Be still my heart

This is going to sound like a commercial that has been popular for the past decade: people with an irregular heart beat — known as atrial fibrillation or AFib or AF — are at a higher risk of blood clots and stroke. AF — in a nutshell — is the condition of having disorganized electrical impulses driving your heart beat. The impulses normally start from the top chambers of the heart (atria) and travel to the bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles). This causes your heart muscle(s) to contract. When this happens on a regular basis you have a normal (sinus) rhythm. During AF, the electrical signals are fast and chaotic. The atria quiver rapidly and irregularly, so blood pools in the atria instead of being pumped properly to the ventricles. Pooling can lead to clotting and clots, when pushed out, can go any place in the body. If the clot goes to the brain it can cause a stroke. Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

On Wednesday, September 16, I started feeling heart palpitations in the afternoon. Thursday morning we went to see my doctor. He got an EKG on me and promptly sent me to the ER — I was having a paroxysmal atrial fibrillation event — and the hospital could administer the drugs to help slow down my heart. As I recall my heart beat was bouncing between 160 and 60 beats per minute. My blood pressure was high — something like 170 over 110.

The ER took another EKG, a chest xray, then started one IV in my right arm with medicine — something like amiodarone (Cordarone). Then they started another IV with medicine in my left arm to regulate the first medicine; it took two techs and two sticks to get the IV to take — OWW! Then I got a CT scan with contrast. This is where I thought tests were getting a little excessive. Eventually (about 5pm) they put me in a hospital room in the critical care unit (CCU). Around 7pm my heart “reset” itself and I returned to sinus rhythm.

Friday morning I got an echocardiogram — an ultrasound of the heart. I didn’t get a run down of the results — probably not much to say. The echo went to a cardiologist who came by around 2pm. By 4pm I was walking out of the hospital.

They prescribed the following meds: metoprolol tartrate (25mg), flecainide acetate (50mg). And I had to add low dose aspirin (81mg).

My doctor wanted me to start Lipitor 3 months ago, but I didn’t — I wanted to try diet and exercise. A week after the night in the hospital I had a checkup with my doctor and afterwords I went to get the generic Lipitor — so September 26 I started taking generic Lipitor (atorvastatin 20mg).

If you’re keeping score at home that’s 4 medicines or 6 pills per day. Ten days ago I didn’t take any meds now I’m stuck with 6 pills. My goal is to get off of the meds as quickly as possible; some internet pages say 2 years.

Just FYI, I started a new category, Health, with this post. I plan to put my health news and other things I find useful into this category.

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Originally published at teamsiems.com on September 26, 2015.

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