My Heart Palpitations Were Not Ectopic Heartbeats …. but I Knew It

AFIB wanted to invade my life again! Cardioversion was looming

Family enjoying a beach vacation

The serenity prayer is wonderful, and it is used everywhere. I also believe in it. But sometimes I struggle with the first part.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (Reinhold Niebuhr)

“To accept the things I cannot change.” Difficult.

What I find difficult to accept is the words of my cardiologist. He said: “Your right atrium is just too big; that is what puts you into AFIB.”

OK, so what happened?

So, last week, the day before we ended our vacation at Ballito in KZN, I felt it. My first hope was that it was ectopic heartbeats. I actually prayed that it was the ectopics that I felt.

Every now and then I felt my pulse and tried to figure out what my rhythm was. My heart rate was not an issue. It was between 60 and 70 bpm. The issue was the rhythm.

At first, I did not want to tell my wife and daughter. Why? Because I was still praying that it was ectopics. I am a man of faith. Also, I thought my heart could go back into rhythm at any time, but I knew the longer it stayed out of rhythm the chance of it going back grew slimmer by the minute.

I decided to keep quiet for the night. I wasn’t feeling sick, there was no pain, and I could function normally. I was hopeful … I wanted to challenge the first part of the serenity prayer. I did not want to accept the AFIB monster.

In my case, I knew that if the AFIB did not go away in the first few minutes of me feeling it, it usually stayed. It was already a few hours, and it stayed. But I kept on hoping, dreaming, praying.

Here’s the deal

The situation was as follows. It was the last day. I’d already booked a surf lesson for me, my daughter and her boyfriend.

I did not know which hospital to go to. I was afraid they would book me into the hospital for the night, or that they would just tell me it’s nothing and shove me on my way.

Learning to surf was important to me, even at the age of 48. Confession time!

I got so tired. Plowing through the waves to get to a spot to get even a baby wave was exhausting. I huffed and puffed, and then rested. I knew that I was not unfit. When I asked my daughter if she also was getting tired, she said, “Not really.”

The experience of gliding over the water, trying to stand, standing for a split second, and then falling was fantastic and satisfying. But I got tired.

Decision time

After the hour lesson, I knew I had to come to a resolution.

Drive home the next day to see my cardiologist the day after that, and then be booked in for at least 2 days before they cardiovert me.


Go to a local ER or hospital and hope for the best. I was hoping for cardioversion.

From previous experience, I knew that if my rhythm was out for longer than 48 hours, the cardiologist would only convert me after I was put on Pradaxa(dabigatran), an anticoagulant, for about 48 hours. That usually meant 3 days in an intensive care unit. I did not want to go that route.

I chose to opt for the local ER at Busamed Umhlanga near Durban in KZN. It was only about a 20-minute drive away. The ER was not busy, and they helped me very quickly and efficiently.

Then, it was confirmed by the ECG. My heart was in Atrial Fibrillation.

The next decision

At first, the doctor said I could stay in AFIB until I got to my home because my heart rate was not fast, and I had no other side effects. I wanted the other option and asked for the cardioversion. Then he looked at me very intently and explained that they could do it, but only because of my “diagnosis” of my AFIB only starting the previous day.

That was serious and made me think for a while. If my heart had been in AFIB for longer than 48 hours, there could be the possibility of a blood clot being dislodged that could cause an aneurysm or stroke.

Because I was certain of my “diagnosis,” I gave him the go-ahead. The cardioversion went well, and I was out of the ER within about two and a half hours for the whole shebang.


I looked up synonyms for gratefulness. It was words like glad, appreciative, thankful or delighted. It did not explain how I felt. I was grateful x 100.

Now put that into words.

Am I ready to accept that my right atrium is too big, and that I will go into AFIB every now and again? NO! I’m still fighting the good fight of an AFIB-free life.

I am praying that God will change the things that I cannot change. He has the power, and I am grateful for the miracle of life that He has given me. I will find serenity in Him.

This article was also published on Medium:

6 thoughts on “My Heart Palpitations Were Not Ectopic Heartbeats …. but I Knew It

  1. Great story! I’ve faced this decision a few times. I’ve struggled with Idiopathic periodic Afib since my 20’s. I am now 73. Had 16 episodes from 20 to 40 all converted overnight with meds. Had 12 episodes from 40 to 73 with 10 cardioversions all successful, but I worry about the percentages. Soon the docs my say I have to live in Afib forever. Being a lifelong athlete, this will be hard to take. Just had an episode of prolonged ectopic beats. Anxiety drove my BP to dangerous levels. Hoping to soon find new meds that can keep me out of Afib for another decade.

    Have faith, carry on and live mentally strong. Best wishes to all Afibbers.

    1. Hi Tom

      Thank you for the comment.
      Your story gives me hope and I believe you being a athlete will continue to help you “manage” AFIB.
      I am keeping the faith in Jesus as my savior. My history has also helped me to live mentally strong.

      Keep us up to date with your heart health!

  2. Some day along the way, I wish there will be a cure for afib. I’m 46 and was diagnosed with afib early last year. Even though my afib history is not very long, I already experienced numerous panic, hopeful, and hopeless moments. I’ve learned to accept that it may never go away. But I’ll fight to keep it from taking my life away. With not very much support from people around me, your stories got me through some of the darkest days. Thank you!

  3. I got into AF every other day. I found that a joint of weed will usually get me out of it. But don’t smoke it when not in AF as it may put you in it. It may work. At least the side effects of this drug are pleasant.

    I was prescribed Amiodarone several years ago and it severely damaged my kidneys.
    Was dubious about next drug but in my case, Multaq is now even better at getting me out of AF. Had two ablations at two different facilities to no effect.

    1. Hi Paul

      I’m scared to try weed because it is uncontrolled so you could get a good bunch and then a bad bunch and it has a bad name here in South Africa.

      I think my 1st ablation helped somewhat although I did go into AFIB after it again.
      Thanks for the info on amiodarone, hopefully I don’t have to stay on it too long.

      I’m still praying for a miracle.


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