I wrote this on facebook last night:
A vasovagal episode is the official name for the weird thing I have where my heart goes nuts and I sometimes pass out. At least that’s officially what the super fancy specialist at UCSF said — and also that there’s not much to do about it. It just is what it is; some people pass out. Don’t hit your head. Studies say that the only thing that really stops you from passing out is when you feel it coming on you have to do this thing where you sit down and cross your arms and legs, because that forces the blood pressure to rise. So.
Traditionally, this has only happened to me after something big caused my heartrate to skyrocket and then drop, like I would pass out after crashing my bike or I’d have trouble after a really hard race — always after, after sitting up and being ok, after the immediate problem, once I realized I was fine and the whole adrenaline or whatever stopped, then my heart would go nuts and I’d pass out. Fun times. I’m pretty much screwed if I ever get in an actual car crash or have a huge emergency. You can guarantee as soon as I’m safe, I’ll pass out.
The last two times, though, it’s happened during a run with other people. We’d be doing something moderately hard, because of the efforts or the sun or whatever, and we’d stop, stand around and talk for a few minutes, and then suddenly I would be reeling. It happened in July and it happened yesterday after hill repeats with the high school kids. Abruptly, as we were waiting for all the kids to finish, I had to sit down and focus on things not going black and my heart was echoing in my ears and I couldn’t breathe. Needless to say, this is always super fun to explain to people (especially high school kids and especially when you really can’t talk right in the moment).
This time, like the time in July, it took FOREVER for my heartrate to get back to normal. After 5′ or so, I was able to shuffle/jog the mile back to school. But, I still felt not great. And, back at the school, I started to feel disoriented again and like I was going to fall over from the pressure on my head and the light, agh the light, always goes bright and then dark. It took maybe 15-20′ from when it initially started to feel totally ok. This is new. Traditionally, once I passed out I was fine or once it came on it would go away within a minute or two. I even once had to lay down on the track in between intervals to wait for things to stop and then I finished the intervals. That was not happening yesterday.
Yesterday, as is often true when these episodes happen, I was done for the day. I had to bike very, very slowly home. And, then I couldn’t do anything but lay on the couch the rest of the night. I’m still pretty exhausted today — though that may just be from the hill repeats (plus other training) and not from what happened after the hill repeats.
There’s nothing to do. I’ve been to the best specialist doctors and I’ve had all the tests done. There’s no danger to these episodes, they say, even if I did pass out (as long as I don’t get another concussion). It’s just part of my life, whatever. The UCSF doctor did refer me to a specialist cardiologist two years ago, though, because with how my heart speeds up instead of slows down it seems likely I have an arrhythmia too. But, that doctor said the next step is to do this thing where they go up through a vein in my leg to explore my heart and possibly close off (is that the right term?) the arrhythmia. And, I said, ‘yeah, no’ to that.
So, good times.