I'm 78 and a retired nurse from Southport. I was officially diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF) three years ago. I first thought there was a problem as my heart would beat really slowly, 42 to 43 beats per minute and then go incredibly fast around 120 beats per minute. It was very frightening and lasted for hours, the only way to get any relief was to lie on one side.
I decided to go to my GP who sent me to see a specialist at my local hospital and I also decided to see a private cardiologist. We talked about next steps and I also had a seven day ECG (electrocardiography), which monitored and recorded the electric activity of my heart. In my case, having a seven day ECG was much better than having a 24 hour ECG as my arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) didn't happen for a few days, and then came back with a vengeance. If your AF is like mine, try and insist on a seven day ECG.
When I found out that I had AF I was actually relieved, finally I knew what the problem was and someone had noticed and I could actually talk about it. You feel like a hypochondriac, being ill all the time and not knowing what it is.
After the ECG my doctor thought the best solution was to have a pacemaker fitted. After my surgery I was given a leaflet about the pacemaker and how to look after myself but AF still hadn't really been explained to me. I think people thought I just knew all about it! I was also put on beta blockers to stop my heart beating fast and in the beginning they made me feel spaced out. I talked to my doctor, we adjusted the dose and now I feel much better. I'm also on warfarin to prevent the blood from clotting as quickly to prevent my risk of having another stroke. I had a TIA - a mini stroke - a couple of years ago as the result of my AF. I was really lucky and don't have any side effects from the stroke.
It took a long time for my AF to be diagnosed and it did impact on my quality of life, I didn't want to go out or go on holiday, I didn't feel confident enough to do that feeling so ill. My friends were also very concerned about me but now I have my condition under control and there is life after AF; you can feel much better if you don’t ignore your symptoms and take your medication. I’ve even been away on holiday again!
If you think you have AF or have recently been diagnosed, persevere to ensure you get treatment and don’t be put off if doctors tell you to put up with it. It took me a long-time to get a diagnoses but I was so relieved when I did and once I had the pacemaker fitted and was taking the beta blockers I felt so much better.