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atrial fibrillation

Posted by Nancy N on 10/18/02 at 23:28 (097849)

Anybody here know anything about atrial fibrillation? My grandmother (age 86) is in the hospital for the past few days and this is her diagnosis. I know that it's an arhythmic heartbeat, and they did do the treatment called (I think) cardioversion today to try to get the regular beat re-established, but it didn't work. I think it may have made a slight improvement, but not what they were hoping for.

My brother is freaking out and guilting me about not dropping everything and driving back to my hometown, which is about 2.5 hours from here. He got so mad at me tonight when I was trying to explain to him that I can't just drop everything without a second thought anymore (because of my teaching job, where I would have to have plans ready for someone to take over my classes if I'd be gone during the week) that he hung up on me, which I'm pretty sure is the first time he's ever done that. He has me feeling like my grandmother isn't going to make it through the night and that I'm some heartless, evil ogre because I haven't dropped everything to drive back there.

My parents, on the other hand, tell me that she's in no immediate danger--in fact, they're discharging her tomorrow. They've talked to the RN on her floor, who is a former student of my mom's, and she confirms that as long as my grandmother stays on coumadin to thin her blood and prevent a stroke, there's no reason to panic. She says that there are plenty of people with this condition who have stayed on coumadin for the rest of their years, without ever returning to a regular heartbeat.

When I called the hospital and talked to my grandmother this afternoon she sounded wonderfully alert and peppy, and even hurried me up to go meet a friend for the dinner and concert we had planned tonight, and I promised her I'd call her tonight or tomorrow depending on how late it was when I got back. (My grandmother is never shy about asking for attention, so it seems to me that if she really thought this was serious, her first question to me would have been 'When are you coming home?' She didn't even come close to asking that question this evening, which seems to me to be another sign that there's no need to panic.)

I'm thinking about driving out next weekend or the weekend after, just to visit her, since this weekend I'm required to be at Homecoming for school and I don't want to panic if there's not a real reason to (I don't want to be doing anything that might look like I'm just using her as a reason to get out of school-related stuff).

So anyway...I think I'm making the right choice (I know we can never know for sure until after the fact), but I'm just wondering if anyone has any experience with this condition and can offer any other info. My parents are hoping to talk to the doctor tomorrow and will give me a buzz if they think the situation has changed. I don't mind going if there's a need, I just don't want to go into panic-mode if there's not a real need to (I've been there a lot lately and I think I am all panicked-out for the month of October!).

Thanks...

Re: atrial fibrillation

Necee on 10/19/02 at 00:22 (097851)

Don't know much about that condition. But I can tell you....there's no need to panic, panic is what gets people in trouble. Just take a deep breath, and listen to your own heart, don't worry about what brother or others might think. It just concerns me a little cause you mentioned 'panic' several times in your post. If you panic, you are only making things harder on yourself.

Happy trails.....

Necee

Re: atrial fibrillation

Mary Ann S on 10/19/02 at 00:22 (097852)

HI Nancy, I think you should listen to your parents since thy have talked to the nurse taking care of your grandmother and are there to see her also. It seems like you brother is quite anxious and not really thinking about everything.

My husband is on coumadin and is in atrial fib. He had been cardioverted 2x and that brought the heart rate down but did not change the pattern. That is probably what happened with your grandmother too. I am also a nurse and have seen many patients like this.

You are very concerned about her and calling her and getting the info from your parents, you could also call and talk to here nurse if that would make you feel better. Since she is going home tomorrow the doctors must feel she is stable. Take care

Re: Guilt trips

Julie on 10/19/02 at 01:23 (097856)

Nancy

I'm sure you've made the right decision. This sounds like one of those family situations in which one member has a big emotional investment in controlling (and maybe even undermining?) another. Please don't buy into it. And don't panic: there's no reason to. Your parents and grandmother and the hospital have all made it quite clear that all is well for now. Stick to your responsibilities and visit your grandmother when you can.

Also - I hope it's ok to say this - she is 86. She will die sometime, and it could happen when you aren't there. I hope no-one will send you on a guilt trip if that happens - and that you won't set yourself up for one.

Re: atrial fibrillation

Nancy N on 10/19/02 at 08:27 (097858)

Necee--

My point exactly. I don't know what's going on with my brother, but it does seem to me that he''s verging on a panicked state himself, which may be why he's trying to pass it on to me.

Thanks.

Re: atrial fibrillation

Nancy N on 10/19/02 at 08:32 (097859)

Mary Ann--

Thanks so much for posting--the fact that you're a nurse and that your husband is living with the same condition makes me feel a lot better. My brother tried to tell me last night that the doctors and nurses would downplay the situation because they're desensitized and see people die all the time. I thought that was just appalling--I'm sure that you adjust to it on some level, but I would be shocked if a doctor or nurse would not tell the family if they needed to prepare themselves. I'm sure there are some out there who would, but I have a hard time believing that they're not the exceptions, rather than the rule.

How long has your husband had atrial fib? I'm wondering what we might be able to expect for her since she's 86 and has not always taken the best care of herself (her favorite exercise is to lay on the couch and read a book, and her favorite food groups are fat and salt). One of the things they had to do for her right away was get her blood pressure down, because it the top number had gone up above 200. She has been on many blood pressure medications to try to get it down, so I don't think it was usually this high, and they did manage to drop it to somewhere around 105 after they got her in the hospital. So I don't know how that might complicate things.

Thanks again for posting, I really appreciate it.

Re: Guilt trips

Nancy N on 10/19/02 at 08:38 (097860)

Thanks, Julie. My brother is usually very level-headed, which is why it surprised me when he was quite the opposite last night. And I was very confused about the whole nature of the situation because he was telling me things that made it sound like she might not make it through the weekend, and my parents were telling me that the doctor told her she should still plan to go to Florida in December. With such a wide range of information, it's been hard for me to figure out what the right decision is.

And it's totally OK to say that she will die sometime--I've considered that idea as far as both my grandparents go from time to time. But it's one thing to idly figure that it's going to happen sometime, and another thing to have someone telling you that 'sometime' might be more like 'now.' I talked to my mom for a long time last night, and she insists that the guilt will be on her and my dad if they make the wrong call and tell me the wrong thing, and she dies when I haven't had a chance to get back to see her. Not that I wouldn't wish that I had a chance to get there first, but she is quite insistent that I should not feel guilty in that situation.

Mom's not sure what's going on with my brother, either. I think he gets antsy about heart-related stuff because my sister-in-law had heart problems two weeks before their wedding, when they found out she had Lyme disease. And I can understand how that would make you nervous in the future. But I just am not convinced that there's any reason to get panicky--I've spent too much of my time in that kind of state to feel like going back again.

Re: atrial fibrillation

carmen h on 10/19/02 at 09:08 (097865)

Your brother may just be responding to his own anxiety about it and it may help him to put some fault on someone else. Sounds weird but it may give him relief because he may be feeling helpless...and this confirms that you are helpless too and he is not alone.
Did that make sense?
Either way you are doing the right thing by waiting...sounds like she is fine...
Do what's best for you.

Re: Guilt trips

Kathy G on 10/19/02 at 09:08 (097866)

Nancy,

I hope your grandmother comes home and is doing well today. I've heard of several people who have suffered from the same malady and have lived for years and years on Coumadin.

Above all, I just want to say, don't feel guilty! There seem to be a number of issues at play here. Your brother may be having a difficult time in accepting that your grandmother has suffered a physical setback and because of her advanced age, this episode may be forcing him to think of her eventual death, which he finds painful and hard to accept. That is his problem, not yours. Or perhaps he finds it easier to deal with family stress if you are close by. Who knows? I shouldn't play psychologist.

You did all the right things. Your parents are in direct contact with the doctors and nurses and say you don't need to be there. You called and spoke to your grandmother and that was the most important thing for you to do. She surely understands that you have obligations in your life that must be met and that if she were truly in need, you would be at here side.

Please be at peace and don't beat yourself up about this. You've done the right thing.

Re: atrial fibrillation

Carole C in NOLA on 10/19/02 at 09:26 (097870)

Carmen, I think your assessment is very good. That was my first thought too but I couldn't figure out how to say it. The only thing I'd add, is that the brother is probably not aware that he's displacing his own anxiety, and probably honestly feels that he's saying and doing the right things. We all do this sometimes without meaning to be unkind.

Carole C

Re: atrial fibrillation

Ed Davis, DPM on 10/19/02 at 12:58 (097901)

Some may remember that George Bush senior when had fainted when meeting with the prime minister of Japan and it was found that he had atrial fibrillation caused by hyperthyroidism. The problem is very treatable.
Ed

Re: atrial fibrillation

Suzanne D on 10/19/02 at 14:27 (097907)

Hi, Nancy. I'm sorry about the situation with your grandmother, but I do think you are doing the right thing. Your parents will keep you abreast of any changes, and your grandmother knows you love her and are concerned. I think, like Carmen said, that sometimes when people get upset themselves, they strike out at someone (usually someone close to them) because they are feeling upset and not in control. And, like Carole said, your brother may not even realize he's doing this.

I see this type scenario quite often as my husband is a minister and gets frequent, urgent phone calls from people who have family members in the hospital. Brothers and sisters and cousins often get upset with one another when they are really just worried about their parents or grandparents but have very different ideas about showing this concern. There are those who 'camp out' at the hospital, and sometimes they seem to think others who don't do so are being uncaring. That is what I have observed through the years. And some patients want their family by their side every minute, and others want them to go and come.

I certainly do not think it is true that 'the doctors and nurses would downplay the situation because they're desensitized and see people die all the time'. In fact, I KNOW this is not the case as my husband is called time and time again to the bedside of someone because the doctor said to 'call in the family'. Often, the patient rallies, and the crisis passes. But the medical personnel always seem to be cautious in this regard and let the patient's family know when there is a chance that the situation is grave.

So, try to rest easy with your decision. I know full well how school duties must be met. Trust your instincts and your parents. I am sure the phone calls you are making are keeping your grandmother aware that you are thinking of her.

She will be in my prayers.

Suzanne :-)

Re: Thanks, everyone

Nancy N on 10/20/02 at 07:56 (097949)

Thanks, guys. It's been really helpful to read about your experiences with this condition. I talked to my grandmother last night for about half an hour and she sounded really good (though apparently she has no books/newspapers/pen and paper, etc, and doesn't want to turn on the TV, so I think she's kind of bored). I told her I'll be out to visit this coming weekend, and they expect to have her blood pressure stabilized so she can go home by then. So we'll see.

Still haven't heard anything from my brother--my mom apparently talked to him and very subtly made it clear to him that he has some crow to eat, but it's up to him to decide to call me. If I call him before he's ready to talk to me, I doubt any good will come of it, so I'll just have to be patient.

Thanks again....

Re: Thanks, everyone

carmen h on 10/20/02 at 10:11 (097954)

oooorrrrrrrr....you could call him and tell him you think you understand why he directed his anger at you but that you didn't appreciate it...but still love him and are there if when he wants to talk. Our only sure minute on this earth is the one we are in right now.
:o)
I try never to leave anything unfinished...so that's just my little two cents that you didn't even ask for!
:o)

Re: atrial fibrillation

Necee on 10/19/02 at 00:22 (097851)

Don't know much about that condition. But I can tell you....there's no need to panic, panic is what gets people in trouble. Just take a deep breath, and listen to your own heart, don't worry about what brother or others might think. It just concerns me a little cause you mentioned 'panic' several times in your post. If you panic, you are only making things harder on yourself.

Happy trails.....

Necee

Re: atrial fibrillation

Mary Ann S on 10/19/02 at 00:22 (097852)

HI Nancy, I think you should listen to your parents since thy have talked to the nurse taking care of your grandmother and are there to see her also. It seems like you brother is quite anxious and not really thinking about everything.

My husband is on coumadin and is in atrial fib. He had been cardioverted 2x and that brought the heart rate down but did not change the pattern. That is probably what happened with your grandmother too. I am also a nurse and have seen many patients like this.

You are very concerned about her and calling her and getting the info from your parents, you could also call and talk to here nurse if that would make you feel better. Since she is going home tomorrow the doctors must feel she is stable. Take care

Re: Guilt trips

Julie on 10/19/02 at 01:23 (097856)

Nancy

I'm sure you've made the right decision. This sounds like one of those family situations in which one member has a big emotional investment in controlling (and maybe even undermining?) another. Please don't buy into it. And don't panic: there's no reason to. Your parents and grandmother and the hospital have all made it quite clear that all is well for now. Stick to your responsibilities and visit your grandmother when you can.

Also - I hope it's ok to say this - she is 86. She will die sometime, and it could happen when you aren't there. I hope no-one will send you on a guilt trip if that happens - and that you won't set yourself up for one.

Re: atrial fibrillation

Nancy N on 10/19/02 at 08:27 (097858)

Necee--

My point exactly. I don't know what's going on with my brother, but it does seem to me that he''s verging on a panicked state himself, which may be why he's trying to pass it on to me.

Thanks.

Re: atrial fibrillation

Nancy N on 10/19/02 at 08:32 (097859)

Mary Ann--

Thanks so much for posting--the fact that you're a nurse and that your husband is living with the same condition makes me feel a lot better. My brother tried to tell me last night that the doctors and nurses would downplay the situation because they're desensitized and see people die all the time. I thought that was just appalling--I'm sure that you adjust to it on some level, but I would be shocked if a doctor or nurse would not tell the family if they needed to prepare themselves. I'm sure there are some out there who would, but I have a hard time believing that they're not the exceptions, rather than the rule.

How long has your husband had atrial fib? I'm wondering what we might be able to expect for her since she's 86 and has not always taken the best care of herself (her favorite exercise is to lay on the couch and read a book, and her favorite food groups are fat and salt). One of the things they had to do for her right away was get her blood pressure down, because it the top number had gone up above 200. She has been on many blood pressure medications to try to get it down, so I don't think it was usually this high, and they did manage to drop it to somewhere around 105 after they got her in the hospital. So I don't know how that might complicate things.

Thanks again for posting, I really appreciate it.

Re: Guilt trips

Nancy N on 10/19/02 at 08:38 (097860)

Thanks, Julie. My brother is usually very level-headed, which is why it surprised me when he was quite the opposite last night. And I was very confused about the whole nature of the situation because he was telling me things that made it sound like she might not make it through the weekend, and my parents were telling me that the doctor told her she should still plan to go to Florida in December. With such a wide range of information, it's been hard for me to figure out what the right decision is.

And it's totally OK to say that she will die sometime--I've considered that idea as far as both my grandparents go from time to time. But it's one thing to idly figure that it's going to happen sometime, and another thing to have someone telling you that 'sometime' might be more like 'now.' I talked to my mom for a long time last night, and she insists that the guilt will be on her and my dad if they make the wrong call and tell me the wrong thing, and she dies when I haven't had a chance to get back to see her. Not that I wouldn't wish that I had a chance to get there first, but she is quite insistent that I should not feel guilty in that situation.

Mom's not sure what's going on with my brother, either. I think he gets antsy about heart-related stuff because my sister-in-law had heart problems two weeks before their wedding, when they found out she had Lyme disease. And I can understand how that would make you nervous in the future. But I just am not convinced that there's any reason to get panicky--I've spent too much of my time in that kind of state to feel like going back again.

Re: atrial fibrillation

carmen h on 10/19/02 at 09:08 (097865)

Your brother may just be responding to his own anxiety about it and it may help him to put some fault on someone else. Sounds weird but it may give him relief because he may be feeling helpless...and this confirms that you are helpless too and he is not alone.
Did that make sense?
Either way you are doing the right thing by waiting...sounds like she is fine...
Do what's best for you.

Re: Guilt trips

Kathy G on 10/19/02 at 09:08 (097866)

Nancy,

I hope your grandmother comes home and is doing well today. I've heard of several people who have suffered from the same malady and have lived for years and years on Coumadin.

Above all, I just want to say, don't feel guilty! There seem to be a number of issues at play here. Your brother may be having a difficult time in accepting that your grandmother has suffered a physical setback and because of her advanced age, this episode may be forcing him to think of her eventual death, which he finds painful and hard to accept. That is his problem, not yours. Or perhaps he finds it easier to deal with family stress if you are close by. Who knows? I shouldn't play psychologist.

You did all the right things. Your parents are in direct contact with the doctors and nurses and say you don't need to be there. You called and spoke to your grandmother and that was the most important thing for you to do. She surely understands that you have obligations in your life that must be met and that if she were truly in need, you would be at here side.

Please be at peace and don't beat yourself up about this. You've done the right thing.

Re: atrial fibrillation

Carole C in NOLA on 10/19/02 at 09:26 (097870)

Carmen, I think your assessment is very good. That was my first thought too but I couldn't figure out how to say it. The only thing I'd add, is that the brother is probably not aware that he's displacing his own anxiety, and probably honestly feels that he's saying and doing the right things. We all do this sometimes without meaning to be unkind.

Carole C

Re: atrial fibrillation

Ed Davis, DPM on 10/19/02 at 12:58 (097901)

Some may remember that George Bush senior when had fainted when meeting with the prime minister of Japan and it was found that he had atrial fibrillation caused by hyperthyroidism. The problem is very treatable.
Ed

Re: atrial fibrillation

Suzanne D on 10/19/02 at 14:27 (097907)

Hi, Nancy. I'm sorry about the situation with your grandmother, but I do think you are doing the right thing. Your parents will keep you abreast of any changes, and your grandmother knows you love her and are concerned. I think, like Carmen said, that sometimes when people get upset themselves, they strike out at someone (usually someone close to them) because they are feeling upset and not in control. And, like Carole said, your brother may not even realize he's doing this.

I see this type scenario quite often as my husband is a minister and gets frequent, urgent phone calls from people who have family members in the hospital. Brothers and sisters and cousins often get upset with one another when they are really just worried about their parents or grandparents but have very different ideas about showing this concern. There are those who 'camp out' at the hospital, and sometimes they seem to think others who don't do so are being uncaring. That is what I have observed through the years. And some patients want their family by their side every minute, and others want them to go and come.

I certainly do not think it is true that 'the doctors and nurses would downplay the situation because they're desensitized and see people die all the time'. In fact, I KNOW this is not the case as my husband is called time and time again to the bedside of someone because the doctor said to 'call in the family'. Often, the patient rallies, and the crisis passes. But the medical personnel always seem to be cautious in this regard and let the patient's family know when there is a chance that the situation is grave.

So, try to rest easy with your decision. I know full well how school duties must be met. Trust your instincts and your parents. I am sure the phone calls you are making are keeping your grandmother aware that you are thinking of her.

She will be in my prayers.

Suzanne :-)

Re: Thanks, everyone

Nancy N on 10/20/02 at 07:56 (097949)

Thanks, guys. It's been really helpful to read about your experiences with this condition. I talked to my grandmother last night for about half an hour and she sounded really good (though apparently she has no books/newspapers/pen and paper, etc, and doesn't want to turn on the TV, so I think she's kind of bored). I told her I'll be out to visit this coming weekend, and they expect to have her blood pressure stabilized so she can go home by then. So we'll see.

Still haven't heard anything from my brother--my mom apparently talked to him and very subtly made it clear to him that he has some crow to eat, but it's up to him to decide to call me. If I call him before he's ready to talk to me, I doubt any good will come of it, so I'll just have to be patient.

Thanks again....

Re: Thanks, everyone

carmen h on 10/20/02 at 10:11 (097954)

oooorrrrrrrr....you could call him and tell him you think you understand why he directed his anger at you but that you didn't appreciate it...but still love him and are there if when he wants to talk. Our only sure minute on this earth is the one we are in right now.
:o)
I try never to leave anything unfinished...so that's just my little two cents that you didn't even ask for!
:o)