Wednesday Surprise Bag

surpriseYeah, about that. I visit my doctor twice a year. Once for an annual wellness check (which is what you get in lieu of a physical when you’re old and on Medicare); once for a check on my type 2 diabetes (which I have because I’m old and fat). I generally feel fine (actually I always feel fine), and it’s crossed my mind to cancel the occasional appointment. After yesterday, such thoughts are banished.

The nurse mentioned that my heart rate was fast, and when the doctor came into the exam room she spent a long time listening to it with her stethoscope. I wasn’t too concerned until she said she was sending the nurse back in to take an EKG. The EKG confirmed not only an elevated heart rate but atrial fibrillation as well. Surprise!

I don’t have heart issues! Oops, suddenly I do!

At least I know there weren’t any heart issues six months ago, when the doctor last checked me over, so it’s a new thing, caught fairly early. Remember where I said I’ve thought more than once about skipping appointments? A friend recently discovered he has prostate cancer, fairly well along and requiring surgery to correct. He told me he hadn’t seen a doctor for five years because he felt fine and was convinced his diet and exercise regimen was keeping him healthy. He’s very much on my mind as I adjust to a new reality. Damn, I glad I didn’t skip yesterday’s appointment! Nor should you, dear reader!

So what exactly’s going on? The upper chambers of my heart are beating faster than, and out of sync with, the lower ones. That means blood isn’t pumping through my heart the way it should, which can lead to clots, which, if one breaks free, can cause a stroke. I’m now on two new meds, a blood thinner to help prevent clotting and a drug to slow my heart rate.

I went in for a follow-on visit this morning. Having taken the new meds yesterday and again this morning, my heart rate’s back to normal. As for the blood thinner, the plan is to medicate and monitor — my next checkup’s in October. There are invasive coronary procedures to address atrial fibrillation, but the doctor agrees with me that there’s no need to think of those yet. Or, I hope, ever.

What I have is not uncommon with age, but I still feel kind of ashamed, as if I somehow brought this upon myself by living a sinful life. And of course my paranoia’s in afterburner and I’m feeling all sorts of weird sensations in my chest, but I’m pretty sure it’s my imagination. Meanwhile, I take inspiration from my old dachshund buddy Mister B, who also has atrial fibrillation and is doing just fine.

One more time, everyone — don’t skip your medical checkups. You never know what surprises await!

© 2022, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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3 thoughts on “Wednesday Surprise Bag

  • Me too on A Fib. I elected to go with a fairly high priced anticoagulent (the actual drug function) to avoid the frequent testing & juggling dosage with Warfarin. Downside is longer bleeding & slower clotting with an injury & maybe pausing for surgery.

    Interesting factoid: screening out clots is a secondary function of the lungs. Pulmonary embolism as better than strike or heart attack!? I had three mild/small ones and felt just slightly off but nonspecific. Treated & released, but that was the end of just taking aspirin.

    Old age is grating, yes?

  • Yes, I have seen a lot of “one minute you’re fine, then the next, Pow!”

    My mom was in a fitness program in her 70s, and proudly reported how stellar they judged her health to be – then she had a stroke, various cancer spots, needed knee replacements (one of which went poorly), had a mitral valve prolapse, etc etc.

    Many of our friends (ages mid to late 60s) are getting sudden things, from Parkinson’s to diabetes to cancers of various types. Some are “self-inflicted”, others not.

    What can you do? Aging is still better than not! Enjoy til then!

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