Blair’s heart v. a tabloid’s soul

Blair’s heart v. a tabloid’s soul

: Drudge and the Sunday Mail are trying to act as if Tony Blair’s heart condition is a scandal and a secret. That’s a load of crap. Says Drudge:

DOWNING Street tonight is embroiled in sensational claims that Tony Blair risked his life by trying to hush up the true scale of his heart problems….

Instead, for criminally irresponsible political reasons, Mr Blair s office refused to acknowledge the scale of the health problems, he said. Dr Ward also claims Mr Blair was pressurised not to disclose his illness or seek the best treatment for fear of causing a national scare.

Utter cardiac crap.

I have the same condition — an occasional irregular heartbeat (which, in my case, developed after I was given a drug — a “beta antagonist” in a lung test because of the gunk I inhaled on 9/11). It’s bothersome and inconvenient as hell and even depressing but it’s not immediately life-threatening, my doctors have assured me frequently. Ventricular fibrilation can kill you quickly, yes. But with atrial fibrillation, the real threat is that pools of blood can build clots while the heart is in afib (as we call it) and once the heart kicks back into regular rhythm, those clots can cause a stroke. But the risk of that happening is not until more than 24 hours after the onset of afib and even so, one can be given anticoagulants or the heart can be treated well in advance of the day mark.

Blair has had only a few reported incidents. The treatment for both looks extreme to my amateur eyes, in comparison only to what I’ve seen in my case and others I know about from research (and from blog friends). In his last episode, Blair had cardioversion — that is, they shocked the heart into behaving. (I’m surprised Drudge and the Mail didn’t shout: Blair Has Shock Therapy! Shades of Eagleton!) This week, they stuck a needle into his heart to burn out a few nerves that cause fibrillation and that usually cures it. But it’s not often done unless afib has become so chronic as to interfere with life. In Blair’s case, I can imagine that he didn’t want it to interfere with the job and thus went the extra mile to get rid of it.

In the midst of afib, I’ve worked, driven, eaten hot dogs, gone to Starbucks, and, yes, blogged. It does not interfere with functioning. It feels pretty weird to have your heart going at a rapid rate and whumping with irregular beats but what’s most upsetting is the idea of it and the possibility of interrupting the day with a visit to the doctor.

So don’t buy what Drudge and the Mail are trying to feed you. I’m certainly not a doctor and don’t pretend to be an expert at this. But I have gone through a half-dozen episodes since 2001 — more than Blair — and I’m still blogging away … fact-checking asses an ocean away.