First of all, thank all of you who have related all your personal experiences of AFib on this site. I have found it enormously helpful reading all your posts in this forum.
I am 65, not overweight, active (walk between 20 and 30 miles per week), have a healthy diet and suffered from nothing more than being content and rather smug with my lot - I thought I was doing all the right things to lead to a healthy old age.
Until December. I awoke feeling distinctly unwell, I just couldn't place what was wrong, I thought I had been lying awkwardly and perhaps strained my back and chest. I walked two miles my daughter's to pick up my grandson, and the family immediately noticed my ashen face. Instead of going to work, my daughter packed me, my two dogs and my grandson in the car and took me straight round to my GP. An hour later I sat as he took my pulse and listened intently and told me immediately he thought I had AFib. The surgery has facilities and within minutes I had an ECG which confirmed his diagnosis. Having being diagnosed with mild SVT (no treatment) three years ago, I was quite blase about what he told me. I cannot fault my treatment - I think my GP knew it hadn't sunk in and he said to come back later that week with a member of my family to go through the diagnosis, and explained that he was immediately putting me on warfarin and 2.5mg Bisoprolol.
Three days later (after much googling and many, many horror stories) the reality had sunk in and I was in complete shock. That day I was back in the surgery at the INR clinic to test have my levels tested and on seeing my distress the nurse called the same GP through and he sat with me for fifteen minutes explaining about AFib. Within two weeks I had an echocardiogram, and the week after that had an hour-long consultation in the arrhythmia clinic with the specialist nurse. My results showed my heart was normal with only very minor changes. It was at this point that I remembered having severe indigestion in September and I recognised that this was undoubtedly AFib as well. After the nurse explaining various treatment options he asked if I would like to be considered for the 'AVATAR' trial, where a group of AFib sufferers (fulfilling certain criteria) is randomly divided into three groups, one for medication only and two for ablation.
I was absolutely torn. I had had no further episodes, and ablation (if I was in one of those groups) came with risks. However, this week, in the car on the way to my first appointment for the AVATAR trial, I idly tested myself on 'Alivecor' (my husband got this for me so I felt more in control). For the first time, the reading was going haywire. I had practically no symptoms. When I saw the research cardiologist just over an hour later, he looked at the ECG and confirmed AFib. Furthermore, he is following up the investigations I had in 2012 as he feels certain is was AFib then. In the last three days I have gone into AF at least twice a day, with much more obvious symptoms - heart rate 115, and feeling faint and ill.
In three or so weeks I shall know which AVATAR group I am in, and should it be ablation, then the procedure would be carried out on April 5th. If my symptoms do not improve then a second ablation would be carried out on 21st June. The cardiologist was at pains to reassure me that I could drop out of the trial at any time if I was unsure, that my ablation wouldn't be in any way an 'experiment' and any procedure would be carried out by an experienced EP.
I am so aware that many AFib sufferers have gone and are going through so much more than me and my AFib journey has been relatively easy up until now. I know that ultimately I will have to make a decision - I feel as if I am on an express train hurtling towards a destination I am ill-prepared for. However, I am also aware that research shows the earlier the intervention the better the outcome. Some research suggests that, for certain cases, first-line treatment should be ablation.
Sorry for this very long and involved account!
I would welcome your thoughts.