Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fun* With Atrial Fibrillation

I debated about whether I would write a post solely devoted to atrial fibrillation since it might not be as fun to read if you have never experienced it and no one likes an inside joke that they aren’t part of. Do I say this from first hand experience? I don’t want to talk about it! Anyway, I shall attempt to get to the heart of atrial fibrillation. Oh come on, that’s funny. Perhaps not as funny as an America’s Funniest Home Videos crotch shot, but then what really is.

A couple of weeks ago, I slipped back into atrial fibrillation, again. That basically means that some part of my heart isn’t pumping right and that my heartbeats are all irregular. And no amount of bran is gonna fix this irregularity. My heart more or less quivers instead of pumping blood to wherever it should go, which is undoubtedly somewhere in my body. I’d like to be more ‘medical’ with my descriptions, but I tend to drift off when my cardiologist gets all med school graduate on me. Sadly, the same thing happens when people start mentioning numbers or stats to me. When you combine both, I think I just sort of start drooling and mentally picturing rainbows and leprechauns and dolphins that know my name. It’s really a nice place. They have cheese and ice cream and steak. Wait a minute, when did I walk into the grocery store…

Essentially, I have an irregular heart rhythm. I’ve had it about 10 times over the last 8 years, which really sucks because rhythm is the one word I cannot spell. I think it’s the placement of the ‘y’ that messes with me. I’ve tried to come up with alternatives to ‘rhythm,’ but haven’t succeeded. Sadly, my guilty feet (and every other part of me) just have no rhythm (Wham). Oh sweet patron saint of John Wayne movies, did I just quote Wham? Well that was most certainly a careless whisper on my part. Aw crud, I just did it again. The closest alternative word I came up with was ‘off beat,’ but it doesn’t sit with me well yet. Hopefully some day I’ll learn how to spell rhythm without the aid of a spell checker. I mean how hard can it be to spell when in my sleep I can spell supercalifrag…never mind.

One may ask how someone’s heart can develop an irregular rhythm. Actually go ahead and ask me that so I can answer it. I’ll wait, go ahead…

Well, that’s a great question. Thanks for asking. My cardiologist says that my atrial fibrillation is due to the stress and development of heart failure after having lived with my bad valve for so long because the heart was forced to work so hard (at least now I can take solace that part of me is a hard worker), though I think it has to do with me sticking my tongue on too many 9-volt batteries as a kid. Apparently, the heart is one big mass of electrical impulses. When the heart gets tweaked, the electrical impulses start firing at the wrong time, thus messing up the rhythm. I should also mention that having the heart cut into doesn’t do much to help it either. In fact, I can support this with my 3 receipts for emergency room visits within 2 weeks of coming home from open heart surgery.

In the past, I have gone to the emergency room, been put asleep and had my heart shocked back into regular rhythm. If you have never been smashed on the head with a hard object and then seen tweety birds and stars, let me tell you that it’s pretty much the same thing. There are a few negative side effects to this, such as having part of my nipple shaved off by a nurse who wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing and burning of the skin. I also bit off a chunk of my tongue once when I lurched in my sleep during the shock. The medical term for the procedure is ‘cardioversion,’ but I prefer to call it a very expensive jump start. Then they adjust my antiarrythmic medication in the hopes that the atrial fib won’t return. I’m pretty much out of medicine options right now. The strongest and last medication I haven’t yet tried will turn my face blue. As I am already short, I do not relish the prospect of being referred to as a Smurf for the rest of my life, so that option is off the table. I should probably mention that the same medication ruins the lungs over time. My cardiologist assures me that reason is much more important than the Smurf thing. I seriously have my doubts.

However, lest you think that having chronic atrial fibrillation is a downer, I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth, especially when you have an artificial heart valve that ticks loud enough for people to hear it or children to be able to make comparisons between you and the crocodile that ate Captain Hook’s wrist watch in Peter Pan. I’m not sure that I just wrote the longest sentence ever, but I was definitely hoping for top ten there. One of the fun things to do is sit in a car with coworkers or in the conference room during those quiet and awkward final moments while we wait for a staff meeting to start. If it’s quiet enough and the acoustics are right, you can watch people start looking around trying to figure out what the ticking sound is. I love it when they finally rule out everything else and realize it’s me. This is usually when I start singing Rod Stewart’s ‘Rhythm Of My Heart’ softly. I know what you are thinking and the answer is yes, that’s the ONLY Rod Stewart song I often go around singing. Seriously.

That’s not all the fun to be had though. At night, I enjoy laying in bed and listening to my irregular heart beats and ticks. If I’m patient enough, the heart rhythm becomes the same as some of the 70s’ greatest disco tunes. Except when I get really calm right before falling asleep and then I swear I hear the beat of ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ (Gordon Lightfoot) or Helen Reddy’s ‘I Am Woman’ and that just freaks me out to the point of not being able to sleep. I’m also pretty sure that Lucy and Ethel have learned the tempo of a proper waltz thanks to my atrial fibrillation.

So there you have it, with the proper frame of mind, anything can be fun. This includes having low enough blood pressure that every time you bend over you begin to pass out and get all white headed. Oh wait, I think I mean light headed. White headed would mean I need Jessica Simpson’s ProActive.

*In this case, the word ‘fun’ is being used as a subjective, somewhat sarcastic term, much in the same way that I use ‘Oprah’ or even ‘the.’


Just telling it like it is said...

It is a good thing that you are not Mexican because if you were your mother would be in the backround yelling...
"hey how much are thoughs clears I think he's a faker" Idos Meos...
I think he just need some seven up!!
But I do think that medically your decribed it just perfectly...now I thought that you were going to try some new medication that in my old age I can't remember to help your heart from converting back to a-fib...why I might even say that plenty of people have lived a long time in A-fib...However I have cardio converted someone before and I gave them enough medicine to put down an elephant...something about receptor site availblity of pain receptor sites not important...what is important
are you feeling okay...really
with your optimistic out look I am inspired...take care micheal
I alway tell pt our heart is alive and it really does feel...and I know that having a wonderful family can make all the difference..Think of you quiver...so clever

TroyBoy said...

You are one funny dude.

Note to the irregular author of this blog & post: I feel that it is only proper that I explain my less than stellar comment, as shown above, and the only way I can do that is by letting you know that I am one who reaches across the farthest spans of lexicon at every opportunity and therefore you must know that my five word compliment is a result of sheer exhaustion after reading and laughing at this post.

How'd I do on writing the longest sentence?

Alison said...

Well, thanks for 'splainin'.

Unfortunately, I don't have anything funny to say that doesn't involve a slam at the Kentuckians of Appalachia.

Eva said...

Even though I don't get a dollar for leaving a comment, I wanted to tell you that I no longer can think about nipples the same way. Not that I thought about nipples all that much before. But NOW, well. All I can say is Ouch.
And now I want to go rent the Peter Pan DVD.
p.s. I think you're swell. :)

Sizzle said...

I personally think you could single handedly make anything fun.

Amy said...

well, and all I can come up with is bad hearing in my left ear. How is it you can take something like this and make it really funny!

Seriously, I can't spell 'rhythm' either....it's a horrible word. 'Graham' is a tough word too...graham cracker....

I'm a dork!

Candace said...

Irregular heartbeats can be bloody annoying. Along the same vein, I get a weird palpitation thing every once in a blue moon when I'm exercising and I raise my arms and take a deep breath at the same time. Then my heart starts racing and I get light headed (or was it white headed?) until I can make it slow down again.

They don't sound very organ-ised or attentive at your hospital. I bet you could find another one that would beat their service.

The nipple thing makes me cringe in horror.

Sunshine said...

Thanks for the "heart to heart"...


Remember, when it comes to ticker issues, you WIN!!

magickat said...

I heartly know what to say after posts like this ("Yay, Puns!" - there's a quick SNL reference for you. 5 points if you can tell me the sketch) but I can say you definitely know how to make the best of a situation.

Meanwhile I can't stop thinking about song title with the word heart in it, thankyouverymuch.

Ew - and remember when Wham was thinking of changing it's name to WhamWham? UGH!

meleah rebeccah said...

Sadly, the same thing happens when people start mentioning numbers or stats to me. When you combine both, I think I just sort of start drooling and mentally picturing rainbows and leprechauns and dolphins that know my name. It’s really a nice place. They have cheese and ice cream and steak. Wait a minute, when did I walk into the grocery store…


I know *that* place...and I like it there. A lot.

best bud's wife said...

I remember asking you if you ever would get used to the heart ticking sound or if you were sick of it and wanted it to stop. You replied, "Uh, no, I don't want it to stop."

I am sorry you have to go through this again! You're in our prayers.

FRIGGA said...

That was funny. And it was atrial fibrilation. Wow, funny, and informative - I'm impressed! :-0

But you shouldn't rule out being a Smurf, that would be cool, plus you don't have to worry about what to be come Halloween.

Anonymous said...

They are testing Dronedarone now, as an alternative to Amiodarone. It doesn't seem to have as many horrible side effects.
What about an ablation? Is that ruled out because of the prior heart surgery?

Michael C said...

Anon/Pat: Yes, the ablation has been ruled out because of my heart issues. Thanks very much for the info!!!

On a limb with Claudia said...

I have a bunch of "funny" responses to this post, but truth be told? I'm just so sorry you have to live with this. I have high blood pressure - inherited from my father - yes, it does prove that he IS my father - and I hate it. I take handfuls of meds in the morning, I have to see the doc all the time - I hate it.

My issues really pale in comparison to yours.

I admire your courage Michael. I pray that your precious heart heals.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I know chronic heart problesms are no fun (or fun*). Keeping you in my thoughts.

Patti said...

You got so many great responses to this post. You can make anything, no matter how awful, sound funny. I guess it's all in the attitude.

I'm sorry you are going through this again, Michael. You are in my prayers.

P.S. I think I recognized that the word "fun" was being used in a somewhat sarcastic manner. ;- )

chefmom said...

I had no idea, That this had gone so far for you! I do have to say though, that I went back and read the nipple removing story outloud to my husband, and I could barely choke it out between laughter. (I'm shooting for second longest sentence ever.) We were both in tears, laughing so hard. I am so sorry to hear about your loss, but the way you tell the tragic story of 'the loss' is hysterical. I have missed out on so much this week!

Odat said...

Awww...I'm sorry to hear you had to go thru this yet again...but I'm glad you made me laugh about it!
(boy that sentence just doesn't sound right.) ;-)


Mel Heth said...

Um so the first thing I thought here was "my heart goes out to you." And the second thing was "boy am I jealous his heart beats disco tunes."

Mellanie True Hills said...


You're a hoot! I didn't know that afib could be so much "fun".

Yes, the R-word is so very difficult because of its' illogical train wreck of consonants. I just opt for "irregular heartbeat" instead. However, I've typed the R-word so much that fingers can spell it, just not my brain.

As a fellow afibber, my heart really does go out to you. I did have surgery (mini-maze) and am afib-free now. I hope you'll be afib-free soon, too. Open heart surgery causes inflammation and afib, which should subside within 3 months (6 max).

Your doctor should be able to help you through it with some kind of anti-inflammatory meds. If not, check out my blog posting about statins as it links to resources about natural anti-inflammatory foods, etc.

Good luck. Though your post is funny, I know that your pain from afib is real. Let me know if I can help.

Wishing you normal sinus rhythm real soon.

(from www.StopAfib.org Afib Patient Resource)

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