I wish the title was "a fib" as in a lie. But no, it's "A Fib" as in atrial fibrillation. That's a heart condition in which the upper part of your heart doesn't keep a rhythm. Sometimes it pounds really hard like it wants to burst out of your chest, sometimes it wobbles along shakily like a child trying to play a drum set, and sometimes it doesn't beat at all for seconds at a time. It's awesome.

I'm sharing this because I've been diagnosed with it. A Fib is normally a condition that develops in your seventies or older. I live in Sarasota, Florida, so I guess I'm an honorary 70-year-old. Right now I have the recurring kind where I get spells of A Fib lasting a few hours at a time, but it's been happening more and more, so I'm worried that it's going to turn into the permanent 24/7 kind that never goes away.

Having a spell of A Fib sucks. It usually happens to me at night: I'll jolt awake and begin shaking uncontrollably in bed. I'll try to tell myself to calm down, but I can't because I'm alternating between realizing that I have no pulse and that my heart is trying to explode. I lie there wide awake and quivering, convinced that I'm having a heart attack. Eventually I trick myself into calming down and starting to nod off, but just as I'm about to lose consciousness, BOOM I'm jolted awake again with the same terror. This goes on for hours.

The one good thing about this diagnosis is that it explains some of my medical history. Over the years, I've been to the ER a lot, and been diagnosed with everything from arrythmia to anxiety attacks to a "caffeine overdose." Looking back at those incidents and remembering my symptoms vividly, I realize now that they were all spells of A Fib, going all the way back to college. The downside of this realization is charting the dates and seeing that the frequency is accelerating. What used to happen every few years (so rarely that I didn't recognize a pattern back then) is now happening several times a month.

I'm seeing a cardiologist. So far he's put me through a battery of exams, everything from a stress test to an ultrasound (no baby photos, sorry). I look forward to talking with him this week about a course of treatment. I'm hopeful that my youth makes me a candidate for the surgical solution that fixes A Fib permanently, because the main alternative is blood thinners that will cramp what little style I have. Mostly I just want no more nights of lying awake for hours terrified that I'm on the verge of death, and then becoming the walking undead the next day because I'm exhausted. Here's hoping for relief soon.

Three Replies to A Fib

Steve West | November 17, 2014
Damn. This sounds potentially serious. Scary, scary. I don't want to sound like an alarmist as you've dealt with this for some time and I never have but this is one of the few organs that we cannot live without. Arrhythmia in and of itself is troubling but the blood clot aspects are a tad more serious. Best of luck with the treatment plan, the quicker the better my friend.

Lori Lancaster | November 17, 2014
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Scott Hardie | November 20, 2014
Thank you both! Yes, the risk of blood clots and strokes (five times the national average) is the real danger with this condition. The rest of it is a nuisance, albeit a considerable one.

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