Wendy Swaim suffers from what's known as supra ventricular tachycardia (SVT).
"They said it was something that was just common in females after pregnancy or having a baby," Swaim says.
At first, Swaim attributed her symptoms to the anxiety and stress of being a new mom.
"I was having some sharp chest pains and shortness of breath," she recalls.
But after several months of dealing with a racing heart, Wendy decided it was time to see her doctor, who referred her to electrocardiologist Raj Chakka at St. Vincent in Little Rock.
"Young women are sometimes overanxious," Dr. Chakka says. "They could be having one of these rhythms, a tachycardia. Their heart starts going fast and it causes this anxious feeling. They are called anxiety or panic attacks. It takes a while before they see a cardiologist for a monitor to pick up the actual rhythm problem."
An EKG revealed supra ventricular tachycardia, a rapid-heart rhythm originating above the ventricular tissue.
"Normally, you have one single electrical cable between the top chamber and the bottom chamber," Dr. Chakka says. "The pacemaker is in the top chamber of the heart and the beats go through the electrical cable to the bottom and then the bottom pumps. Sometimes people are born with an extra cable between the top and bottom. So, you have a normal cable and an abnormal cable and you can make a loop and the heart sometimes goes into fast rhythm."
After trying four different medications to fix the problem, Dr. Chakka recommended a cardiac ablation, a procedure where small wires are placed inside the heart to measure its electrical activity.
Those electrodes can then be used to destroy the bad areas of the heart.
"I've had patients where they were always called panic attacks and once we fixed the arythym, the panic attacks went away," Dr. Chakka says.
Doctors usually see supra ventricular tachycardia in younger patients like Wendy Swaim and even in infants.
Because it comes and goes, patients often have to wear a monitor for 24 hours for a proper diagnosis.