Sometimes reality hits you blatantly in the face. The percentages are not in your favor. The “it won’t happen to me” mentality disappears.
It was my sophomore year at Georgia College, September 10 to be specific. It was a normal Sunday. I was sitting on a brown Lazy Boy recliner watching highlights of the week’s sporting events. The evening was normal. Fraternity chapter had just ended and I began planning out my week and making a list of the general items that needed to be accomplished in the next five-day timeframe.
The chatter between my roommates and I was the usual trash talk of expletives and reminders about who took out the trash last. The days were light and easy. My tie was loose and my button down shirt was unbuttoned down to the third button. I had already kicked my shoes in the corner. Between the banter and the smell of burgers on the grill, the night was just a normal Sunday. But in the midst of this normality, reality hit me blatantly in the face.
In the irregular pauses of my heartbeats, I began to cough. It got harder to breathe. I saw a blur around my vision. As I started getting visibly distressed by this weird phenomenon, my roommates asked questions. I reassured them that nothing is wrong. I had experienced heart beat skips before but this time was different. The irregular heartbeat kept going. It was getting faster.
My chest felt like somebody had reached inside my rib cage and started twisting my heart. I felt my pulse. I panicked more. I did the math in my head, “Fifteen seconds is one-fourth of a minute. My heart is beating 32 times in 15 seconds.
That’s 128 beats per minute.” The situation was out of control. Not only was my heart flipping around in my chest irregularly, but also my pulse was fast. I quickly told my roommates. I quickly called my parents. I quickly called my grandmother. The hospital was the only place for an answer.
During the three minutes drive to the hospital, there was no music or conversation. I had serious questions.
That night, I spent seven hours in the Oconee Regional Medical Center. In my stay, they informed me that my heart was in an irregular rhythm called Atrial Fibrillation. In simple terms, my brain wasn’t telling my heart to beat correctly.
The top right part of my heart, my atria, was beating hundreds of times faster than my actual heart, which caused the flipping sensation. In atrial fib, blood was filling up in the lower chamber of my heart and not able to escape normally out the top of my atria. This put me at an increased chance of stroke and heart attack. Usually, people do not have A-Fib until they are in their early 60’s. I was 19.
At 3 a.m., I was transported by ambulance to the Macon Heart Tower. Of course, my mom met me there. The cardiologists there are some of the best in the state. They asked me simple questions and I responded honestly.
They couldn’t find a reason for my arrhythmia.
At 5 a.m., I fell asleep for the first time. Around 6:30 a.m., I woke up. My heart rhythm was normal. Queue the banjo music. Throw some doves in the air. Pop champagne. Hallelujah. I couldn’t believe it. I had been trapped in a never ending rhythm that was mentally and physically draining me from the core. But now, it was over.
I looked at the heart beat monitor. It was normal. I looked at my heart beat monitor again, just to make sure. It was normal and with that reassurance, a huge sigh of relief followed. For whatever reason, my organic engine was functioning normally again. I was discharged from the hospital the next day with no answers, but at least I left with relief.
The following months were filled with prescriptions and heart monitors. I was regulated and monitored during the following weeks. Nothing arose. I chalked it up as dehydration or fluke incident. My life went back to normal. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Well, except the infield-fly ruling that spelled the end of the Braves season during the Braves-Cardinals wildcard game.
About four months after the strange episode, it happened again.
Since the last incident, I had not consumed alcohol. I stayed away from fatty foods. I got more sleep. I did not have much stress.
About a year after this next episode, it happened again. Then a year after that. Then another month after that. Still, the reason could not be explained.
The term paroxysmal atrial Fibrillation means that the arrhythmia is caused by a variety of factors. According to the plethora of information on the internet, paroxysmal atrial Fibrillation is “an episode of uncoordinated movement of the atria that occurs occasionally and then stops and episodes can last from minutes to days before stopping and returning to normal “sinus” rhythm.”
Reality had hit me in the face. I became a statistic. I became a member of the 0.7 percent of individuals who have atrial Fibrillation in the United States.
If you try to look up statistics or graphs about A-Fib under the age of 55 years old, they do not exist. I have kept up with a healthy lifestyle and yes; I have even cured my Wendy’s habit. Just kidding, who can cure a Wendy’s habit? But sometimes, life is uncontrollable. There is nothing you can do to change things like Atrial Fib. Yes, there are procedures to correct the problem if it becomes persistent, but for now, I’m stuck.
The basic root of all fear is death – people who are scared of heights are scared of death from a fall, people who are scared of the dark are scared of death from an attacker and people who are afraid of atrial Fibrillation are afraid of death from a heart attack. Although death is terrifying, this is where I am different.
I have come to the conclusion that living a life filled with saying “no” to opportunities or not taking a chance on something because it’s not convenient, is not the life you should be living. I may be in a small percentage of the population with my randomly occurring condition, but the fact is, there are others in this world that are not as fortunate.
I have all the wonderful and amazing people who constantly surround me every day of my life to thank for this knowledge. Without them and their continuing support, I would have had an incredibly difficult road to travel. So take inventory of what you have. Appreciate the great life around you, no matter the obstacles or tragedy. We are blessed each day to live.
Sometimes reality hits you blatantly in the face. Sometimes that reality makes you realize that your reality is still great.