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My heart's all a-flutter

Atrial fibrillation

Wed, Mar  21, 2012 - By Mike Muha

The continuing saga...

I've been exhausted these past few months and my training has been nil. The cross country ski racing season? Not a chance. But for a short time I had a glimmer of hope - I felt fabulous - then my hopes were least for a short time.

It's a long story.

On Tuesday, January 31, 2012 I headed over to the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center for a 6:30am appointment for my ablation. The procedure went like clockwork and the staff at the U were incredibly efficient, timely, professional, friendly, and competent - I could not have been happier. Expected to take four hours, the ablation went so well that I was done well under 4 hours. I came out in perfect sinus rhythm.

I was very dopey and Jill claims I kept asking the same questions and making the same comments over and over till she was happy to escape back home to let Echo out. In the evening, they had me walk around a couple times, then sit upright in a chair. I watched a little TV but mostly tried to check and send email on my phone but the data reception was poor and it was more an exercise in frustration.

At 8:00pm, I got the chills. Yep, I had a fever, for whatever reason. It went up to 101 before it was over the next day.

Amazingly, there were no beeping machines and noisy staff; everything was quiet over night. I did not sleep well, but I think no one does while coming off Anesthesia. During the night, my chest started hurting, as in someone pressing a manhole cover over my chest. Vicodin  and then ibuprofen helped greatly.

I expectation, based on Ken Dawson experience, that the day after the procedure would be easy going and I could go to work the following day. My experience was MUCH different. I spent Wednesday afternoon, evening, plus Thursday and Friday moving from one sleeping spot to another. My Friday I finally realized my chest felt better sitting up than lying down and I started sleeping that. Saturday I felt dramatically better and Sunday even better.

Monday I headed back to work.

And the next several days were glorious! I had tons of energy, which was really great because I ended up working till 1:00 in the morning Tuesday night (Wednesday morning) on an important project at work.  I even did a short run Thursday night. My heart was in rhythm, I felt great, all was well.

Until Friday.

I was exhausted Friday. I came back from work and slept two hours after dinner, then took a shower and went to bed. By the following week, I knew my heart was not beating regular anymore.

I was told that I should not be worried if I were out of rhythm occasionally, but I felt I was out of rhythm all week, and the next, and the next... I eventually had another EKG which showed Atrial Flutter, something a little different than Atrial Fibrillation. Atrial Fibrillation occurs in the LEFT atrium; Atrial Flutter is in the RIGHT atrium. Both caused by stray electrical signals in the heart. So my procedure may have fixed the fibrillation but uncovered the flutter?

Regardless, my heart rate at rest was about 83, at least 20 beats higher than normal, and sometimes higher. That tires you out more than you think: after work I had little energy to train. (Bright spot: except for the snow making trail at Huron Meadows Metropark, there was pretty much no snow down here to ski on. Good year to have heart issues).

Of course, that didn't stop me from racing the Michigan Cup Relays! Well, skiing the relays - I tried to race but I did not go fast... But I couldn't miss them - it's a Team thing. (Go Team NordicSkiRacer!)

Back to square one. By that I mean I had another Cardioversion yesterday. If you remember from way back, they put an electrode on your chest, another on your back, knock you out, then shock the heart back into rhythm.

It was an interesting week and a half leading up to yesterday's Cardioversion: Jill had the flu. I was desperate not to get the flu which would cause me to miss this procedure! I slept in a different, kissed from afar, and started taking Tamiflu. That also meant getting up early every day to walk Echo, playing with Echo to wear him out, and walking Echo every evening (border collies require a bit of effort). Jill does much of this usually.

The Cardioversion: it worked! Of course, it worked back on December 2 - for awhile.

So the next steps are:

  1. Go to Puerto Rico with Jill for 2 weeks as part of our 20th anniversary celebration.
  2. Learn to surf (we'll be in Rincon, the surfing center of Puerto Rico).
  3. Go deep sea fishing.
  4. Relax and have fun.
  5. Hope I stay in rhythm.
  6. Meet with the doctor in April.
  7. Figure out what to do next...

Frankly, I'm expecting I'll need another ablation, this time in the right atrium for the flutter, and maybe another in the left for the fibrillation.

Can I get a frequent customer discount?

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