I meant to get this post published over the weekend but I was busy with family and doing miscellaneous things around the house. On March 5, 2015 I had my first (and hopefully last) catheter ablation by the great Dr. Natale down at St. David’s in Austin, TX.
I’m happy to report that I have been 100% afib-free since the procedure! Yes, it’s been over a year since I had my last episode of atrial fibrillation.
Prior to the ablation I had suffered from paroxysmal atrial fibrillation since Father’s Day 2006. During the nine years leading up to my ablation I was fortunate because I only had an episode once or twice per year – until 2014. That’s when the train went off the tracks.
In 2014 I started having episodes every month and then every other week and then once a week. You can see my afib progression chart here. My afib completely spun out of control. I had no idea why it was happening because I wasn’t doing anything different. The afib just had a mind of its own and took over.
After the episodes started occurring so frequently in the latter months of 2014, I immediately made an appointment with Dr. Natale to see if I was a good candidate for an ablation. Without hesitation he said I was an ideal candidate and with that I booked my ablation with him and never looked back. It was the smartest decision I ever made!
If you’ve been following my afib journey the past year you’ll know it hasn’t been totally smooth sailing. While I haven’t had any afib, I have struggled with PVCs and PACs on and off throughout the months. I don’t know if they have anything to do with the ablation or not. I’ve been told different things but regardless, they haven’t been that big of a deal and in the scheme of things are nothing compared to battling afib!
I’m just so grateful I have had such a good year and I just keep praying things will continue to go well!
What The Future Holds
I’ve been told that since the first year after my ablation went so well – literally not a blip of afib – I have a strong chance of going many years before a second ablation may be needed. Of course there are no guarantees but so far things look promising.
I know how this works so I have set my expectations accordingly. Personally, I’m hoping I can get at least 5, maybe even 10 years with this first ablation. No matter how much time I’m given, if the beast returns I won’t hesitate for a moment to have another ablation – so long as it’s Dr. Natale or someone on his team doing the procedure.
That’s the thing about afib and ablations. You have to go in hoping you’re a “one and done” case but preparing for at least two and maybe even three procedures to put the beast to bed for good. For some of you that might sound depressing but having 1-3 relatively “easy” procedures is nothing compared to battling afib everyday or dealing with the onslaught of side effects from those nasty drugs they give you to “treat” afib.
I will continue to enjoy the NSR I’ve been blessed with and will pray to God that the beast stays a way for a long time. If and when it returns, I’ll ask God to give me the strength and courage to face it head on and to bless me with another successful ablation!
As always, I will continue to post updates here as warranted. If you have any questions for me in the meantime, feel free to reach out to me via my contact page. I read and respond to every email I get so fire away!
Until the next update, I wish you all continued NSR!
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How great that you have been AFib free for a full year. I wish you many many more.
Have you been told that you can stop taking an anticoagulant? That would be the icing on the cake.
Thanks Jeff! I was able to stop the blood thinner just two months after my ablation. I haven’t been on any medications since! My only struggles these days are the PVCs and PACs. I’ll be publishing a post on this soon.
I wish you well!
Travis your blog is a great resource. I had an afib ablation 7 weeks ago by Dr. Wilber at Loyola. I’ve been dealing with pvc/pac’s but so far NSR. It is more of a head game than anything else. I’ve had it for 8 yrs just like you did, and finally needed it done. I guess at some point we just have to live life and not worry about every thump we have. Your journey has answered many questions I have-lol you saved his nurse a few calls. Keep writing and informing because what your doing is truly special.
Thanks for your kind words, Rick. I appreciate it! Congrats on your ablation – and I wish you the best during your recovery. Just be sure to take it easy until the blanking period is over. Keep me posted on how you do.
I’m a 74 year old female still working full time and living solo. I have osteoporosis and Parkinson’s but manage quite well. I keep active and have a good social life. By far the worst to deal with is Atrial Fibrillation.
I have had AF for around 15 years and my cardiologist was never that sympathetic to my condition. My 4 monthly visits consisted of me telling him about my weekly or twice weekly episodes that could last between 6 hours and 15 hours and then he would take my blood pressure squeeze my ankles weigh me and say see you again in 4 months.
He was indifferent to my symptoms which included very strong chest jaw and arm pain nausea dizziness and sometimes briefly passing out. My heart rate would go up to 190 and higher (I monitored it myself). I carry flecainide and metoprolol as a PIP.
I was put on Xarelto which has been a nightmare with all the side effects and I was never advised you cannot stop taking this drug as it has a rebound effect and you can suffer a stroke. It has caused me terrible reflux and bleeding in my esophagus as well as bruising and last year I had a PE.
I have spoken about ablation but they say I’m too old? Do you have an opinion?
PS: I live in Australia.
Your comments that you have osteoporosis and Parkinson’s and afib but afib is the worst to deal with says a lot about afib. It’s definitely not fun to deal with!
Regarding Xarelto and blood thinners in general, I’d talk to your doctor about this. He/she may be able to switch your medication as there are other options such as Eliquis, Pradaxa, and even coumadin if necessary. I’m assuming when you said you had a PE you mean pulmonary embolism. That, coupled with the fact that you have afib, I doubt you’ll be able to come off a blood thinner but that’s a discussion you’ll have to have with your doctor.
As for your comment about having an ablation at the age of 74. You’re definitely not too old. Dr. Natale, the doctor who did my ablation, does ablations on long standing persistent AFIB at over 90 years of age when the person is in reasonable decent cardio vascular health outside of AFIB. Your overall cardio health is the most important factor as opposed to your age.
In addition, there are several people from the afibbers.org forum that have been successfully ablated when older than 74.
I wish you well and God bless.
Here it is 2:00am and had an episode about 30 minutes ago. First time in about three months. It lasted a little over an hour. A little longer than usual, since my episodes usually last between 5-45 minutes. Found this website last year, when my afibs were out of control because my oncologist upped my thyroid meds from 112 to 125 in November. (Thyroid cancer in 2011) I started getting more, until I was getting them EVERY DAY. (I had never had more than two or three a YEAR). Anywhooo … I called my doctor and he lowered my dose back to 112 and three days later, they stopped … until now. One thing I would like to know from everyone is, how long did everyone’s episodes last. How long should you wait before going to the ER? Like I said, mine never last more than an hour.
THANKS for this website. It is WONDERFUL to know I am not alone in this. Thanks for all you do, Travis.
I think you’ll find the length of episodes varies greatly. Some people have episodes that last only 20 minutes and some have episodes indefinitely until they are converted via a cardioversion (called persistent atrial fibrillation). My episodes were all over the place. Sometimes they would only last an hour or two and sometimes they would last for five hours.
As for when you should go to the ER, that really depends on each individual. Before I was given Flecainide as a pill in the pocket solution, I would head to the ER for a cardioversion after one hour if I was still in afib. Some people know that they will convert sooner or later on their own so they’ll just ride it out – even if they are in afib for a full day or more!
When to take a trip to the ER usually comes down to your own tolerance of afib. I was highly symptomatic and totally worthless when I was in afib so I would head to the ER to get out of it asap. If you can deal with your afib and you’re fairly confident you’ll convert on your own, then a trip to the ER probably isn’t warranted or can be delayed but that’s a call each individual needs to make.
I wish you well and God bless.
P.S. I’m glad you find this website helpful!
Your information has been extremely helpful in understanding the afib ablation process and recovery. You describe your recovery from a patient prospective well and that is just what I needed! I had a cryoablation just two days ago. Feeling good and enjoying your blog!
Thanks! and I hope you’re doing well after your ablation.
I wish you well and God bless!
Congrats, Travis. Happy 1st year anniversary !!!
Thanks Christian! I hope all is well with you!
Congrats buddy! Your story has inspired me to know that when and if mine becomes out of the control one day that there is some positive hope with stories like yours rather than the others on various groups/forums where people are plagued by this and it has ruined their life through countless medications, TIA’s, stroke stories, basically all the things that terrify us with this thing. Knowing you had a year fully under your belt without a blip is incredible and I wish you many many years of NSR Travis! For now mine is still under control but I read your page often and love reading the updates even if they are just the status quo, its reassuring that this thing doesn’t have to put your life on hold and take over!
Thanks Ryan! Glad to hear my experiences inspire you and hopefully they inspire others as well. You’re correct when you say there is a lot of negativity online about afib – which is exactly why I don’t visit forums and other groups. They are way too depressing for me.
If there is one bit of advice I can share and that is avoid forums and groups and get educated! Learn everything you can about afib and your treatment options. The more you know, the more control you’ll have over your afib and the better decisions you’ll be able to make in the treatment of it!
I wish you well…and keep in touch!
I’m glad to read that things have been going well for you Travis. What form of magnesium do you take now? Remag? Mag glycinate? I ask because although I don’t have A-Fib I have been having issues with magnesium deficiency from stress and my mother is similar to me and she has A-Fib.
Hey K. I take a couple different forms right now. I take 600-800mg of ReMag daily and then sometimes an additional 250mg of Ease Magnesium spray. I’ll just spray it on my arms or chest.
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