoping things will level out and I can find some normalcy. I have survived a deployment through the end of a pregnancy and the birth of my first child through that deployment however, the hormone levels dropping and the severe emotional stress of taking care of everything on my own has gotten to me. I can say that I truly know what it feels like to have a broken heart and it has truly made me realize how much my husband holds us all together.

If you are interested in learning more about Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (broken-heart syndrome) you can find it here.

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