Heart Rhythm Week: My Story

Thursday, June 07, 2018

As it’s World Heart Rhythm Week I wanted to share something that is very close to my heart (quite literally). I was a bit reluctant to write this post as most people that know me in ‘reality’, know of my blog – and this is not a topic I talk openly about. Maybe I’m just too afraid to show my vulnerability but I decided that it’s good to open up if it will raise awareness.

Before I tell you my story of living with an abnormal heart rhythm, also called arrhythmia, I should probably tell you what it actually is.

An arrhythmia means your heart is beating too fast, too slow, or with an irregular pattern. There are many different types of arrhythmia such as atrial fibrillation or tachycardia. 

Some abnormal heart rhythms are inherited but there are a lot of other reasons why a person can have a different heart rhythm which have a lot do to with electrical impulses in the heart and abnormality in blood chemicals.

The symptoms of an abnormal heart rhythm depend on what type you have but the most common ones are: palpitations, dizziness, breathlessness, feeling tired and losing consciousness.

I don’t want to go into too much detail as this is not a science lesson but if you’re interested in learning more then I’d recommend this video by The British Heart Foundation.

My story of living with an abnormal heart rhythm

I have an arrhythmia called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) which is a fast heart rhythm meaning that when I get an episode of it, my heart beat is faster than 90 beats per minute.

If I remember correctly I first got palpitations when I was about 10 or 11, it happened when I was having a shower but I didn’t do anything about it because it stopped by itself. When I got to high school the episodes started being more frequent and a lot worse because the palpitations wouldn’t stop by themselves and I’d have to go to the hospital. 

It got to a point where I’d end up in the hospital every few months, the first time I was in the hospital the doctors stopped the palpitations by putting my head in ice water (not a fun experience but at least it worked), the other times that didn’t work so they had to give me medication. I don’t even know how to describe the feeling of the palpitations stopping, imagine your heart going suddenly from 160-180 beats per minute to about 80-90 beats. It’s a strange feeling but the relief you feel is indescribable. 

The doctors tried to work out what triggered my palpitations but the situations during which I got them were a bit random such as laying down at night, sitting and watching television, doing PE at school. They suspected it could be stress related though because the frequency increased when I had exams or some other major events happened in my life.

Before I was diagnosed I had to have frequent tests such as ECGs and echocardiograms and after I was diagnosed I had to attend regular check-ups. 

I had a discussion with my doctor and he gave me the option of having a procedure to get rid of the palpitations but at that time I wasn’t ready for it mentally and decided to wait for a year or more until I was. I got the procedure done when I was in year 10 or year 11 and well you can imagine how well I did in my GCSE’s after missing so many days of school during my whole high school life.

The procedure I had done is called a catheter ablation in which a small tube enters your heart via a vein or artery in your groin. The trigger site of my palpitations was identified and then the doctors used radiofrequency energy to inactivate the affected area. I can’t remember exactly but in my case the procedure lasted about three to four hours however it can last as little as 15 minutes. The procedure was not at all painful, but I just had a sore throat and some discomfort for a few days after.

The only thing I was worried about during the whole process was being put to sleep, for some reason I was terrified I wouldn’t wake up but the doctor who gave me the sedation came to speak to me before the procedure and eased my thoughts a bit.

Since I’ve had the procedure I have had a number of episodes of the palpitations but not regularly so it doesn’t affect my every day life like it used to. It was a challenging experience both physically and psychologically but it has helped to shape me into the person I am today.

About World Heart Rhythm Week

World Heart Rhythm Week is an annual event that runs between 4 – 10 June and is organised by the Arrhythmia Alliance, a coalition of patients, charities and professionals who work together to promote effective diagnosis and treatment of heart arrhythmia (a disorder affecting the rhythm of the heartbeat). The aim of World Heart Rhythm Week is to raise awareness of the symptoms of heart arrhythmia in both the general public and medical profession.
For 2018, the theme of the week is “Take Fainting to Heart”. Fainting can be the first sign of a problem for someone suffering from heart arrhythmia, and the message that World Heart Rhythm Week is trying to spread this year is that fainting should not be ignored.
Further information about Arrhythmia and World Heart Rhythm Week can be found at www.arrhythmiaalliance.org.uk

You Might Also Like