I was an avid runner from around the age of 16 or 17 up to around the age of 33 or 34. Then I started cutting back and then around the age 37, I switched to just walking and occasionally playing basketball.
Around the age of 30 is when the atrial fibrillation started. At the time, I did not know it was afib. All I knew was that after running a warm-up mile, my heart rate was really fast and gave me the sensation of flip-flopping around. I would walk it off and then finish my run just fine. This didn't happen regularly. Sometime I would go on my run and nothing would happen at all. Sometimes, it would be around mile 3 or 4. But the times I remember it most was during that warm-up mile.
Around the age of 31, I asked my doctor about it and she referred me to a cardiologist. They hooked me up to the stress test machine and my heart beat just fine. I think I was running maybe a 6 or 7 on a steep incline on the treadmill - nothing. I described to him what I felt when I did happen. He said I'd be fine and keep exercising.
So for the last decade, I've been running, playing basketball and walking with this afib. I thought it might have been my diet or maybe it was caffeine intake or stress. But there was no rhyme or reason to it whatsoever. It came and went as it pleased.
It progressively got worse. I began to notice it in the morning after waking up. Some days it persisted all day long. Other days, not a peep. One time, while playing in a basketball league game, I nearly passed out. It was going all crazy on me and I barely made it to the bench. My ear were ringing and I was dizzy. That was the worst it got until this year.
In February, I was bit by a copperhead. While in the ICU the first night, the nurse saw my heart all over the place - irregular, fast, slow. She was really freaking out about it and I just didn't think it was a big deal. A cardiologist came and saw me and said I was fine. They did a sonogram of my heart and weren't too concerned, but that I should schedule a visit with Dr. Morales as soon a possible.
Towards the beginning of March, I was wearing a heart monitor for a week. By Thursday of that week, I got a call from the doctor asking me to start taking Xarelto. This was to thin my blood to prevent a stroke. When I saw him again, he diagnosed me with atrial fibrillation. There are two ways to deal with it: medication or ablation. Medication would not work so well with me. The medication is supposed to slow the heart down, but my heart rhythm is already slow (around 50 resting, 60 normal). Ablation would fix the issue and since I'm younger, I would be a good candidate. So I opted for the ablation.
Monday July 3 was my pre-op. They took blood and a chest x-ray. The rest of the time was just paperwork.
Wednesday July 5 was a CT scan of my heart. I arrived at 8am, but the machine had been down when the nurses came in, so I had to wait 50 minutes. I went back to the room, had an IV in my right arm and then she gave me a nitro glycerin pill under my tongue. When the iodine was administered in the IV, it felt like a peed my shorts, but that was expected. About 10 minutes later, I was done. But the nitro glycerin pill gave me a nasty headache all day long (the nurse said this might happen).
Thursday morning, we were at the hospital by 6:30am. They took me back, put the gown on and laid down. They needed to get 3 IVs in me. My wife was there for support since I hate IVs so much. She did a great job helping me through. I was fasting, so finding a vein was difficult to say the least. After 7 pokes, they got the 3 they needed. But it was a little too much for my dear wife and she passed out! After a few minutes, she came to and on we went with the show. Chest, back and groin shaved; anesthetist then got me hooked up and they wheeled me back. I kissed my wife good bye and the next thing I knew, I was awake and groggy. The nurses were putting a lot of pressure on my groin to stop the bleeding. My wife was by my side again too. It must have been around 11:30 or noon.
A few minutes later, they wheeled me to my room. I could not move my legs at all for the next four hours - I just had to sit perfectly still to ensure the groin incisions did not open. The hardest part of laying there was the ache in my lower and mid back. I wanted to bend my knees to relieve my back, but I could not. I watched Wimbledon and golf while I lay there with my wife by my side. Dr. Morales came to visit me. I asked him how many he's done now, and he said he's lost count. He said I asked that question before I was knocked out. I vaguely remember asking him. He said it was standard procedure - everything went well.
4pm came and I could move around a bit. The catheter came out - and on my heavens - that was the worst part of the whole two days. For a few seconds it was extremely painful and uncomfortable - I yelled out. I was still quite dizzy and needed to take things really slow. I started drinking water and nibbling on some food. The next goal was to urinate by midnight - piece of cake! Otherwise, they would need to put the catheter back in!
I drank and drank. My stomach was getting pretty full. I got up, walked around. Nothing. Also, my room was not cooling off. Eventually they were able to move me down the hall and that room was much cooler! 10pm came - no need to urinate yet. 11pm - nothing. I started walking up and down the hallway to try to work that water out. I just needed the anesthesia to wear off and let me pee before midnight. I told the nurse I really didn't want the catheter. So at midnight, when I still had not urinated, he did a sonogram of my bladder and said about 200ml was in there. He said patients can go up to 1000ml, so he would wait a little longer to put the catheter in - hallelujah! I dozed off. 2am - the urge came! I was never so happy to pee. Every 90 minutes from then on I needed to get up and go.
Friday morning came, they gave me all the info I needed before being discharged. I took my meds and then the nurse wheeled me out to the car and I came home. Friday at home was just sitting in the recliner. I walked around the house quite a bit, but the headache just would not go away.
Today is Saturday July 8 as I write this. My sleep last night was good. I was so glad to be able to sleep on my sides! My headache is much more mild than yesterday and I feel my strength returning much more quickly. Today I will take it really easy. Tomorrow will probably be the same.
The doctor said to lay low for two weeks. Then I'll have a check-up with him and see what he says.
Flutters and a higher beat rate is expected these next two days. I've had flutters every so often, but things return to normal very quickly. I'll post back here in two weeks and again in a month.
The ablation will have been a success if I can run and play basketball again with little to no issues. The doctor was saying that in a month I could be back to basketball. That would be amazing!