On January 7th 2012 I suffered a cardiac arrest after playing rugby as a result of an underlying heart condition called Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome. Although not entirely as a result of my heart condition the cardiac arrest was undoubtedly a very traumatic experience for all concerned. I was very fortunate to be resuscitated in hospital with the aid of a defibrillator and a couple of weeks later I underwent heart surgery and was aided with great support in my long road to recovery. Here is my story.
I had been on the field for a matter of minutes when I became very light headed and felt drowsy. I dragged myself from the field of play as I knew my heart rate was out of rhythm and something was wrong. I was treated by the physio and a few hours later as my heart had still not returned to normal rhythm.
After arriving at hospital I was taken immediately in to the resuscitation area where I was administered with a massage nerve treatment on the neck and given intravenous drugs to try and bring my heart rate back to its normal rhythm. Despite an hour or so of treatment this didn’t work and my heart rate remained high and reached 221 beats per minute (bear in mind my maximum heart rate should have been 193bpm). Although not uncommon with the underlying heart condition of Wolff-Parkinson White Syndrome. After approximately 5-10mins with my heart rate remaining at 221bpm my heart became fatigued and could no longer withstand the hard work it was going through. At this point my heart stopped beating and I went in to a cardiac arrest. My neighbour who had driven me to the hospital describes the flat line beep, flashing lights and the wave of doctors and nurses that you will be accustomed to if you’ve seen Casualty or any other medical series. My heart stopped and I my heart stopped beating for 5 minutes and it took the charge of the defibrillator to restart my heart and bring me back to life.
I cannot remember an outer body experience, or seeing any bright white lights but what I recollect is a feeling of tiredness and what I thought was falling asleep. When I came back round it felt like a dream after a deep sleep. Moments after coming round the senior doctor explained what had happened and I am not ashamed to admit that I was terrified that it could happen again as my heart remained in excess of 170bpm.
I was later moved to the cardiology ward where I was monitored all night around the clock as my resting heart rate still remained high. I had no sleep as every time my heart rate went past a certain point a loud beep would go off and I would panic and hit my button. I was hooked up to no less than three machines and sat staring at the heart rate monitor, consequently having no sleep through the fear of my heart stopping again. It was the longest night I have had but gradually my heart rate returned to its resting rhythm. I spent a total of five days in the hospital where the nursing staff and my family did a remarkable job in helping me to recover.
A week later I had a three hour operation to remove my additional pathway through a process known as an ablation.
If truth be known I had somewhat given up..I couldn’t go to sleep without anyone being in the room and for a few weeks I woke up with a jolt moments after falling asleep, as though I was replaying being shocked back to life in my sub conscious. My confidence was destroyed.. even to the point where serious consideration was given to whether I would return to Vesey. It has been an extraordinarily long process to get to where I have now completed the Paris Marathon on April 7th this year and on August 19th 2013 will hopefully get to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. I consider these things a blessing and it means that I can do my little bit to contribute to raising awareness of underlying heart conditions, help support families who have lost loved ones and help in what little way I can to provide an increased number of de-fibrillators in more public places so that it will give someone else like me the opportunity to live a second life.
I never believed in miracles but my stance has changed somewhat over the last year. I would describe the experience as frightening, grounding and ultimately I have reflected on and recognise what the word “life” or “to live truly” means.
If anyone does have any questions that they would like to ask I will try my best to answer them.