New Reality Update

BA867348-5999-4CD0-9302-E9E26E8CA3D8_1_201_aI went in for a regular Medicare wellness check back in April and learned I have atrial fibrillation. Since then I’ve been coming to terms with this new reality, and it’s time I post an update.

The doctor put me on a blood thinner and a med to slow my heart rate. She checked me again after a day on the new meds and things looked good, so we agreed to leave things as they were until my next checkup in October, then go from there.

Donna and our nurse friend Mary Anne put the pressure on me to see a cardiologist, so in May I did. He did an EKG, which was normal, put me on another AFIB med, scheduled me for a stress test in June and an ultrasound in July, and said when those were done I’d have to wear a heart monitor for a month.

I’ve been wearing the monitor for a couple of hours now. That’s it in the inset photo, probably the weirdest selfie I’ve taken to date (if you don’t count the dick pix I send to actresses I stan).

The stress test was slightly abnormal in that the chambers of my heart expanded a bit rather than contracting when working hard, which could indicate some arterial blockage, but could equally be a false reading, which they say isn’t uncommon. Since my ultrasound and both EKGs (I took a second one today) are normal, the cardiologist’s recommendation is that I wear the heart monitor for 30 days and come back for another ultrasound in November. Not that different from where I was with my primary doctor in April, monitor excepted, but Donna feels a whole lot better, as do I, as will Mary Anne when I call her with an update.

Clearly, I was having an AFIB episode when I visited my primary physician in April. I think there’ve been several since, but all three times I’ve visited the cardiologist my heartbeat’s been normal. When I do experience AFIB at home, it’s a thumping sensation in my upper chest which I instinctively try to calm with deep, slow breathing. Which is not the same as shortness of breath, a common symptom of AFIB. I thought at first it was, but there was a part of the stress test earlier this month where the tech warned me I’d feel short of breath, and when it hit, hoo boy, I thought it was the big one — not at all the same thing I experience during what I think are AFIB episodes at home.

The heart monitor pairs with a Samsung mobile phone which relays readings to a lab back East. The phone and monitor are supposed to remain within 30 feet of each other, so now I know what the extra pocket on cargo pants and shorts is for. No worries, though — if I forget to put the phone in my pocket the monitor will store readings until it pairs with the phone again, then do a burst transmission. Pretty cool. I can wear the monitor in the shower and have to recharge it every five days. The phone, though, has to be recharged every day, which I guess I’ll do at night. It’s all very user-friendly, which is good because Donna will be visiting her sisters in Michigan the last two weeks of July and I’ll be on my own here at home.

I’m coming to grips with the new reality of an aging heart. So far the impact’s been mild, no more than an inconvenience compared to what I at first feared it’d be. I’m feeling fine. Long may it stay that way.

One thought on “New Reality Update

  • Paul,
    I had what I would call “a good heart attack,” when I lived in Alaska. I had been pulling on a leaf blower cord for some time, with intent of blowing some light snow off the sidewalk and driveway. I went inside to rest, and noticed constriction pain in my chest. I told Charlie “Don’t get excited, but I want you to take me in to the Mat-Su medical center (hospital), I think I may be having a heart attack.” The pains got worse as I sat there, and so we called 911. When the ambulance showed up, a while later, their portable EKG indicated I did indeed have an attack.

    They determined that I needed to go to Anchorage, and they could not get me there within the vital hour. So, a helicopter was requested, and they delivered me to an empty grade school playground where I was picked up. My gurney had my toes in the nose of a Bell Jet-Ranger, with the pilot next to my legs on my right, and a med tech behind the pilot next to my shoulder.

    As I observed, we flew directly across the runway intersection on Elmendorf (must have shut that down for a couple of minutes), and directly to the heart cath lab at Alaska Regional Hospital.
    The quick story is that all of my arteries looked fine but I did suffer a blockage of a vein. Nothing to do but treat it with drugs, and I felt like I could go back to work the next day. They made me take a week off so I wouldn’t spring a leak at the hole they had punched in my femoral artery for the catheter. I even got off blood thinner 6 months later. No further problems, and now I know what the insides of my arteries look like, and that is why I call it a “good” heart attack.

    Charlie was having numerous extra heartbeats, while we lived in Sheridan, with no relief from any medications they tried. The end result was an Ablasion performed did the trick and the before and after EKGs were like night and day. No extra beats at all after the ablasion procedure as verified by follow up EKG a month later.

    The $20,000.00 helicopter ride had every penny covered by Medicare/Tri-care for Life/and GEHA coverage I still had.

    It seems sometimes they get the right procedures on our older hearts! Good luck with the monitor!

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