Dean Anthony Gratton
WIWE: A Heart-felt Wake-up Call
I always thought I was pretty much immune and invincible to most things – nothing could phase me, since I could easily shrug of colds, knocks and the occasional bruise and cut. I have never broken a bone, so what could possibly challenge my health?
I don’t smoke or drink!
Well, ‘pride comes before a fall’ and, alas, I have been experiencing a few heart problems, which shouldn’t’ve surprised me. You see, my father, Tony, had a heart attack at 42 and survived – he has since received life-long treatment for his ongoing heart disease issues, which was probably triggered by his excessive drinking and smoking. More so, my father’s brother, Michael, had his heart attack at 39 and died – no doubt compounded by similar vices.
Surely, I couldn’t be affected? I don’t smoke, never, in fact; I didn’t go through a cycle of binge drinking when I was a teenager and I didn’t routinely drink in my 20s. I was introduced to red wine when I reached 26, which is a time when I also met my wife, Sarah, although I probably shouldn’t read too much into that!
Irregular beating of the heart
My heart issues started around five years or so ago. Sarah and I were walking back home from a local restaurant and I could feel my heart pounding; I suddenly felt dizzy and short of breath – “damn, this is it!”, I thought, “this is a heart attack”. Sarah immediately called for an ambulance, which arrived promptly. I was wired up to an ECG where the paramedics confirmed, “Yep, you’ve had a heart attack”
Over the last few years, following numerous tests and CT scans, my heart was cleared of any issues regarding heart disease, congested vessels and so on, but it didn’t explain what I now experience intermittently today and that’s Atrial Fibrillation (AF) – an abnormal heart rhythm characterised by irregular beating of the heart chambers. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) website provides an excellent description as to what AF is, what causes it, its symptoms and, ultimately, its treatment.
In a state of disbelief, I wrestled with coming to terms with my diagnosis, but I knew I had to accept and process my ongoing illness, along with the host of medication that would help treat my condition. Now, call it fate, a coincidence or whatever, but following this news I discovered WIWE, as pictured above. It’s a personal ECG – it can record a clinical-grade ECG and offers a risk assessment for arrythmia, stroke and sudden cardiac arrest; your ECG reports are saved in your health journal on your smartphone, for example, where reports can later be shared with family members, health care professionals and physicians.
The wake-up call
In the image above, I show one such report, where the ‘evaluation screen’ indicates that all things are indeed ‘normal’. However, I do feel that the medication I take on daily basis, more specifically, Bisoprolol Fumarate (a beta-blocker) along with an Aspirin (to help avoid blood clotting) is nothing more than a ‘sticking plaster’ solution to my ongoing AF issue. For me, the medication alleviates rather than ‘fixes’ the irregularities in my heart, so I’m not sure how taking life-long medication with its long-term cost to our health service solves anything.
I often argue with myself about its value and have been known (on good days) to kid myself into thinking that I no longer need to take the medication to get by – this has proven to be a huge mistake and a wake-up call, as the evaluation screen captured below shows. In fact, the WIWE device affords me a valuable sanity check when I become ‘bullish’ and stubborn regarding my heart issues. I can’t escape my condition and have to reluctantly accept defeat, as I routinely, over a cup of coffee, enjoy my morning pill-popping breakfast!
So, this is where a ‘reluctant pill popping’ Dr G, signs off.