Rapid Heartbeat? Act Fast!

Susan Haber ignored signs of atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heartbeat, until she literally dropped. Here’s how she rebounded!

Dennis Murray
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Rapid Heartbeat, AFib, atrial fibrillation

Susan Haber, of Warwick, NY, pours her creativity into everything she does, from her work as a marketing professional to her hobbies of painting and gardening. But two years ago, an odd feeling in her chest began slowing her down.

“My heart felt like a fish flopping around, which would often keep me up at night,” recalls Susan, who was 60 at the time. “I had no ambition to do anything.” Susan’s doctor diagnosed her with atrial fibrillation (AFib), in which electrical signals in the heart misfire, causing an irregular, rapid heartbeat. Left untreated, AFib could lead to a stroke or even heart failure.

Later, Susan’s cardiologist prescribed a beta-blocker. But she refused his advice to start a blood thinner: “I thought it was much too soon for that.”

Despite her exhaustion, Susan soldiered on. “I told myself, Oh, this isn’t so bad. You begin to talk yourself out of it.”

Her wake-up call came at work one day. “When I stood up, I felt dizzy and my whole left side went numb.” Susan was rushed to the hospital, where doctors suspected a “mini-attack” (brief interruption of blood flow) and attributed her symptoms to complications of AFib. Eventually, Susan had ablation surgery to correct her heart rhythm.

The surgery—combined with a blood thinner added to her beta-blocker—provided near-immediate relief and restored her energy.

Susan’s advice if you have heart symptoms: “Don’t wait too long! I feel great now, but I was miserable for a year. I wish I had gotten treated sooner.”

December 2013