What It's Like Being a Kinesiology Student With a Heart Condition

When I accepted my offer into my Bachelor of Kinesiology degree three years ago, I knew university was going to be challenging. What I didn’t know, however, is that I would become part of the population I so frequently learn about: cardiac patients.

I have an arrhythmia known as inappropriate sinus tachycardia (yes, its wordy). I recently just got this official name, but have been living with this condition since the end of my first year of university. Apparently, this is considered a rare cardiac arrhythmia and a form of dysautonomia.

After first being diagnosed, I don’t think too much changed in my life. I started a beta blocker and other than feeling a little too young to be on a drug like that, nothing really changed too much. I bought a heart rate monitor watch and continued with my normal routine. However, being a kin student, we like to exercise. I exercise when I’m happy, sad, angry, frustrated; I exercise to help me study what I’m reading in a textbook and learning in lecture, I exercise for my labs and I exercise because learning about this 24/7 does result in some amount of motivation. When I hit the start of my third year, the exercise-based courses, which are mandatory and include fairly intense labs, started to pop up more and more.

But OK, no problem. I’m on beta blockers. This weird tachycardia I get sometimes can’t stop me. I may have been a little wrong.

Not to say I’ve been hospitalized constantly or anything like that, but I’ve had a few bad days which have increased more than usual and some emergency room and urgent care trips. Being a kin student, I can also tell you there’s this thing called a dose-response curve, which basically tells us that eventually we hit a plateau with medication and don’t get as large of an effect as we once did. I can confirm this is true, and is probably the source of some of my problems.

My relationship with exercise has been forced to change. I am more driven than ever, and want to try all these cool training methods I’m learning, but I had to realize something – I am limited. This initially frustrated the heck out of me. I was so angry I just couldn’t do what everyone else was without literally feeling like I was having a heart attack. I was angry that I was just constantly so tired, that even with 11 hours of sleep I would still wake up wanting to nap, and I was bitter that people, most likely unknowingly, started talking down to me, saying things like, “Wow, for you that was so good!”

I am limited, but I am also capable.

And that’s something – particularly lately as I’ve started to experience more symptoms – I have made my mantra. I do have a heart condition, and it sucks (some days more than other). But this isn’t my defining feature. It’s not imperatively life-threatening, can be relatively well-managed and I will not be bedridden or unable to live my life. While it is certainly a key part of me and something I need to constantly take into account, I’ve surpassed many people’s expectations of what I can physically do. I participate in all my labs and push myself to match my peers. I work out most days, and lately, even at my sickest, I’ve excelled the most at the gym.

So don’t underestimate me or make assumptions about what I can or can’t do next time I say I’m a kinesiology student with a heart condition, because with all this training I’ve been doing, I am more than capable of out-squatting you or correcting your form! Ask me about it in order to learn more and educate yourself on some of the different obstacles people face (or, if you’re anything like me, because anatomy and physiology is incredibly interesting to you!).

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Thinkstock photo via Bojan89.

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