Atrial Fibrillation - How to Recognize - Cardiovert and Recovery
Recenty I wrote about Death taking a holiday on my behalf when I escaped serious harm after becoming choked on some chicken breast I was snacking on. In that story, I relayed a condition I have known as Atrial Fibrillation, or A-Fib. This is a rapid, irregular heartbeat that occurs without notice, sometimes for no known reason at all. If controlled in short order, it will do no damage to speak of; but if not, it could result in serious consequences up to and including death. The pericardium could become enlarged to a dangerous level, due to the irregular heartbeat not properly moving the blood through the heart's systems, thereby causing a situation which could result in a massive coronary and death.
I was getting ready for bed last night, settling down to a much anticipated good night's sleep. I usually read for a while before turning out the lights and this was no exception. About 9:00 PM, I felt a little hitch in the giddyup of my chest. I stopped reading, and paid attention. Yup, a hitch. I was suddenly slightly short of breath, and I could feel just a hint of pressure on my chest. I sat up, and paid closer attention. Most definitely, I had experienced my latest beginning of a battle with A-Fib.
I put down my book (Deception Point by Dan Brown - a pretty good thriller thus far) and went to where my daughter Madison was relaxing. I asked her to take my pulse, saying just that I wanted her to tell me what she could feel. She grasped my wrist and held it for a long moment and said my pulse was somewhat rapid and definitely irregular. I nodded, and went off to the medicine cabinet for an aspirin. Experience has taught me that this is perhaps the most crucial thing I can do when A-Fib arrives unannounced and unwelcome on my doorstep. In the meantime, Madison went to inform my wife Tina. She came and sat with me in the dark of the living room as I lay still and quiet, breathing deeply and slowly to try and release the heartbeat back to normal. After about 30 minutes, I realized this was one of those times that will require medical attention. Crap!!!
So I drove myself the 10 miles to the hospital, calling my job connections as I went to set up the following work day. I knew that I would not be at work, that I would be recovering from another Cardiovert. Oh, what fun. Upon arrival, I went to the desk, laying out exactly what I was feeling. Within moments, I was taken to the head of the line and whisked away to the hidden realm of The Emergency Room (cue sound effects: duh Duh DUH!!) Once there, it was mere minutes before I was hooked up to more electronics that Best Buy had on their best day. People moving in and out of the tiny room, taking readings on my vitals and attaching sticky things to the hair on my chest (Oh, the pain when they come off!). I was hooked up to an IV and given some kind of medicine to try and convert my heart to normal sinus rhythm. This was at 10:05 PM.
By 1:30 AM this morning I was still in A-Fib. The nurse checked me in as an official patient and took me up to my room for the duration, telling me the doctor would be by to visit with me in the morning. The rest of the might was spent in various EKG's, blood taking for lab work, vitals taken innumerable times, sleep attempts interrupted by more of the same, finally getting a chance at some shuteye at about 5:30 AM. Back awake by 7:00 AM, I was anticipating the doctor's visit on his rounds. Promptly at 9:00 AM, he arrived, and after speaking with me for a bit, agreed with my diagnosis of A-Fib, along with my requiring a cardiovert procedure. He left to set it up, promising that it would take place before noon.
My wife had arrived about 8:30 AM after a sleepless night of her own. Today was the first day back to school for our district, so she was busy getting our little chicks out the door and off to school before coming up to see me. She was there for the meeting with the doctor, and stayed for the duration. When the nurse came to take me to the operating room, she went along for the ride. Once there, she settled down to wait with me for the procedure and then take me home.
A flurry of activity preceded the arrival of the doctor. More IV's, pulling off the sensors placed on the hair of my chest (OUCH!!!) and replacing them with other, even more sticky sensors. Then, a great big sensor that covered most of the front of my chest and a matching one for my back. These would be the instruments of my resurrection (or demise - stick around to find out which it would be). Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for. The Doctor came in, and ushered my wife out of the room to the waiting area. Then, he injected the sedative into my IV and I promptly dropped off to sleep. A few moments later, I awoke to find Tina by my side, smiling down at me, welcoming me back to the land of the living. While I felt better in my heart region, my chest itself felt as though it had been kicked by a Clydesdale. Raising my shirt, we saw the marks left by the pads. They resembled hoof prints of a Clydesdale.
After a bit, they took my back to my room to wait for the doctor to make his final judgement in about 2 hours. Stiff and sore, I tried to rest while we waited, but in vain. Finally the time came to be released to Tina's gentle ministrations. She left to bring the SUV around, and the nurse took me down to the atrium to wait. About thirty minutes later, we arrived at home where I promptly fell asleep on the couch waiting for the kids to come home. Caleb, our youngest, was particularly concerned for me. Somehow, he got the idea that by having my heart stopped and restarted, I would lose all of my memories and have to start over again. How sweet; he was truly worried. It was such a relief to give him a hug and let him know I was alright. We sat and did a page of homework for school, and as I write this, he is sitting beside me watching closely.
I am tired of having close calls. While it is better to have close calls than final calls, I still am ready for some easy times with no stress regarding health or finances or any other issues for a while. I am asking God for a respite, to have the chance at enjoying the moment for a bit. I ask this for you and yours as well. May God Bless.
Have you ever had Atrial Fibrillation?
Link to the Mayo Clinic
- Atrial fibrillation - MayoClinic.com
Atrial fibrillation — Comprehensive overview covers symptoms, causes and treatment of this common heart disorder.