On Tuesday the 21st of February I was sent home from work a little early as I was feeling unwell. My colleague had only recently returned to work after having the flu so I assumed I was coming down with something similar. My manager asked me to call in the next day if I was still feeling unwell but hoped I would be feeling better. Wednesday morning arrived and I was feeling worse. I had a dry cough and high temperature. I didn’t think much of it; I got up and went downstairs, made myself some soup and got back into bed.
The next 24-48 hours are a blur to me however were the most life changing moments of my life.
I was asleep upstairs and my mum was in the kitchen making herself lunch. She had the radio playing whilst keeping an ear out for the dogs. After a while she noticed the dogs behaving in an odd manner, they were running up and down the stairs and barking at my door as if they were trying to tell her something. Mum could hear me making a noise and thought I was singing but when I didn’t answer she went upstairs to find out what all of the fuss was about. Opening my door she found me having what she immediately believed to be stroke or fit. Without any hesitation the paramedics were called as the operator guided my Mum in what to do next.
At this point I could not talk or move, I was making noises but they were nonsensical babbles. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive my mum was checking to see how much function I had. She was asking me my name, if I knew where I was, and what my date of birth was. For my mum, the eleven minutes that the paramedics took to arrive felt like hours. When they arrived I was slowly coming out of what they thought may have been a seizure. My speech was returning, although a little slurred, and I was starting to appear fine. Then, out of seemingly nowhere my eyes rolled, I went limp and, what we now know is, my heart stopped. By this point my dad had arrived back home after being called by my mum. My dad told me that as the paramendics gave me CPR, he held my hand, but knew something was seriously wrong because as he held my hand he could feel me getting cold and lose colour, as blood stopped circulating around my body. I became limp and lifeless. Seeing that CPR alone was not working the paramedics rushed into action and proceeded to use a defibrillator to try and start my heart. After each shock, they performed CPR again and it wasn’t until 8 minutes later and on the third shock, that my heart finally began to beat again.
By this time another paramedic team had arrived and I was treated with an injection or antibiotics and antiviral, as they suspected it may be Meningitis. I was rushed to my local A&E and up to the critical ward where I was put into a medically induced coma while various tests were conducted to see why and what had happened. I was tested for several different illnesses. I had blood tests, a lumbar puncture and many many ECG scans.
As I was bought out from the coma 24 hours later I remember feeling dazed and very confused. I had tubes and machines connected everywhere there was space. My memory was awful and I would forget everything anyone told me seconds after. I didn’t know where I was or why I was there. Also didn’t believe the doctors when they told me about what had happened.
I was transferred to the cardiac ward where I was monitored and assessed for three weeks before being transferred to a specialist cardiology hospital.
Once at the cardiology hospital I was diagnosed with Brugada Syndrome very quickly and was told I would and should have surgery to fit an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator). A machine that would shock my heart and give it a sort of reset if this was to happen again. This was going to be fitted under my collar bone. I was scared and unsure but the fear of putting myself and my family through this all again was to powerful to turn down the procedure.
The hospital explained to me that I had suffered with Brugada Syndrome for all of my life but contracting the flu had raise by body temperature to a point that sent my heart into spasm. They believe my first seizure was bought on by a cardiac arrest which I some how managed to come out of on my own.
I was 21 yeas old. I was fit and healthy. I had no cardiac problems prior to this incident and hope I have no more going forward. It was a shock to everyone and affected so many different people in so many different ways.
The first 6 months after the incident was tough. I was constantly scared of it happening again. I was terrified of going to sleep at night in fear of not waking up. Doing exercise was difficult as I thought that this may set my heart off again. 9 months later and I am still dealing with the affects of what happened but I am coming to terms with managing my diet and leisurely activities. I am now playing football and being active again.
Being diagnosed with Brugada Syndrome and having a cardiac arrest were the most terrifying things I have ever experienced, but the support of my family and friends was and is amazing. I have met lots of people through CRY that have experienced similar things to me and this was extremely helpful. I now know that my thoughts and feelings towards it are normal and that having Brugada syndrome is not the end of anything but is simply a part of me.