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.
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.