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A-Fib Patient Story #6

Marathon Runner’s A-Fib Story: This Heart Rate Monitor must be Defective. It’s Reading 225-250 during my Workouts! I’m sending it back.”

by Jerry, 2003

I have probably run on average about 1500 to 2000 miles a year for the last 20 years. In 2002, I began to notice that sometimes I seemed to be in severe oxygen debt when running. One of the first pieces of advice that we get when we start participating as distance runners is “listen to your body”, but since I was in generally good health I first tried blaming it on going out too fast. Then I tried to convince myself that I was out of shape and needed to work harder. I began to sometimes fall apart, sometimes needing to walk during races; so I decided that age was slowing me down more than the average person.

I started using a heart rate monitor after my daughter got me one for Christmas. When it registered rates of 225 to 250 during some of my workouts, I decided it was obviously defective. So I sent it back. When I got it back, not only did it still register these absurdly high readings; but it also seemed to do it almost every run now. So I sent it back again. Worse yet, it still did the same thing after it came back the second time. Then I started wearing a contact lens so that I could watch it during my run instead of just getting a read out at the end of the workout.

I discovered a funny coincidence. The monitor would be rolling along at rates in the 130 to 145 range for a while, then suddenly jump up over 200 shortly before I would begin to feel the oxygen debt set in.

At this point, now the beginning of summer 2003, I finally decided to listen to my body and go see a cardiologist.

Unlike many people with Atrial Fibrillation, mine would subside on its own when I stopped running. It got progressively worse during the summer, with me going into A-Fib about 4 out of every 5 runs. It was obvious that I had to do something, and I feared that maybe I would have to give up running. Like many other people that I’ve read about on the internet, I didn’t know if drugs would work and didn’t want to take them for the rest of my life anyway.

I was referred to Loyola Medical Center in Chicago. And on August 29, 2003 I had a Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation, which took about 8 hours in my case. The following Wednesday, only 5 days later, I did some light jogging (11 to 12 minutes/mile). Over the next few months, I gradually increased both the duration and pace. In November, I took my heart “on a test drive”, running a 10K in 46 minutes and a couple weeks later a 5k in 22 minutes. Both races were full throttle and while the times were not great, they were respectable for a 54-year-old male. By far, the most important thing was that there were no high spikes in my heart rate.

Since then I’ve had my check for stenosis, and Dr. Lin thinks I’m cured. He told me to simply take myself off the low dose of Toprol and the Coumadin after 6 months, so I’m now off the drugs. On January 10, while still on the medication, I completed my 49th marathon in 3:44 with no problems, this less than 4.5 months after the procedure. A couple of weeks after stopping the medications, I finished my 50th marathon at Catalina Island, up and down mountains, again with no problems! While every case is different and there are some minimal risks, the ablation procedure has certainly worked for me.

If anyone would like more information you can email me.

Jerry
jallanach(at)att.net

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