It was the year 2000 when Vince, a CANet Patient Partner supporting our VIRTUES Patient Working Group initiatives, experienced his first episode of Atrial Fibrillation, commonly termed AFib or AF.
“I fainted dead away the first time I felt my heart go into AFib. I was 29, and I thought I was having a heart attack.
Six years later, in 2006, I started cycling to work. I minded my diet and gradually shed 90 pounds to a healthy weight which I maintained for years. But despite being fit and in the best shape I had ever known, in 2019, my AFib episodes increased in frequency, intensity, and length. We quickly learned I had valvular heart disease, my mitral and aortic valves were failing, and my heart was enlarging. I needed surgery, and we began planning for early 2020.
You know what happened next.
Healthcare struggles don’t happen in isolation. During those years, my wife and I welcomed and watched our three kids grow. I enjoyed success in life & work, but I also knew failure. I lost my job twice and was out of work when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I struggled emotionally, and without the commute, I gained weight.”
Although the effects of the pandemic on the Canadian healthcare system persisted, Vince was grateful to receive his surgery in July 2020.
“I got in for open heart surgery thinking we were replacing valves but awoke with both valves and part of my aorta rebuilt from their own parts. It was a miracle! Due to some complications, I was hospitalized for 12 days. But the surgery worked, and my condition improved. In October 2021, I had my first ablation to treat the atrial flutter I had picked up. Thankfully it was also successful. In February 2023, I had my second ablation – pulmonary vein isolation – to address my chronic AFib. My doctors discovered some complex arrhythmias, leading to my third ablation in June 2023. I’m recovering great, and the rhythm seems to be going well.”
Today, Vince approaches life enthusiastically and is open about addressing the impacts his healthcare journey has had on his life.
“Life doesn’t stop as you work on getting your heart fixed. I’m not where I want to be physically, mentally, socially, or financially. A lot of emotional scars have accumulated. I often wonder how much life stresses impact a cardiac patient’s health … I doubt I’ll ever know.
But I know that I’m grateful to my healthcare providers for being alive today. I’m certainly not the youngest valve patient I know, nor the only one with AFib, but it has all been a bit of a shock and learning journey. I know I can share my story to help others see that they’re not alone. I’m happy to be in rhythm, available to my kids, and pursuing my goals!”