I guess I first realised something was very wrong at the Compass Sport Trophy qualifying event at Cold Ash. My usual warm up seemed hard work but I felt OK after a jog to the start. The problem came when I set off on my first leg, after about 60 metres I felt as though someone had opened a tap and drained me of all energy and I was bent over faint and gasping. I decided to just go slowly for a bit and this was fine but as soon as I tried to jog or go up slopes the collapse happened again. I guess I should have retired but rather stupidly kept going, linking together a series of short jogs and collapses; noble but stupid.
I seemed to recover afterwards and during the following week went swimming and used our ski machine without bother. The following week orienteering at Harewood brought on much the same effects as Cold Ash, except that this time I slowed right down and survived.
Clearly this was time to see my GP who found my pulse rate to be about 3 times its usual resting value, took large quantities of blood for analyses and put me on beta-blockers. An ECG was needed but as we were going away on holiday I put this off for a couple of weeks. Walking in Northumberland was no problem – until I hit the steep ascents!
Back home the ECG showed I had an atrial flutter and the resulting irregular heart beat was the cause of all my problems. Anticoagulants were added to my growing list of medications and follow up assessments booked. Amazingly just as I got back home I had a call from the Community Cardiac Team who live at the back of the Fiver Rivers Leisure Centre. They could fit me in on the same day, so back into Salisbury I went for another ECG and an ultrasound scan which was fascinating to watch on screen. More medication and an appointment with a consultant were all sorted that same day.
The consultant was very positive about a good outcome and I was booked in for electrical cardioversion shortly afterwards. This was done as a day outpatient and took very little time. I had two electrode pads fitted, one on my chest and one on my back. Then off to theatre, a quick general anaesthetic a quick shock of 100 Joules DC and I was back being offered tea and toast and sent home shortly afterwards. There is a neat video of the procedure at www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/treatments/cardioversion if you want to see what is involved.
All seemed to be proceeding well but then, to add insult to injury, I had an attack of gout which put paid to me even walking round a course at the JK.
My experience is not unusual in reasonably fit people and quite a number of my orienteering peer group have had the same experience. It turns out there are three of us in Sarum but don’t worry, it’s not infectious.
Apart from tiring easily I now feel fine. A week after the cardioversion I went to Springtime in Shropshire and came second each day despite only walking up any hilly bits so I seem to be back in working order. I hope it stays that way.
If there is a take home message in this it is to remember that orienteers are reasonably fit and any drop off in performance should be taken seriously and discussed with a GP before real complications arise.