Disaster Strikes

Posted by David Jones
Tuesday 17th March 2009

This is the most difficult thing that I have had to write on this website.  I have pulled out of the race!  What happened?  I am not really sure to be honest.  The last 3 weeks have been a turmoil of diappointment, worry and heartbreak.  I went for an ECG and final medical about 3 weeks ago as required by the race organizers.  I have anual medicals as a commercial diver every year and with the huge amount of training I have been doing I did not expect it to be an issue.  However the ECG trace showed some irregularities and a missing P-Wave.  My GP put it down to Athletic Heart Syndrome - he knows me well, knows the training I have been doing, undertakes my diving medicals and there would be no reason for him to have suspected anything else.

Anyway, I posted the results on the MdS Forums and a couple of the doctors wrote to highlight their concerns.  As a result I asked for another ECG.  In between I went for a run - the plan had been 8 miles but after about 5 I was knackered.  No energy - felt really strange, legs wouldn't work, light headed.  The wierd thing was the heart rate monitor.  That went up to 165 before I had got around the corner and when I worked a bit harder I toppped 202.  Silly machine thinks I, it must need the battery changing.  I confirmed in my own mind that it must have been the machine when 30 minutes later after I had "recovered" it was still reading 108.

Anyway, I went to have a further check at another hospital, the plan being to do an exercise ECG to confirm that it was indeed AHS; in my own mind by this time I knew it was something else as I started to feel really lethargic and lacking in any energy at all.  Even going up the stairs was starting to get me out of breath.

The hospital confirmed that I had an atrial flutter, the left atrium beating about 150 times a minute, increasing the pulse to about 70 odd.  Effectively I had a dicky ticker and the only way of solving it would be to thin the blood with 4 weeks of drugs (to ensure that any clots that might have formed in the ineffective atrium did not flake off and cause problems elsewhere i.e the brain!) followed by a cardioversion, where they stop the heart with a shock and then the sinoatrial node can start it up again at the normal pace.

As you can imagine, I am not really in the right state to run 151 miles across the desert - I wouldn't get past the start line anyway.  So, with a lump in my throat I have pulled out.  The good news is that all the sponsors have been great and supportive and that I should be able to get a place in next years race in 12 months time.  I hope that everyone who has donated will be happy to let me keep their donations for another year - and then I can get to complete what I have started.

Looking on the bright side ... yes there is one .... it could have been a lot worse.  The speed of change in my condition has been scary - thank goodness it didn't happen in the desert where my mental state would have forced me to go on no matter what; that might have been bad!  I took out insurance for the hefty £3000 entrance fee so should be getting that back so I can pay for another entry fee (there are no refunds!) and I should be able to get a place on next years race given the circumstances of my withdrawal.  So really it means I have another 12 months to prepare and train as well as write up equipment reviews.  And it also means that I have another 12 months to collect money for charity.  As I said on an email to my sponsors - I am still in the game, there is just a bit of a long half time coming up.  What caused it?  No one seems to know.  It could have been the result of training too hard, but it has happened and I am now working towards a new goal which is getting fit again and being able to compete in 2010.

Read more blog entries by David Jones

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