Normal Heart

Hole in the Heart or Patent Foramen Ovale

Things have been progressing the last few months with great progress on recovering my right side and speech. Stroke fatigue and tiredness are the difficult ones to work through as the fatigue appears whether you do to much or nothing at all! I will put together a separate post covering the challenges faced with picking up a cup of tea or even cleaning my teeth and shaving along with short term memory.

However, this post is to share some good news and some bad news as the doctors like to say ?
The good news is after several more follow up tests we have an answer for my strokes the bad news is it is a large hole in my heart with what they call a shunt from right to left which means unoxygenated blood gets mixed directly into my left chamber without going through the lungs along with any clots, apparently as we get older we all have small clots flowing round the body which the lungs would filter out before the blood reaches the brain. So any clots in my blood get direct access through the hole into my left chamber and straight to the brain giving me around an 80% chance of a Stroke.

If you listened at school, Something maybe I should have done in biology as the teacher would have explained that the heart is a muscle that pumps blood through the body at a rate of six litres per minute and that it is split into two sides (left and right), each of which has two chambers (an atrium and a ventricle). The right side of the heart pumps de-oxygenated blood to the lungs, where the red blood cells bind to oxygen. Blood from the lungs then returns to the left side of the heart, from where it is pumped out to the rest of the body so that the various tissues and organs can use that oxygen. Having delivered oxygen to the tissues, the blood then returns to the right side of the heart to begin the cycle again. Blood flows throughout the circulatory system in what is essentially a series of tubes; veins carry blood to the heart, while arteries carry blood from the heart.

So from a basic standpoint, the heart pumps oxygen-poor blood from the right side to the lungs (which filters any small clots for us) which fills the blood with oxygen, it then delivers oxygen-rich blood to the left side which pumps it to the rest of the body.

What does a hole in the heart mean to me? Well in short the oxygen poor blood that enters my right chamber can decide to bypass my lungs and mix straight in with the oxygenated blood in my left chamber, any clots that maybe in this blood also gets to bypass the lungs which would have filtered them out and the left side of the heart can pump the clots straight to my brain thus causing a Stroke. Mixing poor oxygenated blood which can go to my brain may cause me to feel light headed faint etc…

So while I thought I was trying to improve on my fatigue from Stroke recovery and starting to work on my cardiovascular any thing I did was making no difference at all and I was gasping for breath, having chest pains and tightness feeling faint etc… all because I have a large hole in my heart.

A change of medication for me to a strong anticoagulant to prevent my blood from clotting which also means if I cut myself shaving it will bleed al lot more than it usually does ?

I am now awaiting an appointment with a cardiologist to discuss closing the hole with a couple of umbrella looking devises bolted together either side of the hole… This means all plans for my Dartmoor in a Day hike and walks are postponed until next year when hopefully I will have the hole closed up!