Fast AF to Sudden Cardiac Arrest at 40,000ft

Hi, I am John Owen and new to the site.

Several years ago after feeling unwell with some flue or cold like symptoms - running nose, tiredness, shortness of breath, my wife said that I should really go to the doctors to get checked out as I had been deep breathing for several weeks in my sleep. I put it down to just being a cold or some chest infection but doing as my better half suggested off we went to the doctors. I was examined by the doctor who on taking my blood pressure and pulse said, 'your heart is going like an Olympic Rower' and off I was sent to hospital. Being admitted by the hospital for a two week period opened the door for the consultant cardiologist to visit me and so my journey into the world of arrhythmia issues began.

Fast Atrial Fibrillation;

Having progressed up the professional medical chain to now being dealt with by a consultant cardiologist, over the following years - 2009 - 2013, I had by this time gone through three planned cardioversions - as each lasted for around a twelve month period before returning, where then I was sent for an Catheter Ablation to hopefully solve my condition once and for all.

Fast Atrial Fibrillation Returns

My arrhythmia problems now seeming to be soundly behind me now for over twelve months plus my wife and in-laws decided to go on a cruising holiday to the USA. Over the fire couple of days I was getting what I described as a chest infection or a reaction to the air conditioning from the aircraft and ships cabins...etc, but at the back of my mind there was the sneaky feeling that my AF may have just found its way back. We had just docked into San Francisco for a two day stop and after walking up two flights of stairs I was sucking air out of the carpet like a vacum cleaner. My ever observant sister-in-law said that she thought she had noticed me checking my pulse on my wrist a couple of time so suggested that we go to the ships doctor to be checked out. This we did, I was indeed again in AF and my pulse was running at 190bpm. The ships doctor hooked me up to a drip whilst arrangements were made to transfer me to the San Francisco Bay Hospital. After another cardioversion procedure - which failed to put my heart back in normal rhythem I then, over the next several days, went through a series of tests and checks at the hospital and was also loaded up with various medications. My wife (Rose) who had to find a nearby hotel to accommodate her whilst I was pampered by the hospital staff. After about the fourth day Rose arrived to visit as normal, and asked a nurse how I was. The nurse told her that I had "had a short turn" in his sleep but he came out of it himself - meaning that I was going into heart failure but bounced back out. The nurse went out and came back with the ECG graph to show us (You get a copy of the readings in USA) and he explained ' This is where he went into heart failure here - pointing at the graph, its what we call 'Tomb Stoning'..)

After the several days in the San Francisco Bay Hospital the cardiologist came to speak with Rose and I on a plan to get us back to the UK, what was suggested was 1. To fit me with a De-fib Vest and fly back by commercial Airline. 2. To Fly back with a Doctor on a Commercial flight?. 3. Air Ambulance me back by Lear jet, it would be down to the recommendations of the cardiologist and my travel insurers. It was settled that I go back by Air ambulance accompanied by a doctor and a nurse.

Rose and I was transported by ambulance to the San Francisco airport by passing customs and up to the air ambulance where the crew was waiting. After a short wait whilst I was catheterised in the ambulance I was loaded onto the Lear Jet - not quite as salubrious as one may think.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest No1. (of 4)

We took off from San Francisco and headed to Manchester via Toronto, Hudson Bay, Iceland. We had not long left Iceland and were at about 40,000ft, I was chatting to the doctor and the next thing I recall was coming round being wheeled into the emergency unit of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Glasgow, a nice cool breeze on my face and upper body must have brought me round. When I became Compos Mentis, Rose told me that I was just chatting away to the doctor when your eyes went to the back of your head and you slumped back on the stretcher. They had to work on me for some 25 minutes The doctor and nurse doing their bit whilst Rose was carrying out CPR until they could divert and land in Glasgow to be transferred to hospital. Rose said that as they were coming into land there was an ambulance and police outriders waiting on the tarmac ready to swish me off to hospital. Apparently they just dragged me off the bed in the aircraft, through the tiny door and onto the ambulance - well done and thank you that team - and my wonderful wife Rose of course.

On arrival at the hospital before I have fully come round most of our family and extended family were around the bed in the A&E unit as they had been called up from Manchester expecting the worst.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest No2. (Two days later)

In hospital bed in Royal Alexandra Hospital and awoken to a nurse kneeling astride me on the bed giving me chest compressions and a crowd of medical staff surrounding the bed, My initial feelings and words were feeling the chest compressions and my saying I'm awake, I'm awake. Thinking, such a strong thing for a slip of a girl - but thank you and very well done.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest NO2 &1/2.

Came round out of my sleep, sat bolt upright in a cold sweat just as the medical team came charging through the door, the nurse shouting, your OK john, your OK, You have come out of arrest yourself - as if I knew anything about that one - but again, thank you, first class team.

On about the fifth day of my stay at the Royal Alexandra, the consultant cardiologist informed me that they were transferring me to the Golden Jubilee Hospital, a specialist hospital dealing in / with heart and lung problems.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest No3 (Day two into stay at The Golden Jubilee)

After settling into a private room in the Golden Jubilee I got acquainted with the medical and support staff of the HDU. There were a couple of student nurses in year two of their training when one asked if it was OK to accompany me down to theatre whist I had an angiogram procedure done, she said - Jokingly, 'I have been told you are prone to sudden cardiac arrest, I hope you don't have one while I am with you' I was in a wheel chair being pushed by an orderly and just arrived at the operating theatre entrance. Bump, off I went again into SCA No3, I awoke lay on the floor with a young nurse lay next to me, both her hand with a vice like grip on my arm, covered in sweat and said, I didn't think I would have the strength to pull him out of the chair..., My chest was aching quite a bit, but the trainee nurse said that she heard my ribs crack under the chest compressions of the male nurse - no real damage done so after a nervous moment or two, we continued on with the procedure.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest No4 (Day 5 into stay at the Golden Jubilee)

Off down to the operating theatre to have a implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted - this time they were taking no chances. Again the young trainee nurse accompanied me down to theatre and said 'Please, please, don't do it again (Cardiac Arrest) you frightened the life out of me - its seems worse when it happens and you know the person' I told her that I had come to know when It was going to happen, I get like a fine tingly feeling in my face along with a noticeable dizziness, then almost instantly your gone. I said if it was to happen again, the code word is I'm going. She laughed. We just entering the theatre doors when I remember shouting out 'I'm Going' and off I went again. I was brought round again and asked by the surgeon if I wished to continue the procedure which I did.

The last episodes - from Fast AF on the ship in San Francisco to the fitting of the ICD in the Golden Jubilee was just over a year ago, the end of March to beginning of May. I remained off work for five months returning back to work the following September. On discharge from hospital I was loaded up with a variety of medication which over the last several months has now reduced to 10mgs of Bisoprolol x 2 daily, 250mg of digoxin 1 x daily, Ramipril & Rivaroxaban (Xarelto). I still get short of breath if climbing stairs or too much exertion and strangely enough, a muscular pain in my right leg, but that is a little price to pay.

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  • Hi John, I read your post with interest. I have been diagnosed with slow afib persistent, which is now ruling my life for the time being. You can get me on 07981330353. I live 5 miles away. Good to talk, Roger (StevenR8)....56 years old, retired teacher.

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