For the past 14 months my FitBit reports roughly 25,000 steps per day. Roughly 80 miles a week. Up and down the long hallway in my house. Day by day, week by week, etc. Almost unfailingly.
Then, about a month ago, the walking got harder. I explained it with more work. Butt in seat in front of computer = no steps. Work stress. Life stress. Hotter days. Anything and everything explained the decline.
Ten days ago everything got slow. Really slow! My metabolism shut down and I gained six pounds in about three days. Stopped sleeping the 7+ hours to which I had become accustomed. The fuse got short, too, and some good people caught my bad side.
At no time did I think about sticking my finger in the pulse oximeter … although, if I had, accomplishing that task would have required a search and rescue mission. Small devices move around, seemingly … at least in my presence.
Ditto for using one of the Omron BP machines. In that event, however, I would have had to find a power supply recharge cord. (Two identical machines. No cord. Guess I bought the second machine when the first one ran out of power.)
And, of course, I did not bother with looking at the resting heart rate report on my FitBit. 60-64 bpm for at least a year. Tuesday, May 11? 67. Then, 67, 71, 74, and 78. 82 on Saturday.
The how and why stuff does not matter but by 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 15, I was flat on my back in the St. Mary’s Hospital ER. By Sunday morning, in a room, I had a diagnosis: Atrial fibrillation.
In 1990 I received a similar diagnosis, at St. Mary’s brother hospital, St. Joseph’s. True Story: I got to the hospital at about 9 p.m. on a Friday evening. I awakened at about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, to have a nurse tell me I’d converted … as I stared at the cross next to the door. My sinus rhythm, it turned out, and not my religious persuasion.
Thirty years ago, the message I received was, AFib is nothing to worry about. Not good, but not really heart disease.
Not so much. With AFib the upper chambers of the heart pumps spastically, which does two things: drains energy levels and increases clotting. Untreated, AFib wears on the body over time. In the short run, those clots create immediate risks for strokes.
I cannot say enough good things about St. Mary’s Hospital. A great nursing staff, who really cared about me. Wonderful doctors. Lousy food, I think, for I never tasted anything, but when you are lying in a bed, pondering the meaning of life and how much more of it you have, food matters not very much. (Truth be told, once I had my phone, the pretty pictures from the food page at the New York Times sustained me. Oh, and Leigh delivered a care package.)
I am an extraordinarily lucky character, I think. The Saturday night events forced the AFib issue, for with hindsight I am certain I was ailing for at least a week (and likely longer), and I know I would have ignored the signals I was receiving, as we all do too often.
Cardioversion worked, zapping my heart back into normal sinus rhythm. I got the shot at cardioversion because the cardiologist found no clots in my heart. Clots = no zapping. And my heart stayed in NSR … and remains in NSR, as far as I know.
I have Leigh, too. With her brother Ted’s assistance, Max got taken care of … although I am thinking a bit of affection alienation might have gone on, for Max was in no hurry to be back home with me. Leigh and Ted made sure the tomatoes got necessary water, and everything else, too. (Wishing the blasted tomatoes would turn red already, for I feel a lot more responsibility for them than I wished for.)
Leigh provided calm comfort too. Kept me sane and reassured. Only Tuesday evening, six hours post-discharge, did we both fess up to having been a lot more concerned than either of us cared to let on. Concerned, by the way, for plenty of good reasons. I have worked hard to keep myself fit but I have enjoyed life … a lot. (More than this square dude’s aura probably suggests.) Nothing is free in this world, and I am damn lucky I got a good, solid 2×4 upside the head before I had to pay a hefty price for my pleasures.
Apologies for rambling on about … me. Frankly, writing about me generates more readers. Y’all like my political stuff much better than when I write about the law, but for highest ratings I seem to be my best subject.
Be well and stay safe. Vaccinate. Find your devices, listen to your body, and if the cacophony sounds bad, Do. Something.
P.S. From my daughter: stay in touch, promptly. Tough one. Share news promptly, or wait for real information.