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Atrial fibrillation leads to stroke

Viv’s story starts back in 2009 when he was first diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Shortly afterwards he had a TIA or ‘mini-stroke’. This is Viv’s story in his own words.

Good afternoon, Viv here, Viv short for Vivian.

I lost my wife to breast cancer back in 1997, and in 2001 I lost my youngest daughter which certainly didn’t help my life. Being self-employed I was probably under a bit of stress at times with work and things but I never realised that affected me.

I’ve always been fairly healthy – in fact, I’ve never in my life had a day in hospital prior to having the stroke, so I was always very lucky like that.

But back in mid July 2009 I had to have a colonoscopy, due to my eldest brother being diagnosed with bowel cancer in March. He consequently died in November 2009. My two younger brothers had also been diagnosed with the signs of bowel cancer.

At the private hospital, prior to my test time, my heart was beating fast and I was informed I would need to have an ECG later. The ECG was done at my GPs and it showed I had atrial fibrillation, so they started me on a blood thinner medication in September 2009.

Medication changes

At a follow up appointment six months later, on 4 February 2010, the specialist stopped that medication. I think it was because I was very healthy looking. At the time he said I looked in better condition than people ten or twenty years younger than myself.  But it wasn’t long after this that I had the stroke... 

On 17 February 2010 I saw a different specialist, supposedly to be fitted with a Holter monitor. He said, “Well why did the last doctor stop the medication?”

I told him about the above-mentioned reasons and that for this particular appointment I thought I was going to have a Holter monitor fitted, as I had received a notice to say I would be having one done soon.

The new English relieving specialist said, “Well if you’re not on that medication, you’ve got to be on something else.” He gave me a prescription to get aspirin, so I went to the chemist on the way home to fill this prescription.

At that stage I never had the Holter monitor fitted.

The stroke

When I got home I rang my mate Mike. I was going to do some welding for him on a stainless steel tank for his truck. When he arrived I couldn’t find the stainless steel welding wire and Mike said, “Oh don’t worry Viv, I’ll shoot home and get it.”

When he came back I was on the floor. Apparently I’d had the stroke, or showed signs of having had one.

Mike said, “What’s the matter with you Viv?” And I said, “Nothing, why?”

He said, “Yes there is.”

He rang the ambulance and I was probably a bit confused because I gave the wrong number for my address. But they found the place anyway, as luckily I told them we were between two phoenix palm trees.

I was up in hospital for two nights. I recovered fairly quickly which was good and I didn’t really have a lot of after effects. I probably drooped a bit on the left-hand side of my mouth and my left arm and leg were a bit weak, but I recovered reasonably well.

Staying well

After that I had to start back on the blood thinner again and I’m still on that now. Each month I go for an INR test (a test to monitor my response to the medication) and my results stay pretty constant, so it never varies much in that respect. I consider myself reasonably healthy and I stay fairly fit.

I wouldn’t say I’m super fit now, as I get older I’m a bit lazy when it comes to walking and things, outside my work hours. But my work is fairly physical and involves climbing ladders, heavy lifting and a fair amount of walking in and out of the shed back to my vehicle for gear etc. Generally I’m in good health and enjoy life. I’m just happy to be around, with my minor problems.

If anyone else has got a problem like this they should get it looked at, especially with atrial fibrillation, which is something I understand is quite important when it comes to strokes.


Shared August 2017

Please note: the views and opinions of the storyteller and related comments may not necessarily reflect those of the Heart Foundation NZ.

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