A Quick-Acting Collaboration: James’ Story

James is an active and healthy man. Before retiring, if James wasn’t at work managing a petroleum plant, you could find him running or exercising. “I’ve been an endurance-type athlete for a long time. I know what my heart is supposed to do and how it’s supposed to feel.”

When James woke up one morning, he knew something was wrong. Thinking it would get better throughout the day, he went to work. After checking his heart rate, he said it felt like “my heart was bumping through my chest like a bad drummer.” He knew he needed medical help so he went to the Island Health Walk-In Clinic.

When James arrived at the Walk-In Clinic he told a nurse how he was feeling. She listened very attentively and took his pulse. James’ heart was beating two times faster than the normal speed. Right away, the nurse redirected James to the Emergency Department (ED) saying, “You need an EKG right now.”

The medical team in the ED jumped into action to help James. They quickly performed an EKG test and found out that James’ heart was in Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB).

The cause of AFIB can be very difficult for doctors to determine for a variety of reasons, such as AFIB often occurs when someone has sleep apnea; or sometimes patients develop what is called “Holiday Heart” from overeating and drinking during a holiday. In James’ case, none of those things were true.

In the ED, the doctor told him that they were going to have to shock him out of AFIB to get his heart back on rhythm. After asking his wife to leave the room, James received his first shock. A few minutes later, James’ medical team shocked his heart for the second time. Then they waited.
After ten minutes, James’ heart was back in rhythm.

When reflecting on his experience, James said, “I cannot say enough about the ED. They were very practical and gave calm advice.” When describing what AFIB felt like for him, James said “It makes you feel anxious, nervous and out breath like you’re exercising hard.”

By acting fast, James’ medical team was able to relieve some of his discomfort quickly. James was impressed by the cooperation and communication between the Walk-In Clinic and Emergency Department. Because of the Walk-In and ED’s cooperation, James received calm and clear support addition to relieving his symptoms.