Hello everyone, my name is Sophie and I have just undergone radiofrequency ablation performed by cardiologist Doctor Jones at Harefield Hospital. I am here to share my story in hopes it will resonate with anyone going through a similar experience to me and to hopefully encourage others to help with the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity.

How my symptoms developed 

I was living a very typical 21-year-old life when my health problems started. I had always felt like I never had enough sleep and teachers even from primary school would comment that I was always very tired but I just assumed I was one of those people. I never thought anything more of it to be honest. 

I had a very active social life and loved nothing more than shopping for hours on end, going to the gym with my friends and being as busy as I could possibly be. I had just been promoted at work and everything seemed to be going my way.

The weekend after my promotion me and my friends decided to go out and celebrate, I was feeling a little extra tired but I never said no to having some fun, you’re only young once after all. I hadn’t been out for more than five minutes when I started to feel exhausted with this sharp pain on the left side of my head. I tried to ignore it, to push through this sensation of wanting to go to sleep to try and keep my eyes open. One moment I was walking alongside my friends and the next thing I knew I was laying on a bed in a medical room with a paramedic standing over me taking my obs. I had collapsed and my eyes had gone completely bloodshot. I brushed off medical advice and assumed it was a random one-off occurrence, I didn’t even stay in A&E and assured the doctors I would be fine.

After that however I felt myself change from being tired to completely exhausted constantly over the next year but again I ignored all the signs and carried on as usual. Sometimes I would be so exhausted at work that I would go into the bathroom stalls for five minutes just so I could close my eyes and try to revive myself. The equipment at the gym would beep and tell me my pulse was too high but me and my friends would laugh it off as we all thought I was somehow always picking the ‘faulty’ machines. My body started to ache and I was out of breath just walking up the stairs.

The symptoms of heart disease got worse

Then one day at work as I went to go to the bathroom to splash my cheeks with water to try and wake myself up, I woke up on the floor with blood pouring down my face. I had collapsed again and smacked my head off the brick wall. Even after this I still brushed it off as nothing ‘maybe I hadn’t drunk enough’ ‘perhaps I was overheated’ but it happened again and again.

Before I knew it I couldn’t do any of my daily routine. No more hours of shopping with my friends or working out at the gym, my work told me there wasn’t a place for me there anymore because I kept being signed off work as my GP was concerned about my health and that was it. My life had been completely changed. I was crushed. My independence just like that was gone.

The doctors first assumed it was a neurological issue due to my age as heart issues were deemed unlikely but once all of that was ruled it was pointed out to me by a doctor and paramedic at A&E that I had tachycardia nearly every time my pulse had been taken. My GP sat me down the next time I was at the practice, took my pulse and it was 187 BPM. This was why I was so tired all the time, why I felt breathless just going up the stairs. I had a five-day heart monitor placed on me and my tachycardia was all over the place pretty much the entire time, my EKG’S were changing and becoming abnormal. It was a cardiology matter after all.

Finding the experts I needed at Harefield Hospital

I decided I wanted to go and see an expert in cardiology straight away to put my mind at ease and chose Harefield. My ongoing health had been a problem now for four years and I wanted to try and get this all over with as soon as possible. It’s funny when I was picking which consultant to see, I had no idea I had randomly selected the best doctor I could have possibly seen to deal with my symptoms, Doctor Jones.

The moment I went into his office with my parents I was put at ease. He looked at my tests results and knew instantly what to do and had an action plan set out. I wasn’t scared anymore and I no longer felt like I was in an endless loop of doctors being unsure of what to do next. He was decisive and put my mind at ease.

Doctor Jones wanted me to also see Doctor Ilsley too just to make sure my small PFO wasn’t causing me any harm or adding to my symptoms. Doctor Ilsley, like Doctor Jones, was so very kind and brilliant to me and assured me that here at Harefield I was in the best care and that I would be looked after which was like music to my ears after so long of being unsure of what was going to happen or what could be done. Once my transoesophageal echogram had been completed (Doctor Barron was amazing at keeping me relaxed in a stressful situation) I was given the ‘all clear’ and sent back to Doctor Jones to begin his plan of action but not before Doctor Ilsley reassured me again, shook my hand and very sincerely wished me luck. That was such a small gesture to him I’m sure but to me it really was an act of kindness which I will never forget. 

Beta blockers hadn’t worked or channel blockers even with the maximum dosage and combination medication so I was offered a radiofrequency ablation by Doctor Jones which would be done alongside an EP study. Doctor Jones explained to me in great depth what this would mean, the chances of success, how it would be performed and answered all of my questions.

My ablation in Harefield's cath labs

I wasn’t nervous at all when the day of my ablation came, I was excited. I had waited so long to know what was going on with me and had finally found a doctor that is truly remarkable and really listens to what you have to say and wants to do all he can to help. He not only cares about your health but your quality of life too and saw that I had been suffering. The nurses in the morning were very welcoming on the ward and the cardiologist who came to give me a quick introduction in the morning was very helpful too.

The staff in the cath lab were all amazing throughout the entire ablation. I had to be kept awake and alert for the procedure which lasted around six hours, but as weird as it sounds, it really didn’t feel like that time length at all. Time flew by. I felt reassures and was calm the whole time all thanks to the amazing medical team there.

The catheters inside my chest felt uncomfortable and gave a strange artificial feeling of my heart fluttering whenever they were twisted around or moved up and down but again, I was not afraid thanks to everyone there around me. I found the actual cath lab itself fascinating and watching the EP study on the large screen beside me was very interesting to see. Doctor Jones was more than happy to sate my curiosity as was the nurse. 

When the actual ablation side of things began it felt like a very sharp pain in my chest like I was being burnt with a hot iron but it was not unbearable and Doctor Jones was very cautious of how I was feeling and offered me breaks in between if I needed it.

I was stitched up and the procedure had gone smoothly. Doctor Jones told me it may take more than a month for my tachycardia to settle down or even longer as everyone is different. It has only been a few weeks since I had the procedure done so I won’t be able to tell yet accurately if there has been a change. I will see him again in three months’ time to discuss any changes and to see if anything else needs to be done. He has explained to me already what those might be, once again reaffirming my belief that I am in the best medical care possible.

Thank you Harefield Hospital

Coming to Harefield has truly been life changing for me. I am truly so grateful to all the amazing staff I have encountered there and I will never be able to thank Doctor Jones enough for what he has done for me. I would recommend Harefield to anyone who has had similar issues to me or any other health related issues which this brilliant hospital specialises in, they truly stand above the rest in my eyes and I’m sure anyone else who has been there would agree. 

Thank you so much to Doctor Jones and everyone I have encountered at Harefield hospital; incredible nurses, tech experts and cardiologists, you really have changed my life for the better and I will always be so grateful.

In 2020 the Charity launched the Lifeline Lab appeal to contribute to the redevelopment of Cath Lab 5 at Harefield Hospital. Thanks to generous support from our fundraisers and donors, we raised £569,000 to furnish this lab with imaging technology to improve the experience and outcomes for patients like Sophie.

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