Every now and then, Zane Dotson will get a flutter in her heart that feels like “butterflies.’’
“You know when you’re expecting something to happen and you get all excited in here,’’ she said, pointing to her heart.
Dotson has atrial fibrillation, a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. At least 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib, according to the American Heart Association. AFib is a serious condition because of a five-fold increase in the risk for stroke.
When she learned that UCHealth Memorial Hospital had an Atrial Fibrillation Support Group that meets four times annually, she was immediately interested.
“I go every time,’’ Dotson said.
The support group is free, and it gives people who have atrial fibrillation a chance to learn from health experts about a variety of topics, including medication management, and to share information with their peers.
“It is educational. It’s truly why we started, to bring folks together to see if they have questions or concerns, and to provide helpful information about whatever might come up with their atrial fibrillation,’’ said Anne Bakken, a cardiac nurse who formed the group for the benefit of patients.
“We want to give people a place where they can bounce ideas off of each other, give suggestions and be there to support each other,’’ Bakken said.
Every quarter, Bakken selects a different topic – medication management, dietary, and Watchman, a device implanted into the heart to reduce the risk of stroke caused by AFib.
“It’s good information,’’ Dotson said. “They have good speakers and they’re very knowledgeable and willing to answer questions.’’
Diagnosed in 2007 with AFib, Dotson takes a prescribed medication and an 81-milligram aspirin every day.
“I had (AFib) before then, but I didn’t know what it was. A few times I would go to the Emergency Room, but by the time I go there, it was over,’’ she said. “I was going in for hernia surgery and I said, ‘I think my heart is fibrillating.’ They hooked me up to the monitor and, oh yeah, it sure was.’’
Dotson said her irregular heartbeat kicks back to normal on its own. At the support group, each individual has their own personal story about how they live with AFib.
Each meeting begins with Bakken reminding people of the FAST acronym, so that they become readily aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke.
F – Facial drooping
A – Arm tingling
S – Speech (slurring or stuttering)
T – Time is of the essence, call 911
Physicians will talk about AFib, how to recognize it, and how to know when a visit to the Emergency Room is necessary.