A woman from Verwood with a heart rhythm condition that puts them at increased risk of a stroke is supporting a new campaign from the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
Rachel Milledge was diagnosed with the condition in her late thirties after previously undergoing heart surgery as a child.
The 61 year old was born with two holes in her heart and needed surgery to correct them when she was just nine years old. She was cleared and was doing well, until 30 years later when she discovered she had atrial fibrillation.
Rachel first noticed her heart rate didn’t seem right while at the gym. It was at 180 and wasn’t slowing down. She didn’t think too much of it until she started noticing that it was also fast while she was just resting and sitting down, so went to see her GP.
After 24 hour monitoring, Rachel had an ablation in 2000 and a cardioversion the following year. She had another ablation in 2002 to try and bring her heart rate back to normal.
She said: “A part of this is believed to be related to scar tissue within my heart from the original surgery I’d had as a child. But in 2007 I wasn’t feeling right. My heart was scanned and I was diagnosed with heart failure. I continued to feel faint and my pulse was low and my cardiologist said I needed a pacemaker.”
In May 2007, Rachel had her pacemaker fitted but said it did take her a while to come to terms with it.
In my mind, the pacemaker was controlling me and it was difficult to know that it is something I’ll have forever,” she Rachel, who was just 45, when she was first fitted with the device.
Since then, Rachel has decided to leave a gift in her will for the BHF. She said: “I’ve seen, personally, just leaps and bounds in treatment and want to help to continue to move things forward.”
The most common symptoms of AF are palpitations, breathlessness and dizziness. However, many people don’t experience any symptoms meaning they’re unaware of the condition and treatments – as well as their increased risk of stroke.
The BHF figures show that the number of people in the UK diagnosed with AF has risen by half a million since 2013. In Dorset alone there are 26,000 people diagnosed with the condition.
The figures have been released as the BHF launches a new campaign calling on the public to support research into heart and circulatory diseases. The campaign aims to inspire people’s wonder at the complexity and preciousness of their own hearts and how lifesaving research can help if it goes wrong. To find out more visit bhf.org.uk/this-is-science