Anthony King – My Stroke Revealed Undiagnosed AFib
I woke up Nov. 1, 2018, planning to do my regular cardio routine on my elliptical machine. I love playing squash and was working to build my stamina.
I usually put in about 30 minutes at a moderate pace, followed by some push-ups and sit-ups. But on this particular day, I found myself feeling sort of light-headed and dizzy. I tried to push through and continue with my routine, but as I tried to do my usual push-ups, my symptoms seemed to be getting worse.
I knew something was wrong, so I called my wife Billie and asked her to come home from work to bring me to an urgent care clinic.
Billie immediately started asking me about heart attack symptoms, suggesting I call 911, but I didn’t think it was anything that serious.
While waiting for her to arrive home, I took a shower, but as soon as I stepped out, a strange dizziness hit me. I felt like I had just gotten off of a fast-moving ride. I tried to sit down to get my bearings, but suddenly found myself on all fours, unable stand back up.
Realizing it must be something serious, I called 911, then began crawling downstairs to unlock the front door to make sure the paramedics could get in.
I was feeling so weak, I stopped halfway down the stairs, unable to continue. The front door felt like it was a mile away.
Luckily, Billie arrived as the same time as the ambulance crew and opened the door for them. They took me to the University of Utah and ran several tests that showed I had experienced an ischemic stroke.
I also learned I had atrial fibrillation or AFib is the most common type of irregular heart rhythm and it can increase a person’s risk for stroke.
I never had any inkling that I had AFib and learned that often people don’t have any symptoms before their diagnosis.
For those who have symptoms, the most common include palpitations, shortness of breath, weakness or difficulty exercising, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue or confusion.
At least 2.7 million people have AFib, a figure that is expected to rise as the population gets older. I’m 75 and the risk for AFib increases with age.
High blood pressure, which also increases in risk with age, accounts for 14% to 22% of AFib cases.
Even though I didn’t realize I was having a stroke at the time, the fact that I sought help right away meant I was able to get treatment with a clot-busting drug called alteplase, which may have improved my chances of recovery.
Following my stroke, I spent about six weeks in the hospital. I had weakness on my right side, double-vision in my right eye, couldn’t walk, and was an unable to swallow.
By the time I was discharged home, I was able to walk with the help of a walker or cane but needed a feeding tube for about six months before I was able to swallow on my own.
My stride is still wobbly – I call it my Gumby walk – but it’s improving. I take extra care not to rush, and make sure I have some support if I’m walking down a hill or stairway.
My stroke and AFib diagnosis really surprised me. I have always tried to stay in shape and made sure to get regular check-ups. I took a daily aspirin for high blood pressure and medication for high cholesterol. My doctor told me I was doing everything I was supposed to do.
They said because I was in such great shape that my recovery has gone better.
My experience really illustrates the importance of paying attention to your body and seeking help if something doesn’t seem right. Although I didn’t have AFib symptoms, it’s important to talk to your health provider about your risks and any changes to your health.