One week before Christmas, I found myself sitting in a Cardiologist's office listening to him tell me that I needed to have an Electro-Physiology Study and possible Radio Ablation. I had gone to him the first time six weeks earlier. I was having palpitations and chest pain and my heart rate was over 110 bpm, when it should be around 80 bpm. He put me on a Looper monitor or EKG heart monitor for a month. And here I was, listening to him tell me that they had picked up a few runs of a dangerous rhythm, Ventricular tachycardia, and I might require a form of heart surgery called radio ablation.
On the way home after hearing the diagnosis, I was trying to control my fear. My grandfather had multiple heart surgeries and had always warned me that heart trouble runs in the family. I was struggling to not tell myself stories that might not be true. Stories like, "Now it's your turn." Or, "Paw Paw told you this was coming." Or, "You're next to have open heart surgery, you know that?"
Two hours after I got home, the phone rang. It was the doctor's office. They had scheduled the study and ablation for two days later. The secretary explained that the doctor wanted it done quickly because the V-tach was so dangerous. Everything was happening so fast that I couldn't catch a breath to think.
It was not until later that evening that fear really began to slip into my heart. I knew that the rhythm was dangerous, but so was the ablation. If they had to do it, they would use high frequency radio waves to burn a small place in the heart itself. The idea being that the V-tach might be coming from some spot in the heart that was firing ahead of the rest of it, making the left ventricle beat too fast and out of sync with the rest of the heart. They would burn off that small spot and kill a tiny part of the heart muscle to stop the rhythm from happening again.
The whole idea terrified me. That the doctors would intentionally kill off a piece of my heart, and that it would leave a scar on the heart muscle, I just could not get my head around it. I thought that my grandfather's prophecies were coming true. I sat on the sofa next to my husband, trying not to give in to fear. I found myself whispering the Medicine Buddha's mantra over and over. My husband held me and let me just sit.
I knew that the force I was calling on was not really a Buddha, but my own body's ability to heal itself. I was calling on my own Buddhanature. I needed wisdom and healing. I had to turn to the Medicine Buddha to connect with it.
As I sat in the waiting room on the day of the procedure, around my neck was a small Medicine Buddha necklace. I kept running my fingers over the small statue of the Medicine Buddha. When I was finally called back for the procedure, I kept it on. I asked if I could still wear it while they did the procedure. I was able to keep it as long as I kept it off my chest. I remember moving it so it lay against my neck. I heard the anesthesiologist say,"Here comes the Happy Juice." The next thing I know, I'm waking up and it's over.
It turns out that they could not start the bad rhythm. The electrical part of my heart was fine. The bad rhythm and high heart rate was NOT coming from the heart. It is coming from the Autonomic Nervous System. It seems that the Lupus has damaged it and it is causing the heart to pace too high. And it probably caused to V-tach. They've put me on medicine to bring down the heart rate, but I did not require the radio ablation.
What I learned through all this is that the comfort that I got from repeating the Medicine Buddha's mantra helped me to keep terror at bay. And knowing that I was really calling on my own strength and courage helped me to be able to face the unknown with a measure of calm and serenity.