My cheatin’ heart

I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes get atrial fibrillation — irregular heart rhythm — and it has struck again, lasting longer this time than usual. As I write this, a convention of Mexican jumping beans is staging a revolt somewhere south of my sternum. I had to give a big presentation last night and otherwise function as a normal person in the last 48 hours with this going on inside. It’s quite possible to do so, just weird.

I got the condition in a chain of events from 9/11: I got pneumonia from inhaling the cloud of destruction at the World Trade Center and when doctors tested my lungs, they spritzed something in there that unleashed my until-then-blocked betas. Every time it has struck, the doctors have given me different rules and treatment. This time, I’m giving myself shots in my stomach: Yes, I am rabid. And other fun awaits.

But here’s the strange part: Four out of the last seven or so times I’ve commuted through the PATH station at the World Trade Center, my heart has gone wacky. Three of those times, it calmed down and returned to normal rhythm within five minutes or so. This last time, it hasn’t calmed down. I can’t figure out what the connection to the WTC is. No, it’s not post-traumatic stress disorder; I’ve been commuting through that station without incident or upset since they reopened it. I almost wonder whether the construction they’ve begun has unleashed some odd chemical, but I doubt that. It’s just wacky.

Anyway, this — and work — is why you’ve seen a relative paucity of posting in recent days. I’m working at home today, so you’ll be stuck hearing more from me later.

  • You went through the worst day in modern American history, and that you continue to talk about it and its effects on you is remarkable. I’m no shrink – but I bet your connection between the irregular heartbeat and your visits to the PATH station is right on. Feel better and be well, Jeff.

  • Take care of you. I’d also like to echo the previous comment about your talking about 9/11 and its affects on you is remarkable.

    A daily reader,

  • That must be unnerving. I hope you feel better soon.

  • Feel better, Jeff. That sounds awful. I was wondering if anything was up… haven’t heard as much from you lately. Take care of yourself.

  • Just want to echo all the other well-wishers. Hope you have a quiet weekend–which no doubt means you’ll be blogging twice as much as usual.


  • Be well, Jeff.

  • Hang in there Jeff and I hope your schedule allows you to take a break now and then. The shots sound awful… but if they do the trick :P

    Kick back at home for awhile and maybe avoid the PATH station for a bit if you can.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    I had that. They did an ablation procedure and fixed it.

    Has a doctor suggested that as an option for you?

  • Mumblix,
    I’d be eager to hear more about ablation if you’re willing to tell. Of course, I’ve read about it and I’ve heard good and bad. The docs haven’t raised that yet because I’ve always gotten rid of this within 24 hours. But now I’m heading past 48 and so who knows what the future holds. And ablation sure looks like the solution, albeit drastic sounding.

    And to all:
    Thanks for your kind words and wishes. I’m fine… or pass for it. Just pissed.

  • That’s going on too long, well wishes to you. Meditation?

  • Sounds like an anxiety attack to me. Check with a shrink.

    Two things I’ve found that help me are to either lie down and have a nap, or get up if I was already snoozing and do something. The trick is to either focus on something, or let go. But don’t let the fear take over.

    Let it go, let it pass. It will, and you will remain.

    Don’t know if it’ll work for you, but I’ve had results with a good book. (George R. R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows currently.) But whatever you do, focus on what you do and let the anxiety be. Good luck.

  • Hope you feel better Jeff. Looking forward to coffee with you sometime here in the Poconos.

    a loyal daily reader….

  • Sorry to hear you’re feeling bad, Jeff…although it does sound a bit like an anxiety attack. Combination of the two? only your doctor can know for sure :-)

  • Don’t make me sound any more neurotic than I already am. It’s not an anxiety attack; the EKG looks like a 3.2 on the Richter.

  • stuart weiss

    Atrial Fibrillation (AF) can in some cases be put into remission holistically.
    I am living and breathing evidence. Have been episode-free for over seven (7) years. My AF diagnosed as lone idiopathic (no known cause). What medicos won’t reveal is that they are treating symptoms-not the disease. Perscribed medication resulted in my having tinnitus, loss of smell and other side effects, ’till I took control of my health.

    One writer spoke of ablation; he neglected mentioning that failure results in the implant of a pacemaker. ‘Course there’s always MAZE (Japanese created, open heart surgery): like amputating your foot to cure an infected in-grown toenail. As with so many relatively minor health problems, the establishment is over-medicating. They alarm with “25% greater risk of stroke” and perscribe coumadin-a factor in “bleeding-out”.

    If you’re not resistant to exercise and temporary non-radical changes in diet, you can be episode-free inside 90 days. No guarantees; my cardiologist knows what I’ve done and can certify. (Dr. Antoine Hage-U C L A Medical Center)

    If you’re piqued, you’ve my address. If not, succor yourself with the knowledge that AF most likely won’t kill you; you’ll just wish yourself dead.

  • dude our prayers are with you.

  • Rooting for you.
    John Mahoney

  • Tom Schaffner


    I had several episodes of A-fib with rapid heart rate between 1996 and 2001, often coinciding with periods of stress. Very Scary. On my last one, I had to be shocked into normal rhthymn at the hospital.

    The Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton had the same problem, getting him grounded. In a biography I read, he said that taking multiple vitamins daily had prevented reoccurrances. I started taking vitamins and haven’t had a problem since.

    I’m not saying this is a cure-all. But it seems to have worked for me, so far.



  • Tom,
    what’s your vitamin regimine?

  • Mary Leonard

    Endure and be well (you will be). In my experience AF is a downer, as most heart-related things are. My first diagnosis 6 years ago saved my life: it was a symptom of a mitral valve in need of repair. Post- surgery cardioversion fixed the AF, but as of 3 weeks ago, it’s back. I’m now on Coumadin and just returning to normal optimism about life and about to get into some serious lay research on AF. In that regard, can you give me Stuart Weiss’s address? Or ask him to post the details of his regimen? Likewise Tom Schaffner. Bests, -mary

  • Tom Schaffner


    Nothing fancy; just a regular one-a-day mutiple vitamin.


  • Hope you feel better, I hear avoiding coffee can help that condition but I’m no doctor. Wikipedia has a good article though

  • The Mangosteen fruit has remarkable properties, clinically proven over 30 years. Lay off the stressors, Coffee, Tea, Sugar, Alcohol, make sure that your electrolytes are OK! Eat a Banana. Pharmaceutical Drugs, can do it and kill you as well, (leading cause of death in the U.S.) cooberative evidence available. Stress alone can do it, think different thoughts.

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  • Lee S

    Hmmm? Don’t know if this is relevent, but I had an incident of Afib induced by too much of a drug called Flecinide. While waiting to be cardioverted, they put a monitor on me with which had an audio component…you know beep beep beep. Having taken some yoga and having been told that the process was painful, I started relaxation breathing and noticed that I could effect the beep rate. I pointed this out to my wife and the nurse and when asked to do it again, managed to cardiovert myself. I may have been on the edge of the drug half life, but it was no coincidence. I’m not suggesting this is a remedy, but several posters mentioned relaxation or holistic approaches and offer this as a data point

  • SpartanCaver

    I under went heart valve replacement. Just a routine procedure the chest cutter said. Like how many have you had done to your self I said? If it is so fucking routine. People just come in just to a have a valve job like on a car engine?

    It did not go well in the recovery part. Unbelievle nightmares due to pain meds. Then 8 days after absoulty no sleep at home at all, none zip, could not even nap, because I was coughing non stop for the entire 8 days. Several trips to the ENT doc, Pulmoligest, every one except the cardioligst. When I did go I was sent right into surgery that very morning. See the doc at 9am in recovery by 12 great huh?

    Result. I was a reasonably happy person going into it all.

    But now the post trama has been sneaking up on me.
    no job, no money, had insurance, but can’t pay ductibles, can’t hold the simple job I did find assembeling grills for home depot. Any idiot can do this. I was past president of the ___engineers society for christ sake!!
    The chief engineer for major chairty know world wide.
    Can’t put together a fucking bar-be-que grill.

    Shakes, fears, nightmares, fear leaving the house. Can’t build a simple wooden box for fear it might turn out all wrong. Hate the several meds I now have to have. More meds coming down the pike. Fuck this life I think. Do not fear suiside is absoulty not an option for me. I have seen the trama it leaves when some asshole thinking only of his self, taking the short cut out of his problems, bails on it, his family, friends, society,world and kills himself. Not for me. no way. I’ll live in a tent under the bridge first and talk to people i imangine are there.

    Do you have post tramatic stress? I don’t see any other explaniation. It is damn sneaky bastard. Don’t believe it at first. Ain’t me i says. I ain’t depress i says. I ain’t crazy i says. but it very possible. especialy when you pass the point of disaster. you might not have the same reaction each time. you might be distracted by thoughts of work or partying. then your mind might be observing where you are and boom the heart remembers. brain and heart don’t allways get along but every now and then.

    I now have a medic alert pendent tied around my neck which reminds me every second how fucking dead i was on the operating table. how very very close to death i was for the second emergeny surgery to happen. how many god damn pills i now swallow. how much my mind lost as a result of being hooked to a machine for an hour. even if i was not consience of the surgery the mind and heart communicate in strange ways. small blood clots were thrown off and lodge in the gray matter. PTS???
    i can sometimes function sometimes can’t

    Do you have PTS?
    See someone and find out before your heart totaly fucks up. is my advise.

    Keep Clear
    Spartan Caver

  • stuart weiss


    Whither went your AF?

  • Perhaps they just got to uncovering something that pertained to your presence there the day of the event. I think there are sometimes spiritual explanations for things we cannot account for with our senses. Hope all is soon resolved and your life can get back to normal. Meanwhile, faith and the power of prayer are both powerful things.

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  • thyroid

    irregular heart rthyms are offten caused by thyroid problems which are often caused by trauma either physical or emotional. docs are not exactly on top of this. they only go by a TSH test which is pretty much worthless. A thyroid panedl and a TPO may be more helpful. Thyroid is known to cause heart attacks and strokes why they wait for these events to happen before testing is anybodies guess. some docs don’t know about thyroid of how to treat correctly. Read read and read some more about thyroid There are numerous sites on the net Read about your symptoms read about thyroid and vitamins reead about thyroid and just about anything you can imagine it affects every cell in your body and left untreated has a cascade effect affecting one organ after another

  • Micheal O’Muirthile


    How is your AF now? Better hopefully.

    I would appreciate Stuart Weiss email address in relation to holistic remedy for AF, if possible



  • Page Railsback

    I would love Stuart Weiss’s information…I have tried and continue to meditate helps..drink green drinks and eat an alkaline diet, no caffeine, chocolate or desserts…very moderate alcohol, rest a lot, ..vitamins,,magnesium…but I still have A-fib a lot

  • I keep reading how alcohol might trigger Af, so you might want to go off it 100% and see what happens…at least you’ll find out. I was telling a friend at work about my first episode of this and she almost went into shock because she said her heart races often and as soon as I mentioned alcohol, she said that’s probably the trigger for her AF, but she had no idea until now.

  • I had my first episode of AF (nodoubt bought on by a stressful, emotional and fearful situation) and rushed off to the hospital, not knowing what was happening to me. They put me on toprol and coumadin assuming Id get cardioversion after 4 weeks. But then my heart went back to regular after 8 days. I was calming down. I also was doing tons of research on the Web and kept reading about how magnesium seems to help people treat AF or keep it away. Sounds like you have to get supplements through a doctor to be sure you can handle them. I didnt want to do that yet, but I did look up what’s high in magnesium and almonds are. So I had about 1/4 of a cup. It was the next morning that my heart went back to regular rhythm. I looked up almonds and found stuff on Web indicating they actually affect the heart rhythm. So maybe there is something about almonds…

  • Eileen S. Smith

    could I get Stuart Weiss’ address? Thanks

  • Jeff, tried sending this through email and thought I’d post to the blog.

    Thanks for the wwgd book. Really spectacular. I heard (audio book) in your healthcare chapter about your frustration with blood thinner tracking for your coumadin (I assume) . I’m sure someone already shared it, but wanted to make sure you know about the INR machines that work like a glucose meter.

    INRatio PT/INR Monitoring System

    There are also clinical studies ongoing where they are trying to correlate genetics or other factors with dosage if you aren’t already participating.

    Your healthcare chapter is great. I’m in the medical device field. You should talk on that topic with Godin at TEDMED this fall. I hope to connect some day. We have a long way to go to get over the privacy veil.

  • Maya Matthew

    Its possible you just get stressed every time you get into that same environment and this shows up in your body as AFib!!!

    Check out this link – it speaks of afib being caused by the electric beat of the heart getting disturbed and out of sync with the rest of the body;

    P.S. I am a heart attack survivor and work regularly on keeping my heart healthy. I mean – I didn’t know how important my heart was till it started malfunctioning.