Living with AF


My first attack of Atrial Fibrilation ( AF ) occurred in the early morning in 2002  whilst sailing my yacht in the Mediterranean.

A visit to a cardiac clinic corrected  the irregular heart beat by prescribing a series of seven stomach injections.

The   next attack also occurred in France in 2003 on a sailing holiday. Although sailing is unconnected to AF, increased alcohol consumption whilst on holiday was   possibly a contributing factor in both these incidents. On this occasion the attack  of AF during the night resulted in a Stroke. 

Initially the stroke was not diagnosed as I had collapsed when the world started  spinning around. My speech was normal, no facial paralysis or restricted arm   and leg movement. Only poor balance. As a result the doctor diagnosed an ear infection and prescribed some ear drops. During the day an intense headache  started and I Iost consiousness.

I awoke in hospital three days later to discover that I had had a stroke. A clot had hit my cerebellum which resulted in loss of   balance and great difficulty in walking. Fortunately one has two parts to the cerebellum.  After three weeks in hospital in France I was shipped home to the Nuffield  Hospital in Guildford.  

My first meeting with the Consultant Cardiologist, was interesting  in that he thought that I may have a hole in my heart because my notes had highlighted a lifetime of migrane. This was confirmed after a “ bubble test”  and could be a problem with AF.

After two weeks of tests and superb care I was released home. I was prescribed warfarin, pravastatin and ramipril.  Two incidents of AF occurred in 2005 and 2006 and in both occasions a visit to  A&E and a drip feed of flecainide cured the problem.

As I frequently went abroad   I was advised to carry some propafenone pills which I could take at the onset of  an attack of AF.  I was to take 600mg when an irregular heart beat started and to date it has worked on two occasions. I never travel without them.  Its better than a wooden hut on a beach advertising blood testing for HIV and maternity.  Even the   hypodermic needle looked scary.  

In 2011 once again I collapsed with the world spinning around and I was admitted to A&E. On this occasion it was diagnosed as a Transient  Ischaemic Attack (TIA), or mini stroke.  Once again the only lasting symptom was a loss  of balance. My INR reading was 3.9 but throughout the period since 2003 I had always had difficulty maintaining the correct INR readings from my warfarin dosage which ranged from 9 to 12mg and jumped between 1 and 4.5. This frequently resulted in weekly visits to the INR clinic.

It was then proposed in September 2012 that I should change drugs to Dabigatran since when there have been no further strokes.  The signs to look out for when a person suffers a stroke are well known. They never seem to mention intense dizziness and loss of balance. Ear drops don’t work.

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Blog Editor is a member of the Haste team co ordinating patient stories


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