I continue to write about my heart problems to be transparent with our lives of world travel and also to share the path we’ve chosen for those who may be experiencing similar issues. None of the information we share is suggestioning “what you should do.” Please see your medical professionals for your specific needs.
So here’s the story as it rolled out over the past few months. The day we arrived in Mirador San Jose, on October 24, the Afib started again. I didn’t experience it at all while we were on the Galapagos cruise or in Quito, even during the difficult days of seasickness on the cruise and during the four days of high altitude in Quito, at 9350 feet above sea level. I was grateful I had no problems at that time.
Once we got here and the Afib wouldn’t stop, I started taking the drug, Flecainide, that I’d been prescribed last April when I was in the hospital for three days, having many tests with no specific answers as to why I had Afib. Many times, I read that Afib doesn’t necessarily appear for any particular reason, making it difficult to treat and tolerate. We all want answers.
I only had enough pills for three months of Flecainide at one per day, which I’d only taken once after getting out of the hospital, which I stopped when I had awful side effects. I had one bad episode on the airplane from South Africa to Florida and never had another bout until I had a few events on the cruise to Norway. Those bouts resolved on their own after a few hours. Then, after the cruises, I never had a bout while we were in Nevada for nine nights, but then I had a few events in Minnesota during the month we were there.
After reading that exercise can help Afib, I gradually increased my daily walking steps. After one week, I was in a constant state of Afb. The one Fleacainide a day wasn’t enough. I knew I needed to up the dose to two pills a day, 12 hours apart, per the suggestion of the cardiologists in South Africa. When I took the second dose 12 hours later, without any improvement, yesterday morning, I knew I needed to see a cardiologist.
Immediately, I got to work searching online for a five-star rated cardiologist and found in Manta Dr. Alfredo Zambrano. I called their office, but they spoke no English. When they saw my call coming in, to which I hung up when I couldn’t communicate with them, they immediately sent me a WhatsApp message, translated into English. My appointment was for 3:00 pm yesterday, only hours after our initial contact.
Of course, I was still in Afib when we arrived for the appointment. I had written down all my questions in Spanish using Google Translate and handed the doctor my phone to read the questions. One of his assistants spoke excellent English and translated for us.
He did a lengthy ultrasound and an ECG. My appointment lasted one hour. The bill was $100, which included the tests. A few years ago, I had a similar appointment to get checked out in the US, and the 15-minute appointment was US $480. Hmmm…
Well, anyway, the doctor showed me on the ultrasound screen that I have a problem with my mitral valve, referred to as a regurgitating mitral valve, which medication can help at this point. It’s what is causing the Afib. He prescribed three new drugs and had me stop taking my current blood pressure and Afiib drugs. I started the new drugs yesterday on our way back to San Jose.
These drugs all have side effects, some more than others. By the time I went to bed at about 10:30 pm, I had taken all three drugs, spaced out for specific times as prescribed, and never taken all at once. One by one, as I took the drugs, within about 45 minutes, I began to feel the side effects. After taking a second dose, it’s taken until this morning for the Afib symptoms to stop.
Yes, I feel drained and exhausted, but the doctor said I can start walking again once I’m feeling better. It may take weeks to adjust to the meds, but I am not giving up. This is my life, and I will do whatever it takes to get through this. Down the road, I may need surgery, but he said not right now. Thank goodness.
After the pharmacy, we began the one-hour drive back, heading directly to the restaurant for dinner at Kokomo in the gated community. We hadn’t prepared anything for dinner. It was busy, and we had an opportunity to chat with some locals. I wasn’t myself, but I did my best to smile and be cheerful. We didn’t stay long. I was anxious to get back to the house to put on my pajamas and relax for the rest of the night while I waited for the drugs to work. So far, so good. We did the right thing going to the cardiologist, who, by the way, had a very professional office and staff.
Today’s a new day. I feel relieved and hopeful. Sure, I am feeling the side effects, but I will work through them in the coming weeks; I am looking forward to being able to stop thinking and writing about this troublesome condition. Thanks for listening, dear readers.
Photo from ten years ago today, November 9, 2013: