“Catheter ablation got rid of both my atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation and helped me be as active in my post-retirement volunteer work as I was in my career.”
– Gunther Faber
In 2004, Gunther Faber began to experience episodes of accelerated heart rhythm. Puzzled by this occurrence he moved forward his annual physical check-up. On viewing Gunther’s ECG, his doctor of 25 years diagnosed both atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation. The diagnosis certainly came as a surprise to Gunther who had played top-level sports when young and had not appreciably slowed down as he got older.
The doctor who administered my annual medical exam is a cardiologist. We discussed the options. One of them was ablation, but as success rates weren’t very high at the time, only about 40%, he prescribed cardioversion with medication to control the condition. It was really a waiting strategy until such time as ablation techniques were perfected and success rates went up.
I was on heart rhythm rate control medication from 2005 onward and it made me lethargic. I can tell you that the drag on one’s energy is frustrating to say the least. I had to curtail a lot of my physical activities and watch my pulse rate at all times. I used to run eight kilometres a day, but had to cut back. The medication didn’t affect my day-to-day activities at work as a senior manager with GlaxoSmithKline, but I can tell you I certainly looked forward to ablation as a definitive solution to the problem.
In October 2007. My cardiologist had approached Dr. Wyn Davies to perform the procedure. Together, we were confident about the procedure, since Dr. Davies is an expert and used all the latest technology in his practice. I met with his team in the catheter lab where the procedure would be performed and I was very impressed with their professionalism.
About three and a half hours. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I came round and watched the monitor that displayed my blood pressure and pulse. Seeing a steady pulse and an excellent heart rhythm was extremely gratifying. I was released from the hospital two days later and was back at work two days after that. I made my first post-procedure business trip abroad – to Ethiopia – two weeks after the operation.
In the first three months, I had a short period of slight tachycardia. Dr Davies told me this would happen, but that it would quickly go away on its own. It did, and I’ve been arrhythmia-free ever since. Touch wood!
I cut back on my running, not because of the procedure, but to take it easy on my joints, which have taken a severe pounding over the years – especially playing a lot of rugby at a senior competitive level in my youth. I’m still active, though. I now prefer speed walking, cycling, and swimming. And I am thrilled to be able to satisfy my hyperactivity again.
This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.