Well it was bound to happen. It had been exactly two weeks since my last episode. I was due for one given my recent history of having an episode every week or two.
This one I predicted. All day long I kept thinking I was going to have an episode any day. There was no way I was going to go more than two weeks without one.
Our family Christmas celebrations were going to begin on Tuesday night so I figured with my luck I’d have one then or on Christmas Eve (both nights we would be on the road). I kept telling myself that if I was going to have one it better be tonight or Monday night.
I got my wish.
I was sitting in my recliner completely relaxed and enjoying the final season episode of Homeland. It was 12:19 a.m. The show ended and before I could even reach for the remote to shut the TV off my heart took off.
I’ve been having mini runs of afib the past few nights so I didn’t think anything of it. I assumed I’d have an one-minute run like the others I had been experiencing and it would be no big deal.
That “mini run” lasted 6 friggin hours! It was the longest atrial fibrillation episode I’ve had since I was diagnosed with this crap in 2006.
After ten minutes of sitting in my chair hoping this “mini run” would end, I got up and headed upstairs to find my AliveCor monitor. Sure enough, I was in afib:
As you can see, this was a rather benign episode at first. My heart rate was only around 100 bpm. Usually I’m at 150 beats or above per minute. I was actually kind of cocky after I took the reading. The episode wasn’t that intense and since my last one only lasted about an hour, I figured this would be over by 2 a.m. at the latest, giving me plenty of time to get a decent night’s sleep.
At 12:38 a.m. I took 300 mg of Flecainide and this time I threw in a couple capsules of vitamin B-complex and 240 mg of magnesium glycinate. I usually don’t take that much vitamin B or magnesium but I wanted to double down to make sure it would be over within 2 hours.
I went back downstairs to sit in my chair to watch TV while I rode out this episode. Within 10 minutes, my afib went into high gear. My benign episodes always do that. They start off very soft and manageable and then within minutes they get super intense.
For about an hour it was the typical “hell” I’ve come accustomed to. I had shortness of breath, light headedness, and of course that feeling like my heart was going to pound right out of my chest. This episode was so intense that I could literally see my shirt pounding in sync with my heart.
After about 2 a.m. the episode finally subsided a little but I still felt like crap. It went from 10 out of 10 on the intensity scale to about a 6. I was feeling very positive and upbeat (no pun intended) because I thought I’d kick out of it any minute.
2:30 a.m. went by and nothing changed.
3:00 a.m. went by and still nothing changed.
At this point I was really getting annoyed and pissed off. What the hell was going on? “Calm down,” I told myself. Most of my episodes are around 4 hours so technically I had until 4:15 a.m. before I could freak out.
With that positive thought, I went back upstairs to have a quick protein shake (water and protein powder only). Whenever I have extended episodes like this I get really hungry. And because I had a sick feeling I was going to have to have a cardioversion I didn’t want my stomach full of food so I figured a simple water/protein shake would do the trick. It did.
I crawled into bed and watched some Family Guy episodes. 4:15 a.m. couldn’t come fast enough.
At 3:51 a.m. I took another EKG reading because I was curious just how intense this episode was. While it was manageable, it was still pretty intense. To my surprise, I was only hovering around 100 bpm.
The clock struck 4:15 a.m. and there was no end in sight. My heart was beating as strong as it had 3 hours ago. I was so damn tired and frustrated at this point that I shut the TV off and just tried to go to bed.
I had no idea how difficult it was to sleep when you’re in atrial fibrillation. There was no way I was going to be able to sleep. I was absolutely miserable.
I lie there and just stared at the ceiling. I tried reading a little. No matter what I did it was impossible to get my mind off of my pounding heart. With all this time to think my thoughts got carried away.
I convinced myself I would be heading to the hospital in the morning for a god-damn cardioversion (can you tell how angry I was getting). What was I going to do with the kids? They were home from school for the start of their Christmas vacation and my wife had important meetings going on at work so there was no way she could take off – at least not until the afternoon.
Was I going to have to watch the kids all morning while I was in an intense afib episode? Am I seriously going to have to bring my kids to the hospital with me? Or will I need to find a neighbor to watch them instead – and what am I going to tell the neighbor? And now every time I have an episode I guess I’ll have to have a cardioversion because the Flecainide doesn’t work anymore. The negative thoughts just kept rolling.
Fed up, I grabbed my iPhone and tried the entrainment method like I had done in a prior episode. It helped to relax me a little and it took my mind of my own heartbeat, but the minute I removed the phone from my chest, I felt awful. I was just too tired to keep the phone held to my chest so I put it back down on the night stand.
There was now more time for me to dwell on my episode and stress out about the trip I was going to have to take to the hospital in a few short hours. Lucky me!
Before I knew it, it was 6:00 a.m. I still couldn’t believe this episode wasn’t over. At this point it wasn’t a matter of if I was going to have to go to the hospital but when. I did something I haven’t done during any of my previous episodes, and I’ve had plenty. I literally prayed to God that he would convert me so I wouldn’t have to go to the hospital.
Fifteen minutes later I converted. Finally, after 6 miserable hours it was over. I felt so relieved. I prayed again to thank God for helping me out. I’m usually not the type of guy that believes in the power of prayer but it seemed to work!
Exhausted, I fell asleep until my alarm went off at 8:00 a.m. It was time to start a new day!
Thanks to the community over at Daily Strength, I thought I had pin-pointed my trigger – NUTS. Yes, nuts. As I was looking over my diet over the past few months I realized I was eating a lot of cashews and almonds. I asked the community over there about the possible connection between nuts and atrial fibrillation. A few commented that nuts were a trigger for them. They advised I lay off the nuts for a while so I did.
Other than a few almonds here and there, I hadn’t had a single cashew or peanut in two weeks. Coincidentally I was going on two weeks without an episode so I thought I had finally discovered my main trigger. I was thrilled!
Convinced I wasn’t going to have an episode now until my ablation in February, I couldn’t wait to write the post how I had finally discovered my cure – NO NUTS! And just as quickly as I was feeling confident, I go and have the longest episode I’ve ever had. Such is life with atrial fibrillation. The beast always wins.
The only thing I can think of is I didn’t have a lot of calories in my system and I went to go work out later in the afternoon at the gym. I did a light weight lifting routine and a moderate jog on the treadmill for 20 minutes. It wasn’t an intense workout but I did work up a decent sweat. Maybe I overworked my system; who knows.
I know sleep wasn’t the issue because both Friday and Saturday night I got seven hours of solid sleep. I never do that! I had more than enough sleep.
I keep writing this but it’s worth repeating. Once the beast takes over, you can’t win. No matter how careful you are, no matter how hard you try, eventually you will lose. The only way to win is to slay the beast, which is why I’m having an ablation.
At this point I don’t care if they have to rip my heart out of my chest and throw it in a fire to burn every possible afib trigger point. I want the beast dead and gone!