From perfect health to atrial fibrillation

At 67, Roger had never had any health issues and there was no history of heart disease in his family. The first sign of any trouble was a few dizzy spells.

Roger was playing golf twice a week, walking a kilometre every morning before breakfast, and eating a sensible low-fat diet.

But then came the dizzy spells, a few while playing golf. By the time he’d get to a doctor, however, the symptoms would be gone.

“When I first went to my GP with my wife, I wasn’t showing any symptoms. And my doctor told me that I would have to have an episode for him to be able to diagnose me.

“After about a year these episodes got more frequent, until one day I was so bad my wife called the ambulance. I was immediately diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. A condition I will have now for life.”

The ups and downs of treatment

Initially, Roger was prescribed a beta blocker which helped, but a month later he was back in A&E with another AF episode.

He was then put on a different beta blocker which he found to be effective, though for Roger there have been side-effects.

“I feel lethargic, tired and have a dull headache. The cardiologist says most people are okay with (the medication) but I have quite a few side-effects, which they said may go away. It’s a question of the lesser of the two evils, as if I stop the pills the AFib will get worse.”

“I must admit, I have had a bumpy heart a few times, but not gone into acute AFib again. Without the hospital and its skilled staff and all their knowledge and equipment, we would all be in a real mess.”

Loss of confidence

Though the episodes are fewer and shorter now (every two to three weeks), AF is never far from Roger’s mind.  

“I get weary socialising and I don’t like being away from home, even for a few days. What if I have an episode and I need medical attention straight away? It’s worrying and upsetting,

“Sometimes I can feel faint, dizzy and weak. An episode can happen within half-an-hour and last for two to three hours. And although it’s not life-threatening at the moment, I know that it can lead to a stroke.”

Knowing that there is medical help nearby is a comfort, he says.

“You just need to know that you have people available to look after you.

“I joined St John’s which is reassuring and I don’t hesitate to go to hospital if I need to. The staff are so very, very good because they understand that even a panic attack can lead to AFib and vice versa, so even if it’s a false alarm they are really good about it.”

When making travel plans last Christmas to see family, Roger wondered how he would cope with the flight and keeping up with the grand-kids. Ultimately it gave him peace of mind knowing he’d be close to Wellington Hospital should he need its services.

“Reassurance is the key,” he says. “AFib is miserable and I pity anyone who gets it, but we’re alive and luckier than some.”

 “The only advice I can offer is, make sure you get into the hospital and get your condition properly diagnosed and managed. They have the skills and knowledge. Although it scares the pants off you when it happens, you don’t usually die from it, but untreated there is a strong chance of a stroke.’

 

Shared June 2017

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

Find similar stories

View all stories

15 Comments

  • Tom 25 May 2021

    I’ve had atrial fib for many years.  It would come and go.  But as I got older, it was more prevalent.  I had an ablation done by a Doctor who was a Harvard grad.  3 weeks after, AF came back, but that’s normal as your heart starts to adjust to the scaring.  The scaring, according to what I read needs to develop and could take a few months to work well.  I also experienced dizziness which is also a part of the procedure.  I mean if you feel very dizzy, then seek help.  But my dizziness wasn’t really that bad and I had no vertigo.  Just uncomfortable.  However, when I went back into A-fib, it lasted 36 hours and was the longest episode I have ever had.  I was told to take an antiarrhythmic, Flecainide 100mg 3x daily.  I have taken this med before, but it seemed like it never worked.  Back then, I was only taking 100mg a day.  So yesterday morning, I took a Flec and it still didn’t work.  I called my electrophysiologist and he said you can take a maximum of 300mg a day.  Take two more and maybe we’ll get lucky, he said.  And low and behold, it worked about three hours after I took 200mg more.  So today, I’ll take three.  Morning noon and night.  This morning I got up and felt a bit dizzy.  I walked on the treadmill for a mile and feel a bit better.  I mean the dizziness isn’t that bad, it’s just annoying.  Good luck to you all!  If you have A-fib and the cardiologist says you’ll need an ablation, get it done!  These electrophysiologists, do it every day and it can help you.  Of course there are risks like everything else.  :)

  • Ger 15 May 2021

    I was diagnosed with a fib 12 months ago. I have had an ablation and 2 cardio versions. Nothing has worked. I was put on meds but nothing seems to suit me. Now I am on blood thinners and beta blockers. These meds do not suit me either. I get weakness chest pain and high heart rate a lot and have had several trips to the A and E over the year. I am seriously fed up of all of it and scared most of the time. I am 68 and feel my life is over because of this debilitating illness.

  • Colin 3 April 2021

    I used to have afib occasionally and eventually I was cardioverted. That lasted a few months and I always felt tired . Last year I was cleaning the top of our campervan and I fell off. That night my heart rate soared and I went to my doc who gave me digoxin which got the rate back down but now I’m in afib most days mostly getting about 3 hours sleep at night.
    I am now awaiting a Pace and ablate procedure as I am intolerant of the drugs and can only exercise minimally. It’s rotten feeling like severe motion sickness most days

  • Soundra 7 December 2020

    Hi I had the ablation done about 18 months ago, some weeks ago I started having light headedness almost like vertigo that comes and goes and I’ve experienced some nausea as well anybody else had these symptoms, blood pressures good heart rate good really don’t understand oh and some fatigue

  • DENNIS 24 October 2020

    I am quite fit and walk 3 miles every day as well as exercise in my home> Squats, stomach crunches and press ups. I am on Edoxaban for CLL cancer.  For several months I have had these strange dizzy spells that last only a second or so, usually late afternoon when sat reading or watching TV or during the night and at the same time my hand goes numb and fingers tingle yet I have not felt heart palpitations except that on occasion when out jogging my chest feels as if all the organs inside are bouncing around. I have an ECG test booked for today so my question is!  which is better for AFIB, medication or a pacemaker.  Good luck to every one.

  • Ralph 15 October 2020

    About 8 years ago AF started, but needed to be in progress before Doc could diagnose, that took 12 months. Sent to hospital where they had to wack me back into rhythm, then put onto warfarin and sotalol. I still have attacks about every 3 months that last from 3 to 12 hours. I take an extra sotalol pill which I think helps most times but not all. generally knocks me over for a day or two, then I get back to normal, if there is a normal with AF.

  • John 6 October 2020

    Interesting page

  • Pamela 2 September 2020

    I’ve been diagnosed with Atrial Flutter in 2019! Since being on meds I’ve now started getting light headed and dizzy spells back to back, even while laying down! I’m headed to swing my cardiologist to see if these are symptoms of having Atrial Flutter! It’s AWFULLY nerve wrecking!

  • terence 21 August 2020

    i have had af 23years and i am still on the medication i started with as i have gotten older the condition has got worse i am now a prisoner in my own home darnt go out i have attack at least twice a month and thers no light at the end of the tunnel i have been in hospital many times nothing seems to help i have thyroid problems so this dosent help

  • Steve 4 March 2020

    Thank you for the insight.  It is greatly appreciated!

    I had a 4x bypass 17 years ago. I have PVCs often but not excessive. I recently have felt nauseous, lightheaded, then the Afib kicks in for 3-5 minutes; rapid HR, irregular beats, etc. Am I looking at a stroke in the near future?

  • Jason 18 December 2019

    Gabby I’m always tired to u got to do things u enjoy.that keeps me going . And take a walk once a day looks at thing that relax u and dont think about the afib I had it in my 30s I’m 46 if u can light exercise. Makes a difference

     

  • Gabby 9 December 2019

    I have been diagnosed with AF and am waiting to see a cardiologist.  I feel light headed and faint at least three times a day and generally am weary and fatigued.  No idea when cardiology appt will come through but wonder if I should be on some meds as I wait.  Feel rotten a lot of the day, so just wonder if anyone can comment.  I am 71 and still working part time but exhausted !

  • Jason 20 November 2019

    I’ve had afib for 8 years now, I take meds to for it which helps, but I started taking magnesium supplements and I haven’t had an attack in 3 or 4 years now. It’s important to still take your meds, I think magnesium has helped with my afib and maybe it can help you too.

  • Roger 23 August 2017

    Thanks Dorothy for your comments. Very pleased that your ablation worked. I was told it’s a 50/50 shot. I am trying to fine tune my pills between feeling half dead and half alive. So far the best I can manage is about a month between episodes so I think I will have to live with that for now. If it gets worse I will have to do what you have done.
    All the best
    Roger

  • Dorothy 19 August 2017

    Hi Roger
    I have been looking for a support group site for AF - and came across this here - Yes i have AF and have had it now for just over 2 yrs - it started with a virus i got on my lung that i could not get rid of - when on holiday to Oz all of a sudden couldn’t breath properly or walk - i was rushed to South Port University Hospital with Heart and Lung failure - after a week of some amazing care i bounced back and found from tests that i had a Flu virus in my lungs - long story short when i returned home to Auckland my Dr found that my heart was out of rhythm - into hospital the first of many trips for up to 5 days each time - this got me down so much i started thinking was this as good as it gets - i had to leave my work which i loved - so this AF has a bigger impact on your life than just having and erratic heart beat - Finally after 6 months they finally put me under a Consultant Electrocardiologist - he read my record and said to have Cardio aversion straight away - so got admitted again - this procedure was   done and i felt my heart nice and calm but it only lasted 12 hrs - the AF nurse rang to see how i was and was concerned that it hadn’t worked - she made me go back into hospital - and from there i had to stay until they could do an Ablation - nine days that trip - But the Ablation has been a god send - i am now 15mths down the line - and have had very few episodes have lasted no longer than 2 hours… in my case they ablated the Flutter i was getting and in doing so should stop he AF episodes - this seems to have worked - I hope you are doing well and getting on with things…

Loading...