MATTHEW’S PERSONAL STORY

Hello, my name is Matthew. I am 20 years old and currently a third year college student. Like so many stories on here, the initial onset of GERD felt like a heart attack. It all started on January 4th of this year (2022) while I was in New York for winter break. After enjoying some Chinese takeout, I felt like there was an object stuck in my chest and I had difficulty taking deep breaths. I did experience some heartburn that night. I drank some water and decided to lie down and sleep it off. Unfortunately, I did not sleep for very long as the sensation of an object being stuck in my chest turned into what felt like a tightening feeling, the classic “elephant sitting on my chest” feeling. After 5 AM, in a panic I called 911 as my pulse and heart were racing and my blood pressure was high and I was experiencing palpitations. When the ambulance arrived my pulse was in the 140’s. By the time I was in the ambulance it was dropping down to the 130’s and upon reaching the hospital and receiving fluids it dropped down to the 120’s and eventually low 100s. I was there for a few hours and had an EKG and a chest x-ray as well as troponin test for a heart attack. It was all clear and the only diagnosis was sinus tachycardia (resting heart rate greater than 100 BPM). They released me seeing as there was nothing else appearing abnormal. I went home still struggling to breathe normally and by 10 pm or so I was back again at another hospital, but a hospital that specializes in heart issues/defects. I did the same exams, chest x-ray, troponin test, COVID test, GFR test, again all normal, although they said that my C-Reactive protein levels (which measures inflammation in the body) was a little high but they could not tell me where. I was kept overnight for observation and was scheduled for an echocardiogram. The echocardiogram results were also normal, showing no aortic stenosis, no pericarditis, or anything imminently life threatening with the heart. After that, I was released but was advised to a scheduled follow-up with a cardiologist. Within a few days, I did just that and I did another EKG upon my office visit which was normal and I did a thyroid blood test which was also normal. I was placed on a holter monitor for 48 hours and it showed nothing abormal (no AFIB or ventricular tachycardia) but still the same diagnosis of sinus tachycardia. Tachycardia or palpitations are not always harmful per se, you can have tachycardia if you are doing an intense workout or if you suffer from anxiety. What’s concerning is when you’re in bed doing nothing to exert yourself, and you heart rate just spikes which is what mainly prompted me to call 911 along with the chest tightness. About three days before I left to go back to college, the cardiologist put me on metoprolol (25 MG once a day in the morning) for my blood pressure and to help with the fast heart rate issue. It did help to take the edge off a bit but I was still suffering from chest burning and feeling like my stomach was hot even though I did not have a fever. The one thing I could establish throughtout all this? I was always felt unwell after eating. I would feel short of breath and have chest pain after a meal. That was the first step to figuring out whether my ordeal was cardio or GI related. It wasn’t easy because through research you realize how many conditions that are non-cardiac related causing chest pain or tightness but they mimic heart conditions.

I did see another cardiologist in the area where I attend school (Fairfax, Virginia) and asked him about angina. Like GERD, it can cause a squeezing or burning pain behind the breastbone but the difference is that angina causes pain that can radiate to your arms, jaw, and back. He was concerned about my blood pressure as I did visit the ER again while I was away at school (1/30/2022) and it was as high as 172/100, which is pretty concerning for a young person just barely older than a teenager. He schueled me for a renal artery doppler scan, which is an exam that measures how well the flow of blood is in and out of the kidneys. The results of the test showed nothing abnormal. After doing a battery of tests because of 4 ER visits with most of them ruling out heart, lung, or kidney issues, I was advised to consult with a GI doctor. After nearly two months, and monitoring all my symptoms I had the following: sensation of lump in the throat (globus), constant belching, chest fullness, heartburn, heart palpitations, gasiness, and I had constipation for two weeks which was resolved by a taking a supplement known as benefiber. I came back to NY for spring break and had an upper endoscopy (3/19/2022) which revealed GERD (moderate reflux), esophagitis, and gastritis (moderate) but no ulcers or tumors. I am now currently taking famotidine, an H2 blocker.(40 MG morning and at bedtime) and metoprolol a beta-blocker (50 MG once a day in the morning). I was originally taking protonix (proton pump-inhibitor) which was prescribed by a GI doctor I had an appointment with via ZOOM telehealth on 3/2/2022. I was advised to discontinue that and switch to famotidine as of 3/17/2022. As of right now, it’s still a wait and see with the medication. ‘m definitely happy to have a diagnosis and I know that a huge part of treating this condition is through dietary modifications and lifestyle changes. Being raised in a West Indian household (Jamaican), we love to eat and eat big, not to the point of gluttony, but when it comes to certain dishes, we don’t skimp on portions. As a teenager, I used to stay up late and sometimes eat at odd hours (usually ordering fast food or eating other junk food) and then go straight to sleep which is a huge trigger for acid reflux and other GI problems. I made some poor choices admittedly, and I’m paying for it as I’m typing this. I am hoping that even if this is long-term, that I can manage it to the point where it’s not overwhelming. I think the palpitations which I still experience infrequently may be attributed to some anxiety, but I am having another follow-up with my cardiologist on Aprill 11th to officially put any heart concerns to rest. Hoping anyone else suffering with this right now can eventually find relief, GERD is not just simple heartburn or ” a little acid reflux” and don’t let doctors dismiss your concerns, ask if you can do certain exams or labs, it will give you peace of mind.

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