On April 27, 2020, at the beginning of Covid lockdowns, I was drinking my usual morning coffee when I felt my heart begin to race and bounce. As a life-long athlete and vegan, I realized right away this was not normal, so I immediately went to The Oakville Memorial Hospital Emergency.
They hooked me up to a CT scan, which showed my heart rate at 179 – – I was shocked. I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation. They had to perform a cardio-inversion to put my heart back in rhythm. The doctor said there was a risk of stroke with this procedure – this was very alarming and I had to call my wife just in case. A cardio-inversion is when the nurse injects Fentanyl then Propofol to put you to sleep. The doctor then shocks your heart back into rhythm. That first cardio-inversion was a scary experience, but it was successful and my heart rate went back to normal.
Eight months later, on December 24, 2020, I was at The Almonte Hospital for my 12th A-Fib cardioinversion. The doctors, nurses and l are on a first name basis by this time, and the procedure has become routine. My family doctor, Dr. Charlotte Dawson, was very pro-active in getting me help as quickly as possible. She set me up with a zoom call with Dr. David Birnie from The Ottawa Heart Institute, a top cardiologist. I spoke with Dr. Birnie about my numerous and recurring A-Fib episodes, as well as heart palpitations with arrhythmias day and night. I told him that between the A-Fibs, palpitations and skipped beats, l was on high alert 24 hours a day. It consumed me every moment of every day. I couldn’t sleep and l felt lost and confused. I was someone who exercised all of my life and ate healthy – having heart issues was the last thing I expected. l would recall what I was doing the moment before each A-Fib occurred, scared to repeat that activity in case it would trigger another one. I was afraid to exercise, fearing it would elevate my heart rate too high. It was debilitating physically and emotionally.
I had three more episodes in January 2021, but at the end of the month was relieved to get a call from Dr. Birnie’s office with the news I was scheduled for an ablation on February 24, three weeks later. I was so excited, did my research on ablations, as well as watching The Ottawa Heart Institute’s video describing the procedure in detail. Knowing what to expect during surgery, l was ready to go. I also understood the first ablation may not work and a second may need to be scheduled. On February 23, the night before my ablation, l had my 14th A-Fib and cardio-inversion at The Almonte Hospital. I was truly hoping this would be my last. I arrived at The Ottawa Heart Institute at 6:30 am on February 24 for my ablation. The staff was first rate and walked me through prep. When I was rolled in to the operating room and saw all of state-of-the-art equipment, I was awestruck and humbled. All this for ME?? Dr. Birnie’s team made me feel comfortable, confident and ready. The procedure, led by Dr. Birnie and his team, took about 6 hours. It is literally a miracle of science!
It is now May 4th 2021, over 2 months since my ablation, and the word l use most is “MIRACLE”. My life has changed from being on edge every moment in anticipation of an A-Fib occurring, to inner peace. I haven’t had any A-Fib episodes, palpitations are at a minimum, and my life has a semblance of normality again.
It’s difficult to express how stressful my heart issue was for me and my family. Dr. David Birnie and his amazing team are the best in the business. They have changed my bleak outlook to a future l can now look forward to. No real words can express my gratitude and appreciation for The Ottawa Heart Institute, Dr. Birnie and his staff.
From personal experience, I’d like to pass on some advice: if you have any heart issues, do your research and deal with the best. I believe l lucked out by having a wonderful caring family doctor (Dr. Charlotte Dawson in Almonte), the best cardiologist (Dr. Birnie) and the best hospital (Ottawa Heart Institute).