This was my first time in a hospital as a patient so it was overwhelming to say the least. As I was lying there, it was a continuous stream of nurses. One was giving me an EKG. Another was giving me an I.V. drip. Yet another was asking me questions and taking notes. These people were pros and extremely efficient.
Eventually during all the chaos the doctor manning the E.R. department that evening came in and introduced herself. She was a nice doctor and very calming. She assured me everything was going to be o.k. because I was in good hands. What frustrated me was she couldn’t tell me what was going on other than the obvious – my heart was racing at about 200 beats per minute. She said the first thing they were going to try was to give me some kind of medication through my I.V.
I don’t recall what it was. She said as soon as I was given this medication I would feel really exhausted for a minute and boy did I ever. It was an incredible feeling. It felt like you’d feel after trying to lift a lot of weight – just sheer exhaustion over my entire body – but it only lasted about 30 seconds. Unfortunately, nothing happened. My heart rate didn’t slow down for a minute. It just kept pounding away at around 200 peats per minute.
Then the doctor directed the nurse to try again but to double the dose. It was the same weird feeling but much more intense and the same result – no change in my heart rate. After that the doctor told the nurse to prepare for an electrical cardioversion. I had no idea what that was. The doctor then turned to me and explained the procedure to me.
It sounded pretty serious but I wasn’t really that scared because I would be sedated and the doctor assured me I wouldn’t feel a thing. It was a “standard procedure” so I had nothing to worry about. That helped put my mind at ease. And truth be told, my heart was pounding so hard and so fast, I didn’t care what they had to do to me. I just wanted it stopped! I wanted to feel normal again as soon as possible so if that meant they had to zap me, so be it. I couldn’t take it anymore.
Unfortunately, my “cure” wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. This was apparently a busy evening at the hospital so the room they do the cardioversions was being used. I ended up lying around for well over an hour. It was the longest hour of my life. I had to go to the bathroom constantly (which I learned was normal for some people when they are in afib) and they wouldn’t let me get up and go.
Instead the nurse gave me a pitcher. Seriously? You’re going to make me roll over and piss into a pitcher? I never felt so stupid in my life. What was even more humiliating was when I would fill up the pitcher and the nurse had to come get it and empty it for me. Even thinking about it today pisses me off – no pun intended. Thankfully in future atrial fibrillation episodes I would never have to do that again!
Finally after my long wait, I was rolled into “the room” to have my cardioversion. There was a team of nurses and doctors standing in a semi-circle waiting for my arrival. Talk about awkward. As soon as they parked me in the middle of the room, they all spread out and started doing their thing. Once again I was impressed with their professionalism and proficiency, but I didn’t understand why so many people had to be present for a cardioversion. Maybe this was a much bigger deal than I thought. If I wasn’t scared before I was then. All I kept telling myself was that I was going to be sedated so I wouldn’t feel a thing.
Within minutes of being wheeled into the room they had me prepped and ready for the cardioversion. They asked me if I was ready. I thought that was kind of a stupid question. What was I supposed to say, “No, I’m not sure I want to go through with this.” I said yes and then the nurse put the needle in my I.V. and just started asking me a bunch of questions.
I remember drifting off to sleep as I was talking to her and then BAM – a jolt hit me and I jerked up into a ball as my head almost hit my knees and I screamed, “OUCH,” and then my head and knees collapsed on the bed and it was over.
I don’t know if I was supposed to be sedated more than they did, but I remember the entire thing. And even though I felt the jolt – 100 Jules to be exact – it actually didn’t hurt. I think I just screamed “ouch” because I was surprised. It felt like someone suddenly pushed me really hard in the chest. That was the extent of the pain I felt. I was sedated just enough to dull the pain I guess.
As soon as it was done, I immediately became more alert and the nurse asked me if I was o.k. I said, “Yes, I feel great!” I finally couldn’t feel my heart pounding away in my chest. Thank God I was feeling perfectly normal again! What a relief.
The nurse wheeled me back to the E.R. room I was in before. They wanted to monitor me for a while before releasing me. After about another hour, the doctor came in and told me I had atrial fibrillation. Those words would change my life forever, but I didn’t know it at the time. I thought it was just one of those weird things I would experience once and I would never have to worry about it again – kind of like getting the chicken pox or something. She advised I have a follow up appointment with a cardiologist. Not again…another cardiologist…at my age? What was going on, I thought to myself.
I was finally released and my wife and I and our daughter headed home. She and my daughter had been in the waiting room all night. I didn’t want them in the E.R. with me. It would have stressed me out too much having family there and I didn’t want my daughter to see her “daddy hurt.” It would have killed me inside to see her worry about me. I suppose I’m a bit different that way. I don’t like having ANY family around me when I’m going through anything like that. I want to be left alone. Having people around that I care about and that I know care about me, just adds unnecessary grief, worry, and stress.
Where do I begin? I did just about everything you could do to have an atrial fibrillation episode. I drank heavily. I consumed copious amounts of caffeine, sodium, and sugar. I got very little sleep. I think anyone would have experienced afib after what I had put my body through the previous 24 hours.
No, this was an open and shut case. Given that I had the “afib gene” (more on that to come later on), it was inevitable I would have an afib attack after everything I had put my body through. This was a wakeup call for me though. I would continue to drink after that, but the weekend nights of binge drinking and partying were over. And luckily for me, I would go another five years before my next afib episode.