As a sufferer of this debilitating condition, the more I discovered about the condition, the more I discovered how little the medical profession knew themselves. I had been getting symptoms for at least 2 years before I knew what it was. Slowly I was getting more debilitated with each month but always pushing myself to continue.
My symptoms started around 45 years of age. At 48 I was carrying buckets of soil up a hill on my property when chest tightness gripped me. My breath was labouring and my heart felt tight. I called my wife over and said “I don’t want to alarm you but I think you had better take me to the doctor”. At the medical practice I was monitored by a nurse. He told me there was nothing to worry about but had a rather panicked look on his face and came back with a doctor who informed me an ambulance was on the way. By now I was shocked and a little scared. My wife was walking in after finally getting a parking space to find me being wheeled into an ambulance.
At the hospital I was informed I was having an Atrial Fibrillation episode. My heart rate was erratic and going very fast – around 180 BPM. The true classification was Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation because it happened at random. Blood tests showed I was low on both potassium and magnesium which were administered and I reverted in around 6 hours without medication.
The main risk of Atrial Fibrillation is a stroke on reverting because the heart has been quivering rather than beating which may leave clots in the heart chamber which are then pumped out when the heart beats normally. Usually they don’t give blood thinners unless you have been in AFIB (or AF) for more than 10 hours.
Three months later I had a second episode with similar consequences. I was asked to see a cardiologist and made an appointment. After many tests he found my heart was in very good condition but gave me a depressing picture of deterioration over the years that he could do nothing about, culminating in ablation surgery that he was not impressed with. His new regime for me was take 100mg of Flecainide during an episode and if I don’t revert call an ambulance. This regime left me going to the hospital frequently (as my episodes were now much closer) until the hospital finally said “you don’t have to come in everytime”.
I changed to my doctors recommended cardiologist. He stated he didn’t like working with Atrial Fibrillation as it was too hard to treat but did tell me my episodes were very safe and not to go to hospital. He put me on 100mg Flecanaide and 50mg Digitalis daily. The Digitalis made me worse. I have read frequently that most western countries have stopped its use in the treatment of Atrial Fibrillation. I went back to the cardiologist and asked for a higher dosage or different medication as my episodes were worse. He refused so I requested going back to taking the drug only when I had an episode. He agreed but sent a letter to my doctor stating I refused all medications.
My third cardiologist was very different. He described the previous dosage I had been given as homeopathic (so small it would do nothing for my size) and tripled the dosage. I was able to work more and felt a lot better but did have concerns about the very high dosage. On each previous visit to the hospital I was found to have low potassium and magnesium. By taking magnesium and high potassium I have lowered my medication considerably. My cardiologist is very happy with this approach and now prescribes the potassium for me.
I still have a long way to go but it is only through diligent research that I have improved. The treatment of Atrial Fibrillation is not accurate and frequently ineffective because the cause is still not understood. Although I use the medical profession for the condition I do not take their advice as Gospel and seek further opinions if necessary and recommend you to do the same.