The dilemma of when to call for help - AF Association

AF Association

22,570 members27,412 posts

The dilemma of when to call for help

pottypete1 profile image

We have had numerous discussions in the past regarding “should I or should I not dial 111, 999 and or going to A&E, ED or ER”.

I have a tale to tell.

On Saturday night I went to bed as usual at about 11:00. Just after midnight I was woken by very bad chest pains rather like having a heavy weight placed on me.

Firstly I lay there for a few minutes turning from my side to my other side and on to my back. Nothing made it any better.

I was trying to think what could be wrong and after about half an hour when the pain hadn’t got any better I decided to wake my wife.

After a chat we decided that reluctantly I should ring 111 even though I had a pretty good idea what would be the outcome.

Unsurprisingly they sent an ambulance which arrived about 1:00 A. M. The paramedics were very understanding and said that they must take me to the hospital. The pain was no better at this time.

By the time I got to hospital the pain had halved and over the next hour it subsided altogether.

To cut the story of a very long night in A&E, 3 ECGs, an aborted very painful cannula in one hand and one in the other hand, blood tests, a chest Xray, and 2 encounters with blood soaked drunks, Iwas given a clean bill of health and sent home about 11:A.M.

Being most apologetic for time wasting I was firmly told by the doctors that I did exactly the right thing.

Not a pleasant experience, don’t know what happened to me it all seems like a jet lagged nightmare.

I should add that my poor wife, bless her, came with me to the hospital and like me had no sleep all night. She stayed with me until about 7:00 took a taxi home and then had to come back and get me. We both are still totally worn out.

All’s well that ends well I suppose.


41 Replies

Hi Pete - absolutely the correct thing to do - no discussion about chest pain - you go or call for help.

Glad you’re ok, best wishes CD.

Glad you’re feeling better again.

BobD profile image

Any chest pain needs attention Pete so no argument from me. Glad you are OK.

Crikey Pete! You did the right thing, they will never think you're wasting their time, I was told this every single time I attended with dizzy/breathless/fast AF... even the one time I spontaneously cardioverted on cannulation.

The latest episode on Sunday I was fast tracked into pit stop and then resus for monitoring and cardioversion, its normal to end up in resus even after triage and observations (which only shows a HR at whatever the machine captures in a few seconds period)

Not another cardioversion. I think you are going for the record.


20 in 5 years!

Hidden profile image
Hidden in reply to jedimasterlincoln

Now thats just plain greedy ! Pete , see what you can do....

pottypete1 profile image
pottypete1 in reply to Hidden

No that was Jedi

I am 20 cardioversions in 20 years only about 10 in the past five years


Hidden profile image
Hidden in reply to pottypete1

Actually I did mean Jedi! Mine are over 25 years so I'm really out of the running. Possibly a bronze.

pottypete1 profile image
pottypete1 in reply to Hidden

Also I am now just short of 1 year virtually AF free with only one short episode of AF in March - no cardioversions. Sounds a bit like Mastermind.

When they did ECG Saturday morning I was told:

Rate controlled, Right Branch Bundle Block and little or no P wave - pretty much par for the course now for me and much better than before. They told me my EP would be pleased with that.


Goodness Jed!

It's a strange thing for me to say but you're lucky to have had your cardioversions so quickly. I used to have to wait weeks for mine.

Hope you stay well now.



As I think we have all come to realise care in our less than perfect, but better than most, health care system it is a post code lottery. I have always had, with 2 exceptions, my cardioversions within 2 days of arriving at the hospital and that is down to where I live.

Having watched “Ambulance” on TV recently I know how very lucky I was to get a response within 15 minutes. On the program, based on the West Midlands I remember one case where they took a number of hours to arrive purely because of the volume of calls they hdf to deal with.


Hi Pete

I once had a cardioversion after being in hospital for 5 days, that was my very first one and I had a TOE first. Normally, I have to give four weeks of INR results before the hospital AF team will proceed.

Now with ambulances, they arrive at my house within minutes (think they must be parked up the road) and the paramedics are just fantastic and so funny they make me laugh. The last time they came was a few years ago and they were intrigued as to how the pulse in my wrist was fairly normal, but my heart was really going hell for leather. Wow did I feel ill!

Life goes on though and I'm really well right now. Hope you will be well now too.


I think it's probably cos my BP drops and I'm not able to function even after all these years they still debilitate me.

They debilitated me too Jed. I envy those who can carry on as normal. AF is so different from person to person. Those who don't feel ill with it haven't a clue what it's like for us and how it knocks us down for days, weeks or months. Such a horrible condition.

Agreed! My dad had AF for years and didn't notice, no symptoms at all but all the risk factors associated with it. Even my own AF has developed, from being floored by an AF HR of 120 I can now at least get dressed and washed and slightly functional at that level for a short time, enough to prepare for hospital. Now I really just get close to passing out at 150+

Yesterday's fast AF was 167.

Oooh, horrible, horrible, horrible feeling.

Wishing you well.

You certainly did the right thing and it’s good that you are OK.

What you describe, plus our years of conditioning not to make a fuss are what make most of us dither about calling for help.

Most of us would feel the same way Pete, but we all know it’s the only sensible thing to do when any chest pain is involved. The important thing is that you are back on track and long may that continue.......👍

Hope your feeling ok now Pete Makes my worries so trivial I do wonder if sometimes reading things on here makes me worry more Specially over the Apixaban

You did absolutely the right thing. Perhaps cut out the 111 service if you need similar support again. I did exactly the same route a week or so ago when my husband woke in the night with excruciating head pains and disorientation, pacing the floor in agony and incoherent.

I rang 111 who asked so many questions then they rang 999 who rang me then despatched paramedic and ambulance. On attendance and when on the journey to a and e I asked if I had done the correct thing. No was the answer, go direct to 999 if anything similar happened again. 111 Is ok for average non urgent things but bypass them for chest pain, severe head pain, bleeding, unconsciousness or any stroke like symptoms etc. In other words anything of suspicion and seriousness. I will heed their words.

So pleased you are ok now but what a fright for you. Rest up take it easy.

pottypete1 profile image
pottypete1 in reply to meadfoot

Yes I did think that, but again by trying to do the "right thing' because half of me thought it was a false alarm I decided to ring 111 not 999.

To be honest it did not make any difference.

The conversation went something like this:

Hello - Who is the patient


What is the problem

I woke have been woken by very bad chest pains and they won't go away

Have you ever been diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm


My colleagues are on their way they will be with you very shortly

they arrived 10 minutes later.

I was lucky I know and I agree that the best advice for bad chest pain that we know is not indigestion (it wasn't in my case| then 999 is the right call.

However, years of trying to not make a fuss has had its toll on me.


Hidden profile image

Gosh awful for you ! I would have gone straight to 999 if it was me ( not panicking or anything !)

Any idea now what could have caused it ? Hope you're ok now.


pottypete1 profile image
pottypete1 in reply to Hidden

Hello Sandra

Thats the strange thing.

It is comforting to know that my heart was fine but the pain was real and was not muscular or digestion.

When I asked why they said often we never know.

Now it is just a very bad dream.


Aw Pete , that sounds like my worst nightmare. I am pleased whatever it was has gone and all is well :-) .

You certainly did the right thing Pete. I'd have been convinced I was having a heart attack and would have done the same as you. With chest ache or pain there must be no hanging around to see if it gets better, or you could be too late and then as they say it's 'curtains'!!

It's annoying how they say there was nothing wrong, something must have triggered the way you felt. Uhm err, it wasn't wind was it?


Dare I say that unfortunately I do suffer from wind and I know 100% it was not wind or anything else similar. I actually had my main meal on Saturday at lunchtime and it was only light.

Being something of a walking medical dictionary I think I know my pesky body quite well now.

I am obviously glad it was not something sinister but all the same it was very real.


I can't speak for them but I'm sure they'd much rather have someone with your medical history present with wind and nothing sinister than sit on it and the worst happen. No matter how bad the wind ;)


Lol. Pete you're a tonic, you've made me laugh so much. Tears running down my face.

I rang 111 last Monday (see my post a few days ago) and ambulance arrived within 4 mins - we said that was quick - they were on their way back to base when call came in and they were at the bottom of our road!! You did the right thing Pete, chest pain, feeling feint and breathing problems should be looked at.


Better worn out than Snuffed out Pete.

Don’t let it put you off of doing the same thing again as it was the right thing to do.


You did the right thing. But what was the cause of the pain?

pottypete1 profile image
pottypete1 in reply to KMRobbo

They did all the tests and found nothing.

However trust me it was real and it was definitely not indigestion or muscular pain.

Obviously I am glad that they found nothing but I too wonder what it could have been.

Thanks to everyone for their total support of my ultimate decision to call 999.


KMRobbo profile image
KMRobbo in reply to pottypete1

Yes you are left in limbo, its nothing obviously bad which is good , but what the heck was it? Crossed fingers it does not reoccur and is one thing unconnected.

Four weeks ago I was discharged from the Cardio Dpt at the City in Nottingham after having been symptom free for over 18 months following a catheter ablation. My delight at being told in the nicest possible way to 'Bugger off" rapidly turned to dismay when exactly two weeks later my A Fib and A flutter returned with a vengeance. Like you pottypete1 I spent the night in A and E whilst my tachycardia settled. I was sent home after seeing a cardio doctor who said (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) that I had done exactly the right thing in taking myself off to A and E. Whilst I didn't have the chest pains that you experienced I did feel very ill and very anxious, as you can imagine. I am convinced that part of the reason for the return of my condition was doing too much, not drinking enough, working too hard and not resting enough during the hot weather. I feel better now although my BP and resting pulse rate are all over the place; sometimes I am fibbing and other times fluttering. My blood pressure never goes particularly high but can be vanishingly low. I am now back in the hospital system, mainly because I went to A and E and was seen by the cardiologist, but I have to wait until December to see an arrhythmia nurse to talk about further treatment. If I hadn't gone into A and E I was going to have to see my GP (no mean feat these days) and be referred back to the hospital. The moral of this story is contain your joy when told that they don't need to see you any more and resist being discharged.

Hi Pete what a horrible night for you and your wife. Don’t know how many times the paramedics have been here, people tend to make a joke about it and I did get embarrassed. When the doctors can’t explain what it was isn’t nice either. You did do the right thing. I think 111 is amazing and the paramedics, never had so many men in my bedroom all at once in my life. That was when I didn’t know what was going on. Anyway let’s hope it doesn’t happen again, do you think it could have been a major major attack of indigestion. You might think this sounds silly but I think if you suffer with AF pain from indigestion can be crazy. Long before I was diagnosed with AF I had the most awful reflux problems and was told to get checked out in case I’d had a heart attack. Which I never had but the pain was awful it went into my neck. It never was a hear attack but of course I now have AF. Sorry for rambling, you have a good restful day.

I am 100% certain it was not indigestion!

I have suffered from that before and it was nothing like it. Furthermore I only had a light lunch at about 12:30 and eat nothing after that because I suffer from Divaticulitus and because of some low tummy pain I had had for a couple of days I decided to not have anything food at tea time and to stay on a liquid only diet for the rest of the day. I also have suffered from reflux and I know that when I get it.


Sorry to hear you have been in the wars,but you did thr right thing,chest pain is not to be ignored,especially for us lot!

Hope you settle down now xx

Well, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you did the right thing. Chest pains are potentially too serious to be ignored. And, of course, these things have an annoying habit of happening at the most inconvenient times.

Hidden profile image

Oh Pete that sounded terrible for you and I know the feeling so well!! I'm so sorry to hear this but glad you are now recovered and soldiering on. Best wishes 😘

You may also like...