I can’t believe 2016 is over already! It went by so fast. At the end of every year I like to reflect and look back at everything that happened along my afib journey. I welcome you to follow me on my look back at 2016.
I’ve been a Christian all of my life but I’ve been a very part-time Christian – only attending church at Christmas and Easter and not thinking much of religion beyond that. After my dad died from heart failure in the summer of 2015, I experienced a “religious awakening.” My dad’s early and unexpected death made me realize just how fragile (and quick) life is and really made me think seriously about life, death, and life after death.
I don’t write about religion much on this blog but sufficed it to say, I dedicated a good portion of my days to God in 2016. Every morning the minute I woke up I prayed to thank him for blessing me with another day and I asked Him to protect me from afib. And if my afib was to return that day, I prayed that He would give me strength and faith to get through it. I also prayed every night before going to bed to thank him for all of his blessings.
In addition to daily prayer, I spent 30 minutes every morning listening to a different sermon by any of my favorite pastors during my daily power walks. This helped to reinforce his Word and provided 30 minutes of positive thoughts to help power me through the day. If you’d like to know some of the sermons I listened to in 2016, visit the Living With Atrial Fibrillation Facebook page. I post “Sunday Inspirations” there which are some of these sermons. I also spent 20 minutes every night reading and studying the Bible.
I’ve become a firm believer that if you want total peace in life you need to “master” three areas of your life. It’s especially important to master these areas when you’re battling a health condition like atrial fibrillation. You have to master the mental, or emotional, areas of your life as well as the spiritual and physical areas of your life. If you’re lacking in any of these you won’t have total peace and battling a condition like afib will be nearly impossible.
February: Sleep Study Completed
Given the strong connection between atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea I wanted to rule out sleep apnea so I finally caved in and had a sleep study done. My sleep study was as uncomfortable as I suspected it would be but I was relieved to get it over with and even more relieved to find out I didn’t have sleep apnea!
March: One Year Afib-Free Anniversary
On March 5th I celebrated being free of afib for one year! As I write this blog post, I’m just a couple months from celebrating two years of being free of afib. I still can’t believe it’s been that long. It seems like just yesterday I was in Austin, TX having my ablation.
May: My Battles with PVCs and PACs Continued
In May I wrote about how I continued my battles with PVCs and PACs. These buggers still continue to bother me from time-to-time. They are very cyclical, however. I’ll have a few weeks of bothersome PVCs and PACs and then suddenly they’ll calm down to almost nothing for a few weeks. Then the cycle repeats itself. As I write this I’m in a cycle of PVCs and PACs – after having been free of them for well over a month. While they bother the heck out of me, I’m just grateful I’m not battling afib right now!
May: EXA & RBC Tests
At the end of May I had another EXA test and RBC test. Since I had been battling PVCs and PACs at the time, I thought it made sense to have these tests done again (I had them done in 2015 as well) to see if my magnesium levels were still low. Low magnesium levels can be a trigger for arrhythmias such as PVCs, PACs, and even atrial fibrillation. I learned that my magnesium levels were up from 2015 but were still on the low end of normal.
June: IV Magnesium Replacement
This was the biggest fail of 2016 as far as my afib journey goes. Given that a year of daily heavy oral dosing of magnesium barely moved the needle as far as my magnesium levels were concerned, I thought I would try something really aggressive so I made my first appointment for IV magnesium replacement. During my one and only “treatment” I basically had a panic attack and almost fainted in my chair. I never tried it again! I continued with my oral magnesium instead.
June: 10 Year “Afib Anniversary”
June 16, 2016 marked my ten year anniversary battling atrial fibrillation. I was just 33 years old back in 2006 when I had my first afib episode. I had no idea back then what my journey would entail. For the first seven years, afib was nothing more than a flu-like nuisance as I only had one episode every year or two. Then in 2014 my afib spiraled out of control, leading me to my catheter ablation in March 2015.
July: Another Round of Heart Monitoring
My PVCs and PACs continued to plague me. They got so bad during the summer that I broke down and requested to have a heart monitor from my doctor. I wore it for 14 days straight. Of course the 14 days I wore it my heart was as calm as can be. My doctor didn’t find anything with the monitoring results but benign PVCs and PACs.
October: Talking PVCs and PACs with My Local EP
I had my annual checkup with my local EP and had an echo to ensure my heart was healthy and strong. I didn’t have anything concerning to discuss with my local EP so I spent most of my time talking PVCs and PACs with him. Ultimately I found out that there is a 50% chance these PVCs and PACs will disappear on their own within a year or so. And if they don’t, as long as they don’t consistently comprise 20% or more of my heart beats, they are benign and I have nothing to worry about (although they may be very bothersome at times). I also learned the results of my echo. My heart was as strong and healthy as it can be!
What’s Next for 2017
My primary goal for 2017 is to eat healthier. My diet is a train wreck right now and has been since summer. You wouldn’t believe the crap I eat and drink. I break just about every rule an afibber is supposed to abide by when it comes to their diet. I eat chocolate, fast food, junk food, and I drink pop daily and have a couple cocktails every week.
Surprisingly, I have only gained seven pounds through it all. I was hovering around 163 pounds in the summer before my diet went off the rails. Now I’m up to 170 pounds. I’d like to be at 165 pounds throughout 2017 and the only way that’s going to happen is if I get control of my eating habits! This is so difficult for me to do because I’ve been a fast-food and junk-food junkie since I was a kid.
Continue My Walk with God
I will continue to keep up my daily praying and Bible study. I will also continue to listen to various religious sermons every morning during my power walks. My primary goal in this area for 2017 is to deepen my faith and walk with God. Despite all of my efforts to be “close to God,” I still find myself empty inside. I still don’t have the strong connection with God that I’d like and my faith in Him still isn’t where I’d like it to be.
I still waste so much time worrying about my afib and my health in general. It is said that the things we worry about the most are things we have the least faith in God about. My goal is to strengthen my faith in 2017 so I can stop worrying about afib and my health in general. I need to work on trusting God that he will take care of me no matter what happens in 2017!
EXA and RBC Tests
In May I will have another round of EXA and RBC tests completed. This will be my third round of tests in the past three years so it will be interesting to see the results. Will my magnesium levels be trending up or down, or will they be the same? We’ll find out in May!
Catheter Ablation #2 Talks with My Wife
I know this is going to sound crazy, but I will be sitting down with my wife probably in January to discuss our game plan if a second ablation is needed in the event my afib returns in 2017. The reality is most afibbers will need at least two and in many cases three ablations to put afib to rest for good – especially if afib is diagnosed at an early age where a genetic component is involved.
I was diagnosed with afib at a very early age (33) and my dad and other members of our extended family also had atrial fibrillation (the STRONG genetic component). While I’m hoping I’m a “one and done” ablation candidate, I’m a realist. What’s the saying, “hope for the best but prepare for the worst?” I realize that it’s more likely WHEN my afib returns – not IF it returns. Hopefully “when” won’t be for at least a few more years but I want to be prepared.
My wife is totally clueless and in the dark about all this atrial fibrillation stuff. She just assumes that since I had my ablation I’m cured. End of discussion. She’s not in the weeds with this stuff like I am so she doesn’t realize that I’ll likely need another procedure or two in the future.
I want us both to be totally prepared for that day. I want to be sure we’re on the same page as to what our game plan is going to be and what the costs will entail. I will only allow Dr. Natale to do my ablations and he only practices in Austin and San Francisco. We live in Minneapolis, MN. If additional procedures are needed, we’re going to have to travel and our insurance may or may not fully pay for my medical expenses so we’ll have to plan for them as well.
Live Life to the Fullest and Try to “Ignore” Afib
My final goal for 2017 is to live life to the fullest and try to ignore afib and not worry about it. This is almost impossible to do given that I have a blog on afib, lol, but I’m going to try to not let afib be a cloud over my life. I’m so grateful to God that I’ve been blessed with almost two years of afib-freedom but that “afib cloud” never seems to go away. I still worry if today will be the day my afib returns. I have to learn to just live life and not let afib rob me of my happiness!
Well that’s my year in review and what I hope to accomplish in 2017. I want to thank all of my regular blog readers. If this blog helps any of you in any way, I’m thrilled! You are the only reason I maintain this blog – to help in any way possible. I wish all of you NSR and a happy and healthy 2017!
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Travis, Not that Im leaning towards an ablation at this point, I am trying new approaches for now, but I do see that Natale is covered under my insurance. Do you believe there is a great difference between him and someone in Boston, like Stevenson who has a 95% rating compared to Natale of 99%?
I’m not familiar with Stevenson so I can’t comment on his skills or experience. Regarding Natale, he’s a pioneer in the industry and has done more ablations than any other EP in the world – by a fairly large margin. He stopped keeping count a couple years ago and when he did he had over 8,500 ablations under his belt at that point. He’s likely well over 9,000 ablations.
If you have the opportunity to work with Natale or anyone else, the choice is easy – you go with Natale. Do you follow football? It’s like asking who would you rather be your quarterback – Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. Both are great quarterbacks destined for the Hall of Fame but Brady has more Super Bowl rings. The choice is easy. You go with Brady. You have a great chance to win with both but you have an even better chance with Brady:)
Travis, good analogy and of course being a Pats fan, hated by everyone in my family who isnt, an extra special comparison. As the Falcons deftly said on the sideline, “Yeah, but theyve got Brady”, causes me to think a trip to Austin isnt that far away. I mentioned Natale and Caulkins to my EP, and his comment was a bit defensive. He actually questioned their stats and thought there could be some ambiguity to them. Of course his rating is 73 and 69% on ablations, so I get that. He was understanding however and said he would help me set up with Natale or anyone I desired if I chose that route. Right now, things have settled down and the latest treatment on my whiplash injury along with a new Ubinquinol and Carnitine supplement, has stopped the episodes and PVCs. How are yours doing these days?
Doctors are human so it’s not surprising that some get defensive when you suggest you’re going to go to a “better” doctor. Your doctor’s response is all too common. Fortunately he’s supportive of your decision no matter what you do. That’s a great sign! If you go to Natale you’ll need a local EP to do your follow up appointments so it’s good to have a local guy in your corner.
Glad to hear you’ve found a solution to your PVCs. That’s awesome! My heart overall has been doing great the past few months. I’ll have a string of bad days here and there but 90% of the time my heart is as peaceful and calm as can be:)
Have a good one! And go Pats!!
I just had my first (hopefully last) PVI for PAF cryoablation done. The whole procedure took 2 hours. Next 3 months will show if it was successful I suppose. My only worry is to develop phrenic nerve damage or pulmonary vein stenosis in the near term. This is day 2 and chest discomfort is gone. The pulse is under 70 bpms.
It sounds like you’re doing great. That’s awesome to hear! Keep us posted on your recovery.
I wish you the best!
So far so good. Two days ago I had a lot of ectopic beats all day and night. It was triggered by the episode of indigestion flare up. Before it would lead straight into AF. This time it did not. This may look like ablation worked. I will keep you posted.
Awesome. You bring up a topic I’ve been meaning to look into for a long time – digestion and afib. There definitely seems to be a connection. When I’m bloated and “full of gas,” I always have a lot of PVCs and PACs. And I hear from a lot of people who have afib episodes due to digestive issues. I’ll have to put this on my to-do list. Have a good one!
Your post-ablation story is a replica of mine so far! I’m at 6 months post and having PVCs/PACs and have the monitor on for a month. I’m realizing I’m probably going to be under that 20% though so I’ll most likely have to ride this out. One of my triggers is reflux/eating too much and I just wanted to give you the link to this cardiologist that talks a lot about the gastocardiac connection if you’d like to see his other explanations as well:
I’m very familiar with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. I spoke with him once at great length. I’m a huge fan of his videos. Thanks for sharing. And glad to hear you’re doing relatively well. Hang in there. The PACs and PVCs will eventually go away.
Travis, I have read but cannot verify, the radiation can be as much as 50 times the acceptable level. For me, any amount could impact our already taxed systems with toxins. For now, Ill accept your advise to not worry about it until I can verify.
I guess after all these years with intermittent AF, Im not understanding EPs take on cause and effect of AF. This one dismissed the Vagal and gut connections as impacting our electrical systems. To say that it is scar tissue on the left atrium leaves me wondering how and where that scarring came from? When I probed him further with a poignant remark that he in fact would be adding scars to my heart, his answer didnt satisfy me. Obviously, because so many are left with PVCs, some so bad they go back under the knife, there sure seems to be some impingement or impact disturbing our electrical signal. Im not saying ablations, destroyers of tissue, are not needed or does not work, many have benefited from them. I am still somewhat of a skeptic however as to their reasoning for cause and cure. I guess I need to research more in depth to satisfy myself. I get so confused by sites that are biased by the medical establishment and at the same time suspicious of all natural sites with little foundation or evidence.
Travis, Happy New year. Hope all is well. Mine was greeted with a 12 hour episode of Afib last week. It had been 2 yrs and 1 month, so I can’t bitch too much. Since those dreaded overeating holidays, minus the booze I haven’t touched a drop since last August, I had been battling an unusual amount of PVCs for those months, 20 plus per week. Add the high stress of a new boss and my job in general, and wham, 2am wake up call.
HR never got higher than 95, mostly 83-92, and outside of hitting a restroom every 10 min, I didn’t feel horrible. I did my high amount of supplements and was on way to acupuncturist when she called to say she was sick. Bummer because she was the last one to “hit the spot” converting me back 2 yrs ago.
Not having the luxury that day of waiting I downed 200mg of Flec dated May 2014, yikes, and 75 min later converted. For some strange reason it was like that reset my PACs/PVCs and took away the strong HR, none since.
On my way to a new EP however to update the meds, possibly lost some potency over the years! We’ll see what else he has to say.
Sorry to hear about your recent afib episode. I’m glad to hear it wasn’t a major issue for you and you were able to convert on your own – even if it meant using old medicine…lol. Good to know that Flec has a long shelf life:) I’ll have to keep that in mind. Flec always worked really well for me too – often converting within 4 hours. I’d down 300mg of Flec when I’d have episodes. I’m just crossing my fingers I won’t have to use it anytime soon!
I hope your appointment with your EP went well. Keep in touch…and have a great year!
The EP visit was positive for the most part, although I turned down his ablation and standing med suggestion, along with statins. I think they do a decent job at Dartmouth College. He worked with Caulkins and the EP that does most of the ablations worked with Natale. Their track record is ok considering it lumps everyone together, Paroxysmal, Persistent and all age groups. 66% for first, 85% for second, 92% for third. They’ve never done more than 3.
He thought I was a great candidate for a “one and done ablation,” considered me to be a youngster, and in excellent health. He didn’t want to say definitely, but said 95% chance if there were no surprises with one. It is a bit tempting, though I still fear some long term negative effects with radiation. He claimed I cant die from cancer for this at my age.
Just for the main reason, I still have afib and have no clue when it will rear its ugly head. I will say this, not drinking for 6 months has put all my serum levels in line with a couple out of range, but close. Don’t believe I will ever drink again, which is fine with me. James
I definitely wouldn’t let the radiation issue scare you. The radiation exposure for these procedures is minimal. I have to be completely honest, the radiation issue never even crossed my mind when I was considering having my ablation. It was the least of my worries.
I’ll pretty much do anything to get out of and stay out of afib without having to rely on drugs. If I need to have 3 ablations so be it!
I wish you well and I hope your afib doesn’t rear its ugly head anytime soon!!
Hi Travis– just read the year in review and really enjoyed it. I am doing well and since 2 weeks ago all of a sudden I have been relatively free of A Fib episodes so I reduced my Tikosyn on my own to half which is what had sent me into A Fib in Nov after the blanking period.
For some unknown reason taking the 3 heart meds at the same time with this reduced dose seems to be working. Now I want to half it again asap and test it all!
Have San Francisco on the “pretty sure” calendar for mid March to see Dr Natale for the process–really encouraging. Going to talk with the EP here and advise and go from there at my appointment tomorrow.
Thanks again for all the support and encouragement and I so agree with being in a good mental, emotional, spiritual and physical place to get through all this.
After 10 months I finally feel like a more “normal” person vs always on edge. So believe that having my spirituality has continued to keep me in the game as well as you and Shannon in my corner.
Talk again soon, Carol
So great to hear from you! It’s been a pleasure to help you along your afib journey. I’m so excited for you that you’ll be able to have a procedure by the great one himself, Dr. Natale. You won’t regret it!
Here’s the deal…don’t listen to your heart on this one. Instead, listen to your brain! Here’s what I mean by that:
It is very common for the heart to completely settle down leading up to an ablation. Often times people will assume their heart is getting better so they’ll cancel their ablation. But then what happens is as soon as you cancel, your afib will return. It’s crazy how it works. This happens all the time. It almost happened to me. This is why you need to make that appointment and stick with it no matter what (as I’m sure you’ll do).
I hope your EP appointment went well. Please keep in touch and I will reach out to you privately before your ablation with Natale.
Just letting you know I have enjoyed your blogs. I have experienced many of the same things you have. Keep up your walk with God.
Thanks Marcus! I wish you the best in 2017!
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