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Thread: Heart Problem.

  1. #1
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    :banana Heart Problem.

    I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation that causes cardiomyopathy four years ago, when I was 15. Since that time all of my dreams have been crushed because of it, I do not want to let hiking the AT be another crushed dream. I plan on discussing my hiking plan with my cardiologist, I am not going to do this blindly. I would appreciate it if you would save your comments concerning my safety. I know the risks that I would be taking and I have deeply considered this and will only do it if I feel that I can do it safely. I guess my question is: Have you guys heard of anyone hiking the appalachian trail with a heart problem? or heart transplant? Any information that you could give me would be appreciated.

    Thanks

  2. #2

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    I had a triple bypass nearly 2 years ago (I am a little older than you - 64). This spring my cardiologist gave his approval for me to hike. I just do up to a week on the trail, and slow. I have no intention of trying to do a thru. Start by what he approves you to do on a treadmill. I got one of those heart rate monitors that has a band you put around your chest and keep track of my rate. Stay within your cardiologist's guidelines and see what you can do. Be careful and don't overdo it. Listen to what your body tells you that is safe for you. See what you can build up to. It may take a year or longer to get up to feeling safe to get on the trail. When you get there go for day hikes, weekend, and continue to build up safely.

  3. #3
    Registered User Toolshed's Avatar
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    After 4 valve surgeries (Now have synth Aorta and synthetic Aortic valve) , I have atrial flutter (a form of atrial fibrillation). My card says the best thing I can do is walk a lot. Pretty much what hiking is. I have had a few palpitations on the trail about 6-7 years ago and they were terrifying at first. But once you know what they are and maintain compliance with your thinner dosage and blocker regimen, it may be a non-issue. But definitely talk to your Cardio first. Hw may recommend sections or even weekends at the start until you/he are comfortable.
    .....Someday, like many others who joined WB in the early years, I may dry up and dissapear....

  4. #4

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    I don't know about the cardiomyopathy part of your situation, but I can address your afib concerns. About 2.5 years ago I was diagnosed with afib. The night it happened, I rode the ambulance and spent the night in the hospital. Overnight my heart rhythm coverted back to normal. I continued normal activities, hiking, biking, I even did a 30-mile trail run. I had hoped that perhaps I was not going to have a repeat episode. Atrial fibrillation has a varied pattern and affects people differently.

    Two years ago in October I went for a week solo hike through NY and CT. On my second night out, after pulling a 20-miler in the rain, I woke up abruptly and felt chill. I went back to sleep. When I woke up, I was in afib. I rested that morning but it did not resolve. I was at Stewart Hollow Lean-to and so I determined that continuing north would get me out. So I walked the 2 miles along the Housatonic River. Fortunately it was flat. I optimistically considered continuing on up to the Silver Hill Campsite but a little 500' hill kicked my ass at about the 150' mark so I turned around and threw my bandana in. Some nice ladies gave me a ride at the river, I caught a shuttle to the train and made my way home. I went to the hospital and after a few days they cardioconverted my heart back to normal rhythm as this second time it would not resolve by itself.

    Again, I continued normal activities, this time I was given pill in a pocket medication. At the onset of afib, I was to take heart rate and blood pressure meds to halt the afib. A little over a year ago, I had my third episode. The pill in the pocket regime did not work. I went to the hospital and they did the cardioconversion again. That didn't go so well either, the afib converted to normal sinus rhythm but I had a bad reaction to one of the medicines and wound up in the ICU. I got better and was released.

    I still went hiking. I scheduled a pulmonary vein ablation for the afib and had that done last November. It was not successful, it changed my afib pattern. I was going in and out of afib more frequently. It was at least better controlled with medicine. I was able to go hiking though.

    At this point, the doctor that did the ablation wanted to put in a pacemaker. He was very strongly suggestive of it. I refused. I got a second opinion. I found another doctor to do the ablation a second time, which is often a successful procedure after 2 or even 3 tries. I have not gone into afib since I had the second ablation. I went hiking for nearly a week recently and did almost a hundred miles. Not a personal best, I could have used a little more training but I'll take it.

    Your dreams aren't over. Check with the doctor about the cardiomyopathy. If your afib is controlled you can hike. You need to be aware of where you are (MAPS) and know your exit points. Go easy on the weight, carry extra food, make sure you have your medicines. Hike with a buddy if possible and don't push too hard. Make sure you take something to prevent blood clots. Exercise is a good thing for afib as it reminds the heart to stay in rhythm.
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    The heart rate monitor sounds like a great idea. Besides staying within your doctors guidelines, you can use it to estimate how many calories you have burned. Also suggest going ultralight. It adds alot of interest, and you can make your own gear and so forth, which is also fun. So whatever your doctor says, if your hiking is limited in any way, you can fill in the time with local walks and weekend hikes and use the time to experiment with gear and getting to know your body better. Best regards.

  6. #6
    Registered User ckwolf's Avatar
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    There are some other things to think about here as well, for one not calling this a "heart problem" which puts you in a basket with other cripples and diseases, instead address it as: "sometimes my heart dances." Learn some form of Qigong, a good instructor with videos is Kenneth Cohen, you can find him online, Qi or Ki or Chi is the energy (electricity) that runs the body, sometimes it gets blocked or stagnant and that causes problems of all sorts, the "gong" part of the name means the procedure, method, way of working with that energy to clear blockages and help it flow smoothly. Of course this is an adjunct and nutrition, exercise, enthusiasm are needed for health as well. I have found astonishing changes flow from Qigong that are immediately noticeable and beneficial - and free!
    The mind can go in a thousand directions,
    But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
    With each step a gentle wind blows.
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  7. #7

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    I was born with a leaky heart valve that gradually got worse and eventually caused A-fib. I had the valve replaced, but A-fib persisted. Eventually it was controlled by a rather expensive medicine Tikosyn, which controlled the a-fib, but eventually caused my heart rate to slow to dangerous levels, and the medicine had to be stopped, unfortunately just after I had purchased a three month supply for around $700.

    The purpose of this post is to offer to give my supply to anyone who uses Tikosin. I don't want money. But I would need evidence that the recipient has been prescribed the medicine by a doctor. i had to spend three days in the hospital while the dosage was adjusted and I don't want anyone to use the stuff who is not under a doctor's care.

    The Tikosin has been sitting on top of my refrigerator for a year because I can't stand the idea of just throwing $700 away if anyone can legitimately use the stuff.

    BTW I walked between Springer and Katahdin a couple of decades ago with the leaky valve and insipient A-fib at age 64, though slowly. I was the slowest person going up hills, but generally caught up on the downs, so we tended to end up at the same shelter each afternoon. I now have a pacemaker implanted in my chest, which along with medicines keeps a-fib away most of the time.

    Now if rhey would just develop a cure for old age.

  8. #8

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    double post
    Last edited by weary; 12-14-2011 at 12:04.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by weary View Post
    I was born with a leaky heart valve that gradually got worse and eventually caused A-fib. I had the valve replaced, but A-fib persisted. Eventually it was controlled by a rather expensive medicine Tikosyn, which controlled the a-fib, but eventually caused my heart rate to slow to dangerous levels, and the medicine had to be stopped, unfortunately just after I had purchased a three month supply for around $700.

    The purpose of this post is to offer to give my supply to anyone who uses Tikosin. I don't want money. But I would need evidence that the recipient has been prescribed the medicine by a doctor. i had to spend three days in the hospital while the dosage was adjusted and I don't want anyone to use the stuff who is not under a doctor's care.

    The Tikosin has been sitting on top of my refrigerator for a year because I can't stand the idea of just throwing $700 away if anyone can legitimately use the stuff.

    BTW I walked between Springer and Katahdin a couple of decades ago with the leaky valve and insipient A-fib at age 64, though slowly. I was the slowest person going up hills, but generally caught up on the downs, so we tended to end up at the same shelter each afternoon. I now have a pacemaker implanted in my chest, which along with medicines keeps a-fib away most of the time.

    Now if rhey would just develop a cure for old age.
    What a man! An inspiration to us all for sure. Thank You!
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  10. #10
    Registered User BFI's Avatar
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    I have A fib and will be starting the trail this March. There is a procedure called Pulmonary Vein Isolation, (Goggle it) they insert a device in the femoral artery around the groin and slip it up to the heart and cut/burn the heart muscle that cause the Afib. It’s a relatively new procedure and doesn’t work all the time, but if it does you'll be free of occurrences.

    When it happens to me , I have to be Cardioverted back into rhythm, jump started. I'll be carrying Warfrin and Aspirin in case of an incident. Blood thinners are critical due to the chance of the heart clotting and sending the clot up to the brain and then stroking. When I feel it starting of happen I cough or take really deep breaths to bring back into rhythym. The better shape I'm in, the less hiccups I have. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR and get a referral to a Cardiologist.

    Good Luck

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    So TDH, there is one other thing to add to all of this. You need to assure yourself of maintaining a balance of proper nutrition and electrolytes. Too little Potassium and too much Sodium (Think Ramen noodles), or too little Sodium (excessive sweat and little replacement sodium) can cause an imbalance that could knock you into afib. Ask Your Card if the Potassium issue can be settle with a one-a-day type vitamin.
    .....Someday, like many others who joined WB in the early years, I may dry up and dissapear....

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    CKWolf's advice is good for anyone but it's not real medical advice. BFI and Toolshed have good first-hand experience which you should consider. But before I can give you any other advice, I need to know why someone so young developed a heart dysrhythmia. A-fib is usually an old person disease or one that develops in those who abuse themselves which you apparently did not.
    "Keep moving: death is very, very still."
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    I'll take your meds for those who can't afford them.
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    Registered User BFI's Avatar
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    I'm carfull to try and avoid foods with MSG and that are high in sodium

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    The rest of the posters have given a lot of personal accounts into their experiences, and I really hope that it revives your dreams.

    I guess what my input on this is that you shouldn't give up hope. So what if you may not be able to do it as a teenager or a 20-something. That is, if your doctor and you decide that it isn't the best idea at this time. That's not a life sentence. Medical advances, you learning more about your body and what your individual limits are, and plenty of time to work on conditioning and you very well may be able to do it after you've done more in life.

    Keep your head up, and when you're ready to, HYOH

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    The book "300 Zeros" by Dennis Blanchard describes his experience of hiking the AT with an undiagnosed heart "problem" and how he finally listened to his body, got checked out, got bypass surgery (6 bypasses!) and after almost a year of rehab got back on the trail and finished the whole thing. You might find it interesting even though it's obviously not the same situation you're in. Good luck!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdhenry View Post
    I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation that causes cardiomyopathy four years ago, when I was 15. Since that time all of my dreams have been crushed because of it, I do not want to let hiking the AT be another crushed dream. I plan on discussing my hiking plan with my cardiologist, I am not going to do this blindly. I would appreciate it if you would save your comments concerning my safety. I know the risks that I would be taking and I have deeply considered this and will only do it if I feel that I can do it safely. I guess my question is: Have you guys heard of anyone hiking the appalachian trail with a heart problem? or heart transplant? Any information that you could give me would be appreciated.Thanks
    I had a by-pass in 1998, I have six thousand logged trail miles, that being said, use caution and obey your doctor even if you don't like what he say's. The trail demands endurance with major elevation changes... wishing you the best...Happy Trails

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    Well TDHenry, follow your dreams. In 2002 I had a serious Afib and it put me in the hospital for three days. I was contesting the EFTA (Eastern Fat Tire Assoc.) mountain bike racing series that year and was in the points lead. The upcoming weekend was the final championship race, and here I was on Monday, in the hospital. What lead up to it was I had been caffeine free for six months. I was on a health diet kick and caffeine is supposed to be not-so-healthy. I was commuting 26 miles, each way, to my job, by bicycle. Yeah, I know, nuts for a guy 55 years old, but I loved it. Anyway, that day the cafeteria at work was out of decaf tea, so I had two cups of regular black tea that day.

    On the way home I set a new elapsed time record for my commute. I was thrilled. I then went out mountain biking with my daughter to train after I arrived home. I didn't feel right and she was beating me badly. Usually we were pretty evenly matched (she ended up New England Women's champ that year for 16 yr olds.) When I arrived home I mentioned to my wife that I felt funny. She immediately had me call the doctor and they rushed me to the hospital.

    Anyway, to make a long story short, I spent those days in the hospital, returned to normal and by Sunday went out and won the championship that year. My doctor couldn't find a good excuse to keep me home. I think at some level, he was actually rooting for me, he was a mountain biker too.

    Now, concerning the AT: in 2007 I set off to do a thru hike. After 600 miles (Pearisburg, VA) I was having interesting chest symptoms. I ended up having a six-artery bypass. After 300 days off, (zero days in hiker parlance = zero miles per day) I went back to the AT and finished the whole thing...with my doctors consent of course.

    I'd argue that as long as your doctors can't find a good excuse to stop you, go for it. DO find out what is the best thing to handle it if you get into trouble, but don't let it stop you unless there is a really good reason to do so, at least that is my opinion.

    If you want to read about my adventures, check out the book: THREE HUNDRED ZEROES, the whole story is there. Keep us posted on your journey, obviously I found the topic interesting .

    Dennis "K1" Blanchard

  19. #19
    Registered User moocow's Avatar
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    i definitely don't think your dreams will be squashed. but something i learned from personal trail experience is that for those just in case moments, take maps. they are more important to you than the normal thru-hiker. then take those maps and mark or highlight all the nearest roads and boldly label and mark all the nearest hospitals along the those roads and the trail for its entirety. local doctors offices are no good if you happen to pull up on a sunday. at mimimum, always know where the nearest town is and how far you have to go to get there or for ems to get to you. no one ever needs that information and i always get the funny looks when i'm looking at the maps in shelters before i get on the trail in the morning, but right when i needed help getting to the hospital fast i knew exactly what to do.

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