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THE TELLTALE HEART
Dan Levin
May 20, 1985
Was the chest pain the author felt while running a sign of serious heart trouble? Trying to find the answer cost him many sleepless nights—and $8,983
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May 20, 1985

The Telltale Heart

Was the chest pain the author felt while running a sign of serious heart trouble? Trying to find the answer cost him many sleepless nights—and $8,983

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"Don't you have any ideas?" I asked him.

"None. As far as I'm concerned, you have a normal heart. It's just dilated. That's what every athlete has."

"O.K., but do I have a heart condition?"

"You do not, and you can do any and all exercise, to any extent, with no limitations at any time."

The next day I phoned the National Treasure. "But I knew you were normal," Oriscello said. "This kind of thing happens so often. I've had three similar cases recently. One of them concerned a 34-year-old woman, a 25-mile-a-week runner, who saw a psychiatrist twice a week because several cardiologists told her that she was in danger of suddenly dying. All she had were five consecutive premature beats, felt to be ventricular, on a Holter monitor. This is a normal phenomenon in many healthy young people.

"There was a 2:24 high school marathoner who wanted to get into one of the service academies and was disqualified because his EKG showed a phenomenon called second-degree heart block. This is the ultimate in physical conditioning, and yet his parents were told. There's something wrong with the electrical system of your son's heart.'

"And then I had a superb 17-year-old high school soccer player. He had some isolated T-Wave changes on his EKG, and his echocardiogram showed some ventricular thickening. This was a normal echo. It wasn't a reflection of cardiomyopathy, but of changes brought about by training, and yet several reputable pediatric cardiologists told his family that he, too, was in danger of sudden death."

Four days later, I brought the film of my angiogram to Scheidt. After coming this far, I wanted to be an expert on the subject of my coronary arteries. Scheidt studied the film and said, "Your coronary arteries are quintessentially normal. You do have a mild abnormality of the ventricular wall, which is irrelevant. And one area at the bottom of your heart doesn't contract normally. In 90 percent of males that means arterial blockage, but not in your case. Overall, your heart works at the highest limits of normal."

I was satisfied. I was ready to start living again, but seven weeks of my life were missing. So I started filling in the blanks. One day I even ate two slices of pizza, and somehow I knew they wouldn't kill me. I started running faster, and on a blue-sky day in the new year I found myself passing the Friedsam Memorial Carousel in Central Park. Children were going up and down on the horses, and I was singing and dancing to the music.

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