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I decided it couldn’t be true. I couldn’t be so unlucky to have two different, uncorrelated health problems, one concerning the heart and the other one related to the brain. I started to connect the dots, trying to understand how my body worked (I even had the idea to study Medicine, just for a while). I thought and thought again, and so I started to listen to my body. I was trying to figure out how it was working, by testing my body with small efforts. Surprisingly, I began to accept myself. I realized that I couldn’t do some things, at that time, but that I didn’t want to give up on other ones. It meant I needed to make some compromises in my life. For instance, I couldn’t eat fried food because the effort in digesting led me to faint, but not for this reason I couldn’t go out with friends: in the case, I could eat tigelle (a typical food from Modena). I didn’t feel safe taking the adventurous trips I had always dreamed about, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t travel: I would have trips with reliable friends. Again, I couldn’t stress my body too much, but I didn’t want to give up my lifelong career dreams: I promised myself that I would always find time for myself and to take my head off.
I began to accept myself and to consider my body no longer as an enemy but as a travelling companion. By getting this different point of view, an idea came to my mind, and I talked about it with my cardiologist, who I am going to call Dr B. . I asked him if it may be that pushing my body too much, would provoke an arrhythmia. So, due to the prolonged arrhythmia, a non-constant flow of oxygen would come to the brain, and this would make it go into blackout. I never felt the arrhythmias, because I was born with them, and an irregular rhythm had always been the “normal one” to me. Consequently, I could not understand when and for how long I had arrhythmias, probably straining my body too much. Shortly, I assumed that my fainting was a sign that my body was pushed too much. As it was saying to me: “My darling, I’m trying to keep up with you, but give me a while“.
My cardiologist told me that it could be a hypothesis, and so we started talking about heart surgery. He had already talked about it to my parents when arrhythmias were first found, when I was about one and a half years old. The idea was then left aside because it would be a too complicated surgery and it was preferable to wait a few years. He assumed that, in twenty years, the technological development in the medical field could provide the tools to perform not an open-heart surgery, as it would have been at the time, but through catheters inserted from the groin. For sure, a less complicated and invasive surgery! Twenty years had passed, and he was right: cardiac ablation was possible by transcatheter.
Since the connection between arrhythmias and fainting was not sure, other doctors told me that it could also be that even after the surgery, nothing would change. Maybe, I would keep my blackouts for the rest of my life. But what choice did I have? It was such a tough time: my mum was fighting cancer (now she’s OK), and I was studying a lot to make up for the exams I had left behind, due to humanistic background, and trying to graduate within the time-limit. And, even if I had learned to recognize my boundary and so I hardly crossed it, I knew I was always very close to the “Blackdown border”. Dr B., who was THE person I mostly trusted in this path, unlike others, supported this possibility, and this would have been enough. Moreover, do you know when it feels like the right way? Well, I have felt so strongly that feeling just a few times and, in my mind, I was sure that heart surgery would be the solution. I was determined to have it.
Dr B. retired at that time, and this complicated a little bit everything. The doctor who substituted him would not go for surgery. He tried to give me beta-blockers, I started taking them, and I began to feel very bad; my head spun all the time. He said it was impossible, but I stopped taking them because I couldn’t stand up and finally, under the informal advice of Dr B, I turned to another hospital. My case was taken by the medical centre of Asti, in Piedmont, which accepted the request for surgery, and I was put on the waiting list for October of the same year. “October, interesting month, let’s hope that the day will not coincide with the BSc’s graduation day”, I thought.
On 25 May 2017, for the first time, I went to Asti for a cognitive visit and, for the first time after 22 years, someone gave name to my particularity: PJRT, or Coumel’s tachycardia or permanent reciprocal junctional tachycardia. They decided to operate on me in August, instead of October, and I thought it was perfect. I could finish my thesis calculations, I would take a couple of weeks in August for the surgery, and then I would finish writing my BSc’s thesis. They said it was not a complicated surgery: the doctors just had to put a couple of probes in my groin and heal the point in my heart where the arrhythmia came from. Nothing at all they said, it would last just one hour, more or less, and then, within a few days, I was OK.