Playing the cards I was dealt

    An estimated 2.7 million to 6.2 million people in the United States have A/Fib. — including, as it turns out, me.

    In 2006, my wife, Kerry, and I were visiting a friend, and at one point when I stood up I could feel the blood draining from my head. My body was warning me that it wanted to pass out. I fought the sensation, made it to the bathroom, sat down and splashed cold water onto my neck and face. Within moments I was feeling better. Obviously I stood up too fast, I contemplated.

    The next day that dizzy feeling returned. My energy level was zero. Kerry suggested I go see my doctor. He took one quick listen with his stethoscope and commented that the mystery was solved. I was in A/Fib. I sat there stunned as the doctor went over my options. His words floating toward me, with little or no meaning ... his abruptness concerned me. I was referred to a cardiologist.

    My cardiologist took the helm of my care, meds were prescribed, and a game plan was laid out, and most importantly reassurance that this was not a life-threatening condition was repeated over and over again. That helped with my anxiety.

    The plan: electrical cardio version. In other words, they wanted to get out the jumper cables and do a restart. I was shocked, pun intended. After the procedure and recovery, I was told that this was the most difficult cardio version he had ever experienced, taking three attempts to correct my arrhythmia. I was back in normal sinus rhythm, instantly feeling better.

    In December of 2008, I went back into A/Fib. I wasn't a happy camper, especially after multiple attempts at electro cardio version nearly failed 2 years earlier. A lot of people live with A/Fib without symptoms, so for them, being in A/Fib is no big deal. They just take blood thinners to avoid or reduce the chances of having a stroke. For me, I am extremely symptomatic, no energy, stressed and anxious.

    I was offered some new meds and a follow-up appointment was set for three days. When I returned, I was in normal sinus rhythm. My prognosis: stay on these meds, for life. I remained in normal rhythm for more than 10 years.

    One of the side effects of Flecainide, my antiarrhythmic A/Fib med, was it could cause tremors. Having Parkinson's, I asked about maybe stopping that med to see if my tremors would subside. My cardiologist suggested I stop taking Flecainide for one month, to see how I do. All was well until Dec. 23, 2017, the day I went back into A/Fib. So much for the experiment. I was admitted into the hospital for a battery of tests and was finally sent home after lunch on Christmas eve. I am back on Flecainide ... for life.

    The moral of the story is simple. How blessed are we to live in a time where modern medicine can provide comfort and prolong quality life? As we age, we have to play the cards we are dealt. Your cards are your cards; you can’t draw new ones or fold.

    The answer ... make the best of a non-perfect situation (aging). Eat well, exercise often and see your doctor regularly.

    — Richard Hunter lives in Jacksonville.

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