I’ve debated about writing this, you guys know me, and I tend to keep personal stuff, well… personal. But I finally decided I may be able to tell more people about this, and who knows, maybe someone can benefit from my experience. I’ve shared with local friends so now I’m just using a bigger stage.
About a month ago, I “disappeared” from this blog for a few days.
I had just taken the flag down at the library, closing for the day, when my heart kind of did a WHOOSH… feeling like it dropped from a height… and then it went to pounding away. My boss/friend asked me if I was ok, and I told her frankly, that I didn’t know. Now, I know the signs of a heart attack for men, the elephant on your chest, sweating, clammy hands, and I also know women’s symptoms can be very different… but we decided to go sit at her house for a bit. She lives just out of Ten Sleep versus my 20 mile drive home. Fifteen minutes later, we decided to head for the ER, which is 30 minutes away.
We may have arrived a bit faster than that.
The ER personnel hooked me up to an EKG and found my heartbeat was 200 beats per minute! Yeah. Impressive, huh? The doctor called for medication… I was beginning to feel some classic symptoms… maybe not an elephant, but I had a medium sized dog on my chest. My palms were starting to sweat and a dull ache was traveling along my neck and jaw. It wasn’t painful, but I could feel it.
Here’s where my story gets fascinating. The doctor said, “Let me try something. I’m going to push on your neck, hold still.” He grabbed the top of my head firmly with one hand, and pushed against my jugular with the other. He held it for a bit and let go. “Anything? Feel any different?” “No,” I shook my head.
I think right about then, the nurse arrived with the requested medicine, but he held her off. “Let’s try this. I’m going to push on your belly. You push back as hard as you can and hold your breath for as long as you can.”
Well, that’s kind of a weird request, but, okaaaayyyyyyy…
A minute later, I let out my breath, he stopped pushing, and BAM. A switch was flipped. My heart quit racing. My discomfort eased. It was MAGICAL. I looked at him and my friend in disbelief. She could tell I felt better. I couldn’t believe it. The nurse turned away with the unneeded medication.
”Cool, huh? It’s called the hepatojugular reflux.”
It’s my understanding that by pushing on the liver, you “back up” some blood in your heart. When released, the normal rhythm is reinstated and your rapid heartbeat goes away.
I was shocked. I’ve taken First Aid classes since I was a Girl Scout, and even did some basic EMT classes, and I can’t tell you how many times Resusci-Annie and I have gone mouth to mouth! I’ve never heard of this.
”Oh, yeah, there’s many ways to do this besides the two we tried.” says my doctor. “You can fill up a shallow pan with ice water and dunk your face in for a bit. That’s the Diver’s Reflex. Or even sitting, pushing like you’re having a bowel movement can kick start normal heart rhythm.”
The only person I’ve met that knew something about this was a vet. Evidently, you can use the hepatojugular move on horses…
As it was, it was an hour and a half between my first rapid heartbeat and my “magical” treatment in the ER. I felt fine afterwards. In fact, I was ready to pack it in and head home. However, the ER Doc was much smarter than me, consulting with a cardiologist in Billings, and watching the enzyme levels that may indicate that my heart sustained any damage from going 200 beats per minute for an hour and a half.
Even though I felt just fine, I won myself a helicopter ride to Billings… at midnight, when all I could see was lights and no scenery… That’s another part of the story… but the main part I wanted to share was various ways to “restart” your normal heart rhythm.
Had I known that at 5:03 pm, I may not have “won” my trip to Billings. It was a good thing I did go but I just wanted to throw this idea out there. I sure can’t tell you to do this, I’m not even sure I have all the details right… but I do wish I’d had the chance to try this on myself before I blasted off to the ER. I suppose there’s some reason they don’t teach this alongside CPR, but if straining like you’re having a bowel movement can stop someone from going into further cardiac distress, it seems like it would be something to know.
I’m just sharing my experience… Jim, I’m a rancher, not a doctor! But I found this to be sooooo interesting!Find me here!