I am in my early 60's have had periods if irregular heartbeat over about a 6 year period.
When I get AF it sticks and doesn't stop. It will go on for months causing sleepless nights, anxiety, weakness and a depressing feeling that one's heart can't possible keep working at this rate for much longer.
The system in my area is to give AF sufferers warfarin, and put them on a long waiting list for a cardioversion. They are geared up with staff employed to do this - check your warfarin dose, do the cardioversions etc. as though this is the only way to tackle AF.
Over four years I had four cardioversions and they offered a temporary cure as long as I kept off all the triggers - in my case no alcohol, caffeine, heat or over-exertion. I would always be worrying about that moment when I would slip into AF and have to start all over again.
I was sent by the GP to the hospital cardiac people. In my area they have a new cardiac unit so this sounded promising. But the doctor I saw seemingly randomly changed my medication to two drugs which put me in A&E because of their awful effect. The doctor who sent me to A&E said these two drugs should never be given together. Unbelievable but true.
I then got a referral from my GP to see the hospital electrophysiologist about whether an ablasion would be a good idea in my case. He basically was against it and frightened me off with statistics about how many people get punctured lungs, strokes, death during the operation, low success rate etc. Yet I read of people who have had successful ablations - like Tony Blair for example, so why the put off?
I then paid to see a recommended cardiac surgeon who did an angiogram and found everything fine and put me on a course of Amiodorone prior to giving me cardioversion on two occasions. Amiodorone is very nasty stuff and I am not convinced it did anything to help my heartbeat. It can damage the retina and lungs, causes you to burn in sunlight and it gave me nightmares. I decided that this wasn't the answer either.
At this stage I was getting resigned to having me life curtailed to living like this. Then I read on one of these forums about a man in the US who described exactly my symptons and said that when it happened he took a 'pill in the pocket' treatment of Arythmol.
I asked my GP if I could try it but he refused saying that he wasn't a heart specialist. I then got his referral and paid to see a different cardiac specialist. At the time I was in AF which he looked at on the ECG. He changed my beta blocker to Sotalol, which not only reduces blood pressure but stabilises the heart rythmn. He also prescribed Arythmol 300 mg (Propafenone) for me to try as requested. I took one tablet, waited and hour and took another and within 4 hours my heart was back in sinus rythmn.
Since then I have found that Sotalol 80 mg twice a day is pretty good at keeping me ticking normally. I can drink beer in moderation but nothing stronger. Tea and coffee sends me into AF, so I avoid all caffeen. I can even have saunas now. Occasionally, I slip into AF, usually as a result of a trigger, but not always. When it does I take one or two Arythmol tablets and it goes back again after about 4 hours.
So life is now good again. I realise that the heart is a complicated organ and what works for me might not work for others, but I do wonder why, when people don't first go to their GP with AF, they don't at least try them on Arythmol to see if it works.
Do ask about these drugs if you are in this position.