I Was Awake While My Pacemaker Was Fitted; ELEVEN Months Ago Former England Junior Squash Champion Paul Taylor Had a Pacemaker Fitted after His Heart Stopped for a Few Seconds during a Health Check-Up. Here Paul, a 25-Year-Old Tax Consultant, Who Lives in Maidenbower, West Sussex, Tells His Story to REBECCA VARLEY, and Dr Mark Sopher Describes the Operation, Which Is More Common in Older, Less Fit patients.Good Health
Byline: REBECCA VARLEY
DURING a routine health check at work in July last year, the doctor noticed that I had a slightly irregular heartbeat.
When I told her that I had been feeling giddy while playing squash or football, she told me to get it checked out by my GP.
At the insistence of my girlfriend, Laura, I went to my GP, who referred me to a BUPA heart specialist at Redhill, Surrey. I claimed this on my health insurance through my work.
The specialist did a 24-hour electrocardiogram (ECG) on me, and put me on a drug, Atenolol, to slow down my heart rate.
My ECG showed irregular rhythms and that part of my heart was too big. He told me that this could be because of an abnormality - or because of my sports history. I was the England junior squash champion and continued playing to a high level until the age of 19.
I was then referred to Professor William McKenna at St George's Hospital, Tooting, South London.
I went along to St George's for an echocardiogram, a way of electrically recording your heartbeat, and I had to do an exercise test.
During that test I had to pedal as hard as I could on an exercise bike rigged up to heart monitors. I felt fine until I finished the test.
Suddenly, I felt very giddy. The next thing I remember was coming round on the floor.
A crash team - doctors, nurses and a resuscitation officer who deal with people who have collapsed suddenly - rushed down and I was told to lie flat on my back and not move. My heart had stopped for several seconds and then restarted on its own.
I was told I would just need to stay overnight for observation. By this time I was on NHS treatment because my collapse was an emergency case. The next morning I was told I needed a pacemaker.
I was informed that there was no way of knowing if my heart would suddenly stop again. Worse still, my resting heartbeat was just 38 beats per minute - the average is 70.
On October 1 last year, I had an operation. Amazingly, it lasted just one-and-a-half hours and they used only a local anaesthetic. I looked the other way because I didn't want to see what they were doing, but I could feel sensations where they were cutting.
The registrar who performed the operation, Dr Mark Sopher, said it was more difficult to fit my pacemaker because my muscles were bigger and more developed than those of elderly patients.
Throughout the operation I was surprisingly relaxed, mainly because I knew that if I panicked my heart rate would go mad.
The anaesthetic began to wear off, so I could feel pain while I was being stitched up. I was allowed to go home the next day, and I went back to work after two weeks. …