One of the reasons I say I'm a lucky guy is that after those three attacks, I have been able to live a normal life. I have climbed mesas in Arizona, hiked three or four miles in the Alaska tundra and swam in the beaches of Hawaii. I have not had angina ever unless you count those three pesky attacks.
One night a few weeks after my third and last attack, I was sitting in our home after dinner and felt something in my chest. I had no idea what it was and it only happened once but it felt like a small blip of pressure. Once I realized it was not happening again, I went on with the night and forgot about it.
Then early one morning Phyllis and I were driving to an area of Massachusetts for a photo shoot and I started feeling funny, not ha ha funny but unusual funny. I was out of breath and I was feeling that same blip in my chest but this time it was happening over and over again at a very fast rate. When I felt for my pulse, I found that it was racing at a extremely fast rate, about 200 beats a minute
I told Phyllis to drive back home, about an hour's drive. When we arrived at our neighborhood, Phyllis drove straight to our hospital's emergency room. I didn't think I was having another attack but I knew something was wrong. The doctor in the emergency room, after checking my pulse and doing a EKG, informed me that I was in Afib or Atrial Fibrillation. He also told me I was not having a heart attack.
One, I dismissed out of hand, was being put on a pacemaker. It just seemed like another step towards being a victim and I could not handle that so soon after my heart attacks. My cardiologist put me on a few new medicines. One was to help my heart from going into afib (not entirely accurate as I would later find out) and the other would be coumadin. That drug is used to prevent blood clots from forming or growing larger in your blood and blood vessels. While very helpful, it carries some risk if the directions are not followed correctly and even if they are. They include going to a lab two to four times a month to have your blood checked and then readjusting the amount of coumadin you take.
In order to keep your blood levels right you really should keep your diet consistent. You can eat whatever you want but it is better if you do not change the amount of greens you eat. They have vitamin K and K helps with blood coagulation. Normally this is great but not if you have Afib. With Afib, you need to thin out your blood to reduce the risk of stroke. Coumadin pretty much takes all the vitamin K out of your system.
Another drawback is that people tend to bruise easily and if you cut yourself, you may not easily stop bleeding and may need to go to the hospital. This includes bleeding inside your head. You obviously need to worry about any major accidents. Coumadin and myself had an ongoing battle for about ten years. I was working a eight to ten hour day which made getting my blood tested difficult. I like to be out in nature and sometimes in nature cuts happen.
I also like to travel. On two trips, I started bleeding, once through my nose and once through, well I'll let you guess the other area. Both times I ended up in the hospital. The first was in Tennessee which involved a few hours in emergency. The other incident took place in old Quebec and landed me in the hospital for two nights.
About eight years ago, when we moved to New Hampshire, I needed a new cardiologist. After reading my history, that doctor took me off of coumadin. He felt that an aspirin a day would be okay and my risk of bleeding outweighed my risk for a stroke.
Throughout all those eighteen years, I would continue to have episodes of Afib. Phyllis could tell because she would see me taking my pulse or I would tell her in case the worse possible outcome happened. The episodes would last as little as a minute or as long as eight hours. That was until a little over a year ago when I had one that lasted around seventeen hours.
After that time, I started noticing more frequent episodes and realized I needed to do something. It was beginning to intrude on my life. I started seeing a cardiologist in Florida and after some tests to check out the health of my heart (which was in excellent shape), a visit to a specialist was suggested. After speaking with this doctor, we decided to schedule a catheter ablation. This is a procedure that has really evolved over the last half dozen years and has a 90% success rate of stopping Afib.
The procedure involves a surgeon cutting two small holes in your groin and inserting a camera in one and a catheter in the other, both traveling up to your heart. After mapping your heart, the surgeon burns cells in your heart and ultimately creates scar tissue. This scar tissue blocks the abnormal heart electrical impulses from being conducted through your heart and after one procedure, 60 % of patients are cured. In others, a second ablation is performed and then a 90% success rate is reached. At the same time, a probe is put down your throat.
The day came, the procedure went fine and I was able to go home after one night which I was very happy about. My biggest problem during the next week or so was really, really bad acid reflux which is a fancy word for heartburn!!! I did see the humor that after burning parts of my heart suffering from heartburn seemed perfectly obvious!!! I also had trouble breathing and some leg pain. This was all normal for people going through this procedure.
My camera has been close by but I didn't pick it up much. That will be stopping today!!! The day before I was going in, I was having my morning coffee on my patio and saw a rather large bird in a nearby tree. I grabbed my camera and walked onto the golf course to see how the bird looked. This is what I saw!
I am feeling much better now and in the next few weeks, I will find out whether I need to have the procedure a second time. It really makes you appreciate living in a world where the medical procedures have come so far. It is truly amazing to think of what doctors can do with the new technology.
Afib is not a death sentence, you can live a fairly normal life with it. Phyllis and I have traveled all over the US, Canada and Italy photographing some beautiful sites during which time I had AFIB. Now with new medication, including a coumadin substitute 'Pradaxa' which performs the same task without all the drawbacks of coumadin, it is even easier to deal with AFIB. Plus with strides made in the ablation procedures, it is a whole new world for people with it. If you think you have it, see your doctor. It could save your life!!
After seeing vultures, I needed to photograph something a little nicer so I stopped by my garden and took these images. I hope you enjoy them! I'm sorry I was gone for so long but I'm back now and will be photographing a lot, including an upcoming trip to Miami!!