AFib Forces My Hand — I Had to Share My Secret With My Kids
Unfortunately, in 2014 my AFib spiraled out of control. I started having episodes once a month and eventually a couple times a month.
Because my episodes were so frequent my treatment plan changed. It wasn't practical to have a cardioversion for each episode so my doctor prescribed flecainide as a pill-in-the-pocket treatment. This was a godsend because I no longer had to deal with the inconvenience or expense of having to go to the ER — I could just pop my pills and lie down until the episodes passed.
As my AFib rapidly progressed that year, it became apparent an ablation was in my immediate future. It also became apparent I was going to have to let my kids in on my secret.
They were a little older so I had more confidence that they would understand and not worry about their dad, but it still wasn't easy to tell them. I procrastinated for a long time.
I remember during some of my episodes I would quietly pop my pills and excuse myself as I would go lie down. I'd be in bed for the better part of the day and the kids would come in my room and ask me why I was in bed all day.
I'd just smile and tell them I was tired and not feeling well. You have to love the innocence of children. They just accepted my answer and went on their way.
After I started talking to doctors about having an ablation I couldn't keep my secret any longer. I had to tell my kids, no matter how difficult the conversation was going to be — for them or me!
I decided I wasn't going to make a big deal of it. I wasn't going to sit down and have a serious talk with them — that would be too frightening. I had an idea of how to tell them without it being too serious or frightening for them.
How I Confessed to My Kids
I decided I would confess my secret in my car. Conversations in a car while running mindless errands are never too serious, right?
So one day as we were driving around town I suddenly turned the radio off and told my kids I had something to tell them real quick. They immediately came to attention and waited for me to speak.
I don't remember my exact words but I basically explained to them how a normal heart beats. I even attempted to demonstrate it with one of my hands.
I told them I have something called "AFib" so my heart doesn't work that way sometimes. I said sometimes my heart beats like this as I demonstrated with a quivering action instead of a steady contraction with my fingers.
Their eyes were wide open with amazement but they weren't too concerned. I think they even laughed as they thought it looked funny how my heart beats sometimes.
My daughter asked me if it hurts. My son asked me how it stops. They had a handful of simple questions, which I proceeded to answer as lighthearted as possible.
I also told them I would be going to a "heart doctor" soon that would be fixing my heart so it doesn't do that again (the ablation). They thought that was fascinating too and had a few questions about it.
At the end of our very brief conversation I assured them I was fine and it was nothing they had to worry about. I just wanted them to know. With that I turned the radio back up and it was business as usual.
After that conversation I felt a huge load lifted off my shoulders. I didn't realize what a burden that secret had been. I could now battle my AFib in the open — I didn't have to shield my kids from it anymore.
When I'd have an attack I would simply tell my kids I had to rest because I was in AFib. Their response each time was, "Okay Dad. I hope you feel better soon." It was never a big deal.
My kids have been a part of my living with AFib journey ever since that conversation in the car, but AFib never dominates the conversation as I refuse to let it dominate my life! Of course that has been easy to do since I haven't had any AFib episodes since my ablation in March 2015.
If AFib rears its ugly head again, I will battle it in the open and my kids will be included in the conversation. However, I don't think I'll ever discuss the serious risks of AFib with them until they are older and I'm fully confident they can understand everything.
I've said it a couple times in this article but my guiding principle is to not needlessly worry my kids. They only need to know the seriousness of my condition if it gets really serious. And hopefully it never does!