I have had more medical problems than anyone else I know. During childhood and even throughout my teenage years, I have been a victim of disease after disease. Most have been life threatening at one point or another; I guess you could say it’s a miracle I’m still living to write this.

When I was growing up, I was constantly in and out of the hospital for various reasons. I never broke a bone, and still haven’t to this day, but the doctors always seemed able to find something wrong with me. Their beliefs led to endless medical testing and traveling to several prominent children’s hospitals to see many specialists and other acclaimed experts. I still remember much of it today.

When I was in early elementary school, for example, I was so much taller and bigger than all the other kids that my parents and teachers were worried about my health. I was on a little league softball team, and my coach had noticed some oddities concerning my performance. After doing anything strenuous, I would get so dizzy that if I didn’t immediately sit down, I’d fall. My heart would be beating so hard I couldn’t breathe normally. This would continue for a few hours, and then go away all on its own. After being tested several times in several hospitals, the doctors concluded I suffered from tachycardia. I was never told exactly what it meant, and I’ve always been curious. According to the medical dictionary, tachycardia has the following meaning:

\"tak-i-'kärd-E-u\ n : relatively rapid heart action whether physiological (as after exercise) or pathological

I did some more research and found even more detailed information. I’m not sure which applied to me, but I found the entire topic interesting. It turns out there are several types of tachycardia. One of the most serious is Ventricular tachycardia, a rapid heartbeat initialized within the ventricles, which is characterized by three or more consecutive premature ventricular beats. This is potentially fatal, because it can cause the heart to lose its ability to pump enough blood through the body. The heartbeat can reach between 160 and 240 beats per minute. Ventricular tachycardia can occur spontaneously. It can also develop as a complication of a heart attack (rare in children), cardimyopathy, mitral valve prolapse, myocarditis, and after heart surgery. It can be triggered by changed levels of chemicals in the blood, a change of pH level in the blood, or insufficient oxygenation. Ventricular tachycardia can be either stable (rapid pulse) or unstable (no pulse).

Some of the symptoms include chest discomfort, palpitations, shortness of breath, decreased urine output, and dizziness due to low blood pressure. I remember having to stay in the hospital all day in order to have that certain ‘output’ measured to the mL. It was embarrassing as a child, and scary. I had no idea what they were doing to me. Sometimes I wouldn’t produce any all day, and I would be hooked up to an IV full of saline or some sort of electrolyte until I did.

There are many tests that can be performed to assess the disease. An EKG, EPS, and continuous use of a Holter monitor are the most common. During the past few years, I have only had to go to the emergency room maybe three or four times when a spell of tachycardia hit me, and they would do an EKG, and then send me home after my heart had slowed, wearing one of the before mentioned Holter monitors.

There are also numerous treatments for the disease. The type of treatment completely depends on the circumstances and background of each specific patient, so almost no generalizations can be made. Some of the most common treatments are medication such as lidocaine and procainamide, and beta-blockers or amiodarone. Often, no treatment is needed. Sometimes this disease can become an emergency situation, and CPR will be necessary.

Surgery may be used in some severe cases, or implanted devices called AICDS. AICD stands for Automatic Implanted Cardiac Defibrillator. Basically, it can sense the ventricular tachycardia and administer a shock to make it stop.

Tachycardia may cause sudden death, depending on the sufferer and his or her heart and health history. I was told that it is common in children, and they later outgrow it. I didn’t find any sources to back up this information, although it does seem to be the case in my life. I haven’t had any problems with it since my freshman year. This disease occurs in about two in ten thousand people.


This is a much-edited version of a research paper I wrote for Anatomy class.

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