We thought something was wrong with ECG leads or monitor but… Blog by Jess-Lee Welch

I was in my final year of uni studying Sport and Exercise Science and we were in the lab doing ECGs on one another.  When my lecturer (Dr David Oxborough) came to check on mine, he thought something was wrong with the monitor or leads. Long story short, the monitor wasn’t broken. After staying behind and completing an Echocardiogram on me, he referred me to Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. After 3 years of biannual Exercise Stress Tests, 24-hour monitoring, MRI scans and ECGs, I was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Block and had a Pacemaker fitted at the age of 24. They struggled to diagnose me as I had no symptoms and my heart kicked into action when I started to exercise, but with a resting heart rate of 30bpm, I was missing a few beats.

Hospital Selfie

Before diagnosis, I was none the wiser, so I wasn’t affected at all. When I was told they wanted to fit me with a Pacemaker, I went along with it and trusted their professional judgement and didn’t think anything of it and I carried on my day-to-day life. I hadn’t told any of my family or friends until after my operation, so I had no conversations that prompted me to think about it. March 2020, I had my Pacemaker fitted and I am fortunate to have had a successful and speedy recovery, physically.

Jess refers to this as her ‘Warrior Wound’

I would describe myself as mentally tough and resilient, but this lifestyle change broke me. As a Personal Trainer, I was extremely active. Playing football, Cross Fit, Strength Training etc. Now this has completely stopped and turned my life upside down. For the first 6 months, I ignored the experience that I had gone through and didn’t think about it. Once I opened my mind to think about it, anxiety filled my body every minute I was awake. After a gruelling 6-month battle with anxiety and depression, I am now at the stage ready to accept it and open up about my experience to help raise awareness. It has been a tough journey throughout the pandemic, being so isolated, but running has been my life saver. 12 months on and I am hoping to get back into some gentle weight training!

First Run after the pacemaker was fitted

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