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The new tool that could prevent a stroke.

Anette and her son Lachlan.

By ANETTE HARDIE

I was 42 years old and home alone when I first had a mini stroke.

I didn’t know what was happening. It came on like vertigo. I was falling to the right and I couldn’t stay upright.

It didn’t last long. I stood back up and put it down to being tired from being a mum and doing things too quickly

A few weeks later, I had a massive stroke. It happened just after my husband (Michael) asked me for a coffee. I felt the falling sensation, the same as on the previous occasion. I managed to walk outside with the coffee – didn’t spill a drop – and said to Michael ‘I think something is wrong’.

He sat me down and then I felt a strange sensation down the right side of my body. He phoned Nurses On Call and they put us through to the ambulance service. They recognised the signs and worked out I could be having a stroke.

After nine days in hospital and many tests, it was confirmed the stroke was caused by my heart being in atrial fibrillation.

I’m one of about 400,000 Australians with atrial fibrillation or AF. It’s a condition affecting the heart, making it beat faster and out of rhythm. Some of us with AF have a higher risk of stroke. I’m in that group.

I had been diagnosed with AF about nine years before the stroke. The first sign something was amiss came a year before that, when I was trying to get pregnant with my first child and my gynaecologist told me I might have an irregular heartbeat.

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It was found to be related to a hole in the heart.

That discovery was certainly a shock. It really should have been picked it up when I was born. The only option I had was to have the hole repaired. The doctors told me I didn’t have the surgery and fell pregnant, I would more than likely die at childbirth.

So I had keyhole surgery (aetral septal defect closure). Three weeks later, my heart started to race and I began passing out.

I went to the emergency department and they discovered my heart was going too fast. I started having episodes of AF.

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My cardiologist started me on treatment to control the AF. By the end of the year I was taken off the treatment because my cardiologist believed the AF was no longer an issue. I was warned though that AF could still be an issue throughout my life.

The next year I fell pregnant and had my son Lochlan.

Everything was fine until Easter Monday in 2012 when I had that massive stroke. I believe that if my husband hadn’t been there and noticed the signs, I would have tried to shake it off.

Fortunately for me I left hospital with no effects from the stroke. Today, I am still on treatment for my AF and have regular blood tests.

Feeling my heart beating irregularly is part of life for me. It’s frustrating but I have to accept it. No one else in the family has been diagnosed but not surprisingly we did discover history of a hereditary heart condition.

The stroke and AF have changed my perspective on life. I’ve already travelled to some of my dream holiday destinations including Scotland, London and Paris.

I urge everybody to get checked for AF if they are experiencing chest pain or a rapid heartbeat. Don’t ignore the signs. Do something about it. Better a false alarm than doing nothing and losing your life.

Annette is 45 years old and has a 10 year old son, Lochlan. She is married to Michael who has stood by her for 20 years. Currently she is working as an office administrator and studying trying to complete her Bachelor of Business (Accounting).  She enjoy’s the simply things in life,like spending time with Lochie and Michael as well as her mum and dad. If she’s not studying or spending time with family and friends she likes to sit and read a good book.

The National Stroke Foundation, in partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer, have launched a new free patient resource – Living with atrial fibrillation – which will arm patients and their families with a better understanding of their condition.

The patient resource, Living with Atrial Fibrillation, explains in simple and easy-to-understand terms what AF is and how it affects patients’ lives. The booklet contains patient stories that illustrate how the condition can impact on lives.

Living with atrial fibrillation is available from www.morethanmedication.com.au or from the National Stroke Foundation on 1800 STROKE (1800 787 653) or www.strokefoundation.com.au

You can contact the StrokeLine anytime on 1800 787 653

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