Ian Mills

“I’d never have known about my heart without your health screening. I’m a big fan of the Mary How Trust”

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I came for my health screening just over a year ago. I’m physically fit and active, and I felt well.

I’d been to the Mary How Trust twice before, and my test results were fine. I had no idea this time would be so different…

During my screening the nurse carried out an ECG, which checks your heart. As soon as she saw my ECG result, she said I needed to visit my doctor right away.

As it happens, my GP is in the same building. So the super Mary How Trust nurse said, “Come with me!” and walked me down the corridor to my GP right then and there.

I saw the duty doctor straightaway, and I was able to get everything underway immediately.

It turns out I have atrial fibrillation. But I wouldn’t have known there was anything wrong, because I had no symptoms. I wasn’t feeling tired, or dizzy, or breathless. So it wouldn’t have been found, had it not been for your health screening.

The surgeon told me that without symptoms, the first indication that you have a problem can be when you have a stroke.

It came as a shock! I had no idea there was an issue in the first place. I could have had a stroke at any time.

And I was due to go travelling in a remote part of Alaska in a couple of months. What if I hadn’t had my health screening? I’d never have known. Had I had a stroke in the wilderness, I wouldn’t have made it back.

I had to have two different treatments to sort out the atrial fibrillation. First, I had an electric shock from a defibrillator to re-set things and get my heart back in sync. It’s called a cardioversion, and it worked for a week – but then my abnormal heart rhythm returned.

So then I had to have an ablation, which uses heat or freezing on the part of the heart that’s causing the problem. They went in through my groin, and guided the catheters right up to my heart. Apart from bruising and tenderness, I felt fine within a week.

It can take time for it to settle, and my heart went wrong again, during the summer heatwave. It was racing at 150 and I was exhausted. I couldn’t do anything – I needed a lie-down every few hours. I couldn’t go to the gym or take any exercise for the best part of two months.

I also felt cotton-headed. I couldn’t retain information for more than five minutes at a stretch.

It’s debilitating. I have sympathy for anyone whose heart races like that.

And then one morning I woke up, and my heart was back in normal rhythm. I was booked in to have another ablation, but then it regulated itself.

I was so lucky. It came back together just in time, and I was able to go fishing in Alaska.

Now all I need to do is take one blood thinner tablet a day. That’s not a bad outcome! And I have an app on my phone to check my heart rate. It was suggested by my surgeon and I thought, ‘This is novel!’ It’s a simple piece of kit that monitors my heart rate. It’s amazing! So simple.

I’m fortunate I had a level of fitness, and walked a lot, and biked. My fitness definitely helped me recover more quickly, and there’s been no restrictions on my activities since.

I have my wife Julie to thank for my underlying fitness! For a man who enjoys his food, it’s important to exercise regularly. We go to the gym three times a week. It’s also a social thing, which is fun in itself – a whole aspect I hadn’t expected. A big bonus.

Now I’m retired I want to be in tip top order to enjoy it. That’s my main motivation for keeping fit and well. I’m fully aware life’s too short.

There’s a rush to do things when one’s fit. To make the most of good health.

I’d never have known about my heart without your health screening. I’m a big fan of the Mary How Trust.