Thursday, June 07, 2012

The example that is Tom James

Tom James is a Welsh Olympic champion. He won a gold in the coxless fours in Beijing four years ago. Yesterday he was confirmed as one of three Welsh rowers in this year's GB rowing team. He's also a reigning world champion, so his selection should not be a surprise.  But.....

Tom James suffers from Atrial Fibrilation, a heart condition which causes an irregular heart beat. I am Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on AF, and a sufferer myself - or at least I was. The condition affects sufferers differently. I found myself short of breath sometimes and needed to breath deeply to steady things down. My doctor thought I was suffering a heart attack when he did an ECG. It was eventually fixed by an electric shock to the heart which returned my heartbeat to normal (sinus rhythm). Tony Blair famously underwent the same procedure.

Reason I'm so keen to promote awareness of AF is that it increases the chance of a stroke five fold, and is often very easily treated. People do not realise they have AF.  I didn't. Huge numbers of people have AF without being aware of it. Tom James is an example to us that AF, if treated, is not necessarily going to prevent an ordinary life - or even an extraordinary life in the case of Tom James.  I hope he'll come along to one of our meetings when the Games are over.

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