O.K., I'm freaking out. I just learned that my sister Vanessa has idiopathic Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) heart disease. Three days before Christmas, she went to the hospital complaining of tiredness, shortness of breath, and nausea. She attributed her symptoms to an asthma attack, which she occasionally has, but she ended up spending four days in the hospital after they determined she was experiencing congestive heart failure caused by ventricular fibrillation and had a case of pneumonia, along with secondary pulmonary hypertension.
My sister is only 40 years old. WTF! There is little history of heart disease in our family that we know of, and her heart problem is not, despite her diabetes and weight issues, related to coronary artery disease (her angioplasty came back clean and her cholesterol levels are low). The doctors think it might be a result of an infection in the heart muscle (possibly the pneumonia), or her sleep apnea. According to the research I've done today since learning of this, it looks like there's a high genetic-familial correlation, and the Cardiomyopathy Association recommends first-degree relatives (that's me) be tested for DCM. So I'm worried about myself, too, in addition to my sister.
So now she's at home, on oxygen and tons of meds, and she's scheduled to receive an implantable cardioverter defibrilator (ICD). The opposite of a pacemaker, which speeds up the heart, this device will detect sped-up, erratic arrythmias and shock the heart in order to 'reset' it to the normal, rhythmic pattern of a healthy heart. The scariest part is that she's been told that there is a 33% chance of full recovery with this treatment plan; otherwise she gets placed on the heart transplant list. (Holy shit, I just made the connection: that's the story line behind the episodes of Grey's Anatomy in which Denny gets an LVAD and subsequently dies. Fuck.)
Feel free to jump in and tell me that everything will be o.k., and neither one of us is going to die an untimely death. Fuck. Seriously, FUCK.