I’ve always been chubby. Always.
When I was about seven, I started getting these episodes where my heart would race and I would get light headed and even faint. My mom would call the pediatrician and he’d tell us to come in, but by the time we got there my heart had slowed down and, according to him, he had no way to check what it was.
He advised my mom to put me on a healthier diet and make me exercise more because it was probably my weight, even though I wasn’t that much overweight and I practiced softball for an hour a day.
So my mom did as he said and I didn’t really lose any weight. Also, the episodes continued to happen. They always ended before we could get to the doctor’s office. The doctor never ordered any kind of tests on my heart, though he did test my thyroid and scold my mom for apparently not trying hard enough to get me to lose weight.
This went on for five years. I’d be laying in bed and suddenly my heart would start beating so hard, my shirt would move. I’d stand up out of the bathtub and black out, causing me to fall out of the tub. I’d be playing softball or in gym class or just playing with my friends and suddenly I’d get light headed or my heart would race.
There would be several fruitless calls or visits to my doctor, who would insist that it was complications due to my weight and they would continue until I was a normal size. My mom was scolded. I was body shamed. I had blood drawn twice a year to test my thyroid. And yet the episodes continued.
Then, the week of my 12th birthday—also, the week I started my very first period— I didn’t want to go to school because the day before, a girl who had seen me in the bathroom had told everybody that I had started my period. In 6th grade, being chubby with frizzy hair and huge teeth, that was pretty much a social death sentence and I was mocked mercilessly for it.
So the next morning I woke up and begged my mom not to let me go to school. I cried and begged and she still insisted I go. So I went to change when suddenly, I felt an attack hit and I blacked out and fell, knocking things off of my desk. My mother heard the noise and found me dazed on the floor. I told her I could feel my heart beating hard again. You could see my shirt moving over my chest from how hard and fast my heart was beating.
My mom loaded me up in the car and took me to the pediatrician. This time, my heart continued to race and I remained light headed. They had to bring out a wheel chair to get me into the doctors office because I was too dizzy and weak to walk.
Once there, I was ushered into an examination room and I just laid down on the table. I couldn’t even sit up. They took my blood pressure and of course it was high, but they took it as a sign that my mother was feeding me salty, fatty foods instead of fruits and vegetables. they made me wait on the table for like two hours until an EKG machine was available in the office. I fell asleep for like half an hour because I was EXHAUSTED. Eventually, they sent us to the ER.
At the ER, they ushered me into a small little room with an EKG machine. They hooked it up and like fifteen seconds later, the nurse flipped shit. She called a “code blue” and about fifteen nurses rushed into this tiny room and then they raced me to another part of the ER. Didn’t tell my mom what was going on, just left her there and took off with me in the bed. They hooked me up to a ton of IVs and monitors and gave me medication to slow my heart that caused me to vomit everywhere.
Then they did a bunch of x-rays and EKG tests and kept me overnight. They found out that I had WPW, which is a tiny hole in the walls of the chambers of the heart, which caused my heart to beat so rapidly. They explained to my parents that this hadn’t happened as an effect of diet or habit, but that I had been born with this hole.
They also told her that me playing softball and being active with this condition was incredibly dangerous, because this is the condition that causes athletes to die on the field for seemingly no reason. The heart starts beating fast through exertion, the signals that cause the heart to beat get all scrambled and the heart beats so fast that it just gives out.
And the reason this particular attack had lasted so long was because it had come dangerously close to causing my heart to give out, which would have killed me. I ended up having to have heart surgery, something that should have been done 5 years earlier when I first started having the attacks.
But, because I was overweight, my doctor was more concerned with thinning me down than providing me with the treatment I needed to live a healthy life.