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Roller Coasters/Theme Parks
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Roller Coasters/Theme Parks

Sorry for the lack of medical terms and specifics-- this is about my best friend and college roommate.

My roommate was born with severe congenital heart problems-- I'm not exactly sure what they are, but I know they included pulmonary atresia. She had surgery as a baby and child several times (I believe she's had 5 or so open hearts in her life) and she's in her mid-twenties now. She had her most recent cath. last fall when she was acting sicker, and they gave her stronger and more frequent medicine which she HAS to take regularly (she used to be bad for skipping).

She is flying to Orlando this weekend with her boyfriend and some friends of his and they are all really big roller coaster enthusiasts (so is she) and they are all really determined to ride everything they can get into at Disney World and Universal, and I don't know what else. I tried to look up accidents at those parks and almost every one I found that wasn't a freak accident was a pre-existing heart condition, which she certainly has.

When I ask her not to ride any roller coasters or thrill rides she just laughs and tells me that she knows her limits and her doctor says she's fine and that I'm not her mother, but I'm really worried about her. She has ridden roller coasters years before now but none since being on this new medication and none since I've known her, which has been the past 3 years or so. I'm so worried about her but she's VERY sensitive about her heart and gets mad really fast when I mention it.

I know she has limitations to her heart, I've seen them living with her. She tires easily, she can't walk very far or run at all, she has to sit down often and rest, she has to drink LOTS of water constantly, and she can't handle incredibly upsetting emotions-- they make her feel sick. She has somewhat regular arrhythmias (sp?) and we'll be sitting and watching a movie and she'll just kind of feel her heart race, or in class, or out on dates, and she has to quiet herself down. She is also recently started an ADHD drug to help her lose weight, or so she says. I thought ADHD drugs would be bad for your heart. I think it's called Concerta. (Sorry if that's irrelevant, it just adds to my anxiety)

I know she's convinced she'll be fine, that she knows her limits and her body... but every single one of those people with pre-exisiting conditions that died didn't get onto those rides thinking they'd die. They all thought they knew their limits and hearts too. Does anyone think I have a reason to be worried, or should I trust her judgement? I love her so much and I can't imagine life without her.
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976897_tn?1379171202
I think I understand her perspective exactly, and it really isn't uncommon. After I had a heart attack and was successfully stented, I knew there were other blockages causing issues and family members were always telling me to take it easy, don't lift that, don't do that. It does get annoying. I understand that you care, as I understood this from my family, but you have to trust how the person with the condition can feel their symptoms. By the sound of it, she knows when to slow down because her body gives her warning signs that she recognises. I'm the exact same. As soon as I feel the early tell tale signs, I quickly relax and let things cool off. She will have become very tuned into her heart and body and feel it in ways that you can only imagine. I can tell anyone what my heart rate is and when tested I am only usually +/- 5 beats off. I am normally pretty close to knowing my blood pressure too. You would be surprised at how you can feel these things. Personally, I would give her space and trust her judgement. Believe me, from experience, when she feels something is not right, she will tell you. About 4 times in the last two years I've recognised new symptoms which have triggered me to ask advice about whether I should go to hospital. When she feels unsure, she will let you know. She really is lucky to have someone like you caring so much, she knows that and I can tell you she does feel safer for it. The added security goes a long way. I really take my hat off to you and just suggest that you stop worrying so much because it will make you end up with a heart condition. If you are more relaxed, she will be too. She is young and wants as much quality to her life as possible, towards the normal, and it's great she is so strong willed. This has come a lot from you, giving her the extra security, being there for her. So, again in a nutshell, trust her :)

I hope this helps
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367994_tn?1304957193
I'm surprised you aren't stressed out!  Has your good friend been prescribed beta blocker medicaton.  It maintains good heart rhythm, limits palpitations and shortness of breath, and sweating and the physical symptoms people experience when they're in anxiety inducing situations.   That would help maintain regular heartbeat.  And beta blockers tend to be used most frequently in situations where there is performance anxiety or public speaking anxiety situation and they work primarily by actually blocking the physical manifestations of anxiety, so they have very little effect on the emotional sense of anxiety.

Thanks for sharing.
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi, Callie--

What a wonderful friend you are; everyone should have a friend as caring and concerned as you are.

It's so hard not to worry when you care so much about someone.

It is ultimately up to her what rides she goes on and what rides she doesn't. From personal experience, though, I would suggest she avoid the ride that is called Mission Space at Epcot Center. It is said to mimic the G forces that astronauts undergo in space and former astronauts actually attest to the fact that it does just that.  

I have a long history of heart issues--diagnosis has changed over the years, presumably due to better diagnostic technology and different criteria for classification, as well as age. My heart is strong in that I can run for an hour without difficulty. A few years ago when we were down in Florida, I watched older people coming off the ride and they looked OK, so I decided to ignore the warning sign and went on it anyway. I truly regretted going on it. I lived through it, but I will not go on it again, ever.  

Maybe you can just ask her not to go on that one ride. Tell her a woman you talked with said it ruined my day, I did not enjoy it at all, and the next day I still felt lousy (all true), which made it hard to do the things we wanted to do. We lost almost 2 days of our vacation because I decided to go on that silly ride. (Ironically, on the way back to our hotel the day I went on Mission Space, I overhead a woman talking about the ride to her friend and she said it took her a good day after she went on that ride to feel like herself again.) That might be the best approach. (I tell everyone I know that's going down there, anyone who has any type of health issue, to just skip that ride.)  

Also, kenkeith makes an excellent point. She should check into beta blockers.

---Yvette
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Avatar_m_tn
After having heart attack in 2009 I haven't been on a coaster since due to warnings and friends and family stopping me. My reason  going to the park was to ride the coasters but since my incident I have lost all interest in going to any park.
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