Today I want to say ‘Thank goodness for the NHS.’
This morning I woke up around 2 with my heart bouncing around in my chest. It was very odd, no pain, just pressure and when I sat up I was a bit dizzy/breathless. I woke DH, told him I felt unwell and sent him down for my stethoscope which confirmed that something odd was going on.
I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me; I didn’t think I was having a heart attack but my heart was beating really fast and irregularly so I rang 111, hoping they could help.
The first lady I spoke to kept trying to get me to say whether I had chest pain, and I didn’t – just some muscular upper back soreness. I was more concerned about my heart beat being all over the place.Then a clinician got on the phone. She listened to me properly, then said she didn’t think it was serious but I should go to A&E within the next hour just in case. She mentioned I might be having a panic attack, but I have had these before and this seemed very different.
She wasn’t happy about me taking a cab but said she didn’t think I needed an ambulance. DH couldn’t take me, he had to stay home and look after the kids.
The taxi got me to our nearest hospital, Northwick Park, but I felt really breathless on the way, and when I got to A&E, they took one look at me and sent me straight to triage. I had to sit down at this point and the next thing I knew they were getting bloods and an ECG. I don’t think it was too busy in the waiting room but I really didn’t get to find out.
The ECG confirmed Atrial Fibrillation and they put me in a HDU room while they waited for a space in Resus. I was on oxygen by this time, so was feeling a bit better but thanks to the machines that go beep that I was hooked up to, I could see my HR was going up over 160 at times! At that point I did start feeling anxious.
Thankfully, my bloods came back normal, so when I got moved again they gave me some blood thinner (apparently strokes can be an issue with AF) then an anti-arrhythmia drug to get my heart to behave.
For an hour it didn’t seem like it was doing anything but quite suddenly the pressure in my chest eased and my HR was normal again! Such a relief. I had to stay and take up a bed for a couple of hours to make sure that everything was okay, but then I was allowed to go home.
I don’t seem to have any of the nasty problems ( high blood pressure or other heart disease) that can cause Atrial Fibrillation, but I will go back quite soon and have 24 hour monitoring and an ultrasound just to check.
It may just be a one off, but I do get palpitations now and again anyhow, so if it happens again I do need to go back to A&E. The doctor did advise me to take an ambulance next time if I am having breathing issues.
I am totally shattered after 2 hours of sleep and hours of a heart beating too fast so it’ll be an early night for me tonight. But first I want to say thank you to all the lovely Northwick Park hospital staff who helped me today. I could not fault them. They were friendly, reassuring, competent and caring – even the cleaner was up for a chat!
It’s when you find yourself suddenly unwell in the middle of the night, surrounded by strangers and monitors and wondering if you might actually be going to die that you realise how lucky we are to not have to worry about the cost of healthcare in this country.