Felt like it was end of my life – Heart Attack or Hyperventilation?

It was 13th July 2015 around 8am, I was in middle of traffic jam, rushing to hospital, with my left hand completely frozen, lips and feet flickering. It looked like this was last time and I am going to die today. It took 15 minutes to reach hospital and seemed like longest period in my life. That incident changed a lot in my life.

Panic attack

4 months back from around April, 2015, I started coding the Health-PIE App on Android. Bangalore traffic was very bad. I used to spend almost 3hrs daily on road and felt very unproductive. So I decided to go to office only once a week and most other days work from home. The schedule use to be like sleep at 9pm and get up early at 4am and work, continue this till 6pm in the evening. The only breaks I used to have was drinking water and visiting the toilet. Working from home all alone with wife at office and kids at school. I was confined to this room all days including weekends.

I slowly started getting anxiety during sleep. Did not had sound sleep and woke up couple of times with cold sweat. And it lead to sub-concious thinking that something is wrong with my heart and this build up specially while sleeping. I ignored taking medical help thinking that this is just my thoughts and nothing is wrong, but that could not control my anxiety.

To reduce stress and anxiety I started to walk and run in morning for an hour. It was good break and made me feel good. But I feel that I had anxiety still there but much reduced. It was mid year 2015, when one day while walking I noticed momentary numbness in my left hand thumb. I just gave it a jerk and it looked fine but I stopped and sat down on bench nearby. Few days earlier, there was minor heart attack in family and he was around 50yrs old. As per his experience it was left hand pressure and no pain. When he got to see doctor, a minor heart stroke was detected. That thought run through my mind and I got stuck that this is related to heart. I was at a lake behind our apartment which was around half a mile walk from our apartment. But for vehicle around 1.5km. I was even scared to walk back to my apartment. I quietly lied down on a bench and called my wife to come and pick me up. I told her what I felt. I asked her to bring 2-wheeler so that she can come quickly and we could quickly reach back.

There was no more numbness in thumb or any other thing. But from the moment I felt that numbness, I started taking deep breaths and little faster. I was on lying on that bench for 10 minutes. My wife came, the moment I got up I was worried if I could walk for 200 meters to vehicle. I started breathing fast. My legs were trembling, I could not even walk. My breathing rates were increased. Reached vehicle and my wife started driving. I told her to take me to RxDx hospital directly as that was the nearest one and I knew almost every doctor there. And the moment we hit the ITPL road with traffic, I panicked. By this time I have started feeling flickering in lips. I was breathing very fast. Flickering moved to fingers and then feet. I was under deep shock. I did not know what was happening, but I was worried that something is wrong with my heart. I just saw one lady from our apartment driving a car towards ITPL. I did not knew her. I just got down from 2-wheeler and rushed inside her car. She was kind enough and accepted me to take to RxDx. RxDx was hardly 700 meters away but we were stuck in traffic jam. I kept coughing and breathing hard. All terminal points in my body were flickering and slowly I felt pressure in my left hand. I could not move it. I rushed to check pulse but I was so much panicked that I could not feel my pulse. I was like my heart is not pumping enough blood. That is first time I felt today is my last day and 700 meters was the largest distance I was travelling. Thankfully the lady who was driving was very brave and rushed through traffic and make me reach RxDx. By the time I reached RxDx my left hand was totally immovable. At RxDx right from the security staff till the owner are my friend. As soon as they saw me they rushed me to emergency ward. Dr. Jayashree and Dr. Belliappa came and saw me and did quick examination. Dr. Belliappa is HOD at RxDx and a very great person at heart and also a great friend.

They heard what I was going through and did quick examination. I could hardly talk. They just gave me an Anti-anxiety, took ECG and everything looked fine. They rushed one blood test to see if heart muscles were under problem, it came negative. Even did a CT-scan to see if everything in my skull was fine. Within 15 minutes I started to feel normal. Dr. Belliappa mentioned that it was a panic attack and the symptoms I had were of hyperventilation. He had asked me to breath slowly.

Working on mTatva for almost 2+ yrs. I had learned about many medical conditions but not hyperventilation and panic attack. I had worked hard through out my life but never panicked. After 30 minutes, I read about hyperventilation on my phone. I could correlate it to me. But I decided to get this anxiety about my heart out of my head as I could not sleep properly. Also did all possible checks for why thumb felt numb. Spine MRI to ensure that no big issues there. Did all checks for heart to ensure everything is fine and every thing was fine. It was a panic attack. An attack where I felt today is my last day. I should not have breathed so hard.

From that day I felt relaxed. I could sleep properly in night. Anxiety was over. All my worries about heart were gone. I learned many things. Few of the them are:
  • If you are experiencing anxiety keeping you constantly worried. It will impact your health and sleep. Get medical help and get it out of your mind. Working out reduces the anxiety and stress drastically but none the less always take medical help.
  • Numbness in hand could be related to 100s of things which could not be a serious problem at all. Thinking that it is related to heart was not justifiable.
  • Do not over breath when facing an anxiety attack or panic attack. A healthy breathing rate for adult is probably 8-16 times in a minute. I was breathing almost 30-45 times in a minute that too for almost 15-20 minutes. If you feel flickering in limbs or lips, resume to normal breathing.
Little about hyperventilation – The moment you start breathing too fast the CO2 level in the blood reduces drastically changing the pH levels of blood. This leads to symptoms as if you are having an heart attack including chest pain. You can read more about hyperventilation here on our App created by our clinical team.

Health-PIE App got finally over by end of August 2015 and now liked by our users a lot. Feedback is awesome. We are constantly working on improving the App. We thank you all for your feedback.

By Baljit Singh Co-Founder & CEO @ mTatva.