I’ve had atrial fibrillation (A fib), a malady of the heart’s rhythm and rate, off and on for nearly a decade. When it’s there my heart beats erratically, irregularly irregular, and sometimes rapidly. Especially with exercise. The erratic beating usually lasts only a few seconds to a minute or so. When it’s doing its A fib thing I sometimes feel thumping in my chest.
Three times, when A fib lasted more than a few days, electric shock under anesthesia was needed to restore my heart back to a regular rate and rhythm. I take medication to help maintain its regularity.
Last time was different. Until then, I’d never had symptoms. This time, along with the chest thumps, my pulse pounded away at up to a rate of 140 beats per minute with almost any exercise and I began felling bone tired and progressively more short of breath. The situation deteriorated and, over the period of 10 days, I would have to stop and rest after walking only 30 feet or so, or halfway up a flight of stairs. Carrying anything heavier than a pair of shoes made the symptoms worse.
My cardiologist hospitalized me, put me on a continuous heart monitor and scheduled a cardioversion, electric shock treatment, for the next day. The hope was to restore the heart’s regularity, as it had done previously. But in chronic, severe A fib cases that sometimes doesn’t work.
That’s when the first miracle happened. During the evening, while lying in a hospital bed, the irregularity continued, as if the heart was at war with itself. It would beat furiously and chaotically, then suddenly pause. Once it didn’t beat for two seconds, then began again at the rate of 40 beats per minutes. That’s a half normal, dangerously low rate. The nursing staff began preparing to resuscitate me with external heart-pacer pads.
When asked how I felt, I said fine. I was blissfully unaware of the civil war raging in my chest.
Overnight the chaos within my heart gradually faded away and by morning it had miraculously, spontaneously restored itself to a normal rhythm and rate. I had received no additional medication or treatment. Everything happened automatically, beyond my consciousness.
The experience was surreal. When I went to sleep I could barely walk the 10 steps to the bathroom. When I awoke I felt well, got up and walked the length of a football field in the hospital corridors without getting tired, short of breath or having a rapid pulse.
That was nearly two weeks ago. Except for occasional episodes of irregularity lasting a few seconds, and feeling a thump or two in the chest, I’ve had no racing pulse, tiredness or shortness of breath.
I’m back to walking as far as I wish, working out and regaining my strength and peace of mind that was severely challenged by surgery and its aftermath earlier this summer.
The human spirit, the animating soul beyond consciousness is an incomprehensible miracle. I don’t think about where it comes from at birth or departs to at death. If indeed there is a ‘somewhere’ for it to come from or return to.
But I like to contemplate the spirit’s activities of coordinating bodies’ psychological and physiological functions during their lifetimes. In a sense the spirit functions similarly to computer motherboards.
In order to perform their integrative functions well they both need good care and maintenance. They are vulnerable to corruption, malfunction, breakdown and influence from environmental factors.
Over the last two years I’ve suffered several spiritual challenges and losses. I lost my partner. I had a life-threatening disorder that required major surgery and a post-op spiritual concussion, discombobulation, that impaired my recovery. And I decided to sell my home and move into a senior retirement center.
Those are all recoverable stressers that happen at one time or another, or repeatedly, to a majority of people. Fortunately, my losses and major changes came one at a time, in a logical progression, with breathing time between.
I’ve doubled down on patience and am taking recovery one step at a time. I’m also taking time outs for solitude and exploring what I can learn from what I’m experiencing.
My home-spun theory about the miraculous spontaneous cardioversion is that my spirit bought into my recovery project and orchestrated the A fib conversion to facilitate it.
Before going to sleep the night it happened I told my heart that things have been going quite well lately and it had permission to stop the inconvenient nonsense.
I was merely hoping I wouldn’t be awakened by being resuscitated. I had no clue what my spirit was doing.