A Very Near Brush With Death

Right. Step one is a special super thank-you to my bud Ernie Reardon, without whom I would probably not be talking to you all. I’m going to do something really nice for him. Of course he probably won’t let me.

Earlier this month on 7 November, I went back to the Gastrointestinologist because my acid reflux was acting up again. He suggested I resume Nexium 2x per day instead of 1x per day. I had, as instructed dropped back to 1x per day after 90 days. His assistant, also an MD, suggested Claritin-D/24hr and he agreed. Not a big deal, especially since we know I’ve got allergies to dust and such. (See previous blog posts). I resumed the 2x Nexium 8 November.

I began taking the Claritin-D on 9 November before bed. It kept me from sleeping, making me restless, so I started taking it in the morning instead, starting 11 November. Since it was a 24hr pill, this shouldn’t matter. I also had left, on 10 November, for my trade show in Las Vegas (also a previous blog post). The Claritin-D worked remarkably well, and my severe morning reflux issues almost entirely vanished after a few days.

Over the course of that week in Las Vegas, I noticed my heart seemed to be beating faster, but I thought it might be my imagination. After all, I was at a trade show in Las Vegas, where there are rumours people drink a bit more than they normally do, you’re surrounded by smokers, there’s a lot going on that might cause more excitement than you would normally get in a given day. That and all the wonderful food. The rapid heartbeat kept up even after I returned home. It slowly worsened — coming and going both fast and slow — and I wasn’t sure what it was. I didn’t connect it to the Claritin-D. A possibly nearly fatal mistake.

By 22 November, Thanksgiving Day, it felt like my heart was beating really fast, then really slow, and then back to normal for a few hours, but when it started going, I thought it was going to burst right out of my chest. I had no way to confirm my feelings except putting my hand on my chest and feeling it admittedly not very scientific. It was, indeed, very noticeable. I did not have the “heart attack symptoms” such as pain in the arm, blue coloured fingers and toes, chest pain, shortness of breath, and so on. So I didn’t panic and think I was having a heart attack.

During this time, I became extremely fatigued, falling asleep often even mid-day, sometimes getting light-headed. As the week progressed my heart got louder and louder, so I could hear the pounding in my ears, and even see spots in front of my eyes in time with each beat. I realized something was amiss, but I didn’t know what. I decided, perhaps, on Monday if it wasn’t better, I might get around to calling the doctor. As a guy, I wish to report that it’s true: we hate going to the doctor.

It so happened the evening of Friday, 23 November, I ran into my friend Ernie on-line (AIM). We chit-chatted and he asked how I was. So, I told him. He said it sounded like an Arrhythmia. Ernie has a medical background and uses big medical words I don’t know. So, I peeked at Google, Google knows everything, trust me. It so happened that several of the matches specifically mentioned Claritin-D. I followed the link and saw a mention very rare side-effect of which is not listed on the box.

So I stopped taking it, to see if I would get better. At that time, I also sent a fax to the doctor’s office letting him know what I discovered. I figured if it got worse, I’d call emergency. I exercised on Saturday morning for 45 straight minutes (ice skating) with no problem, though that’s about 1 hour less than normal. It didn’t kill me though.

The GI doctor called me first thing Monday morning and told me to see my primary care doctor and then have my doctor call him. I saw my doctor today (Tuesday) as soon as he got back in town. I decided I’d rather wait until today and see my doctor rather than some random doctor in the hospital.

He spent quite some time with me. We did x-rays, EKG, and all sorts of other tests. All these results were compared with the base-line tests we did after my 40th birthday when I had a complete physical. Happily, it appears I have suffered no serious damage and that all of this was a reaction to the Claritin-D as it built up in my system. We are awaiting (Friday) results of my blood spectrum and toxicology reports. He’s checking my thyroid as well, but based on my weight we’re pretty sure that’s not it.

Irregular heart rhythms can also occur in “normal, healthy” hearts. But I first got mine a few days after starting the Claritin-D. According to WebMD, although arrhythmias may be normal in certain settings, they can be life threatening in other situations. This is because certain abnormal heartbeats that result from electrical dysfunction in the heart make the heart unable to pump enough blood to keep a person alive. In other cases, irregular heartbeats can lead to blood clots, which can cause a stroke or brain damage and other tissue damage.

This really sucks, too. You know why? The Claritin worked very well and reduced my Acid Reflux to negligible levels indicating it is indeed at least partially allergen related. However, both doctors insist under no circumstances may I take any allergy drugs of any type for at least one month and then, only after a full consultation.

Leave a Reply