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Paula Wheatley balancing of training and health

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Having been encouraged into triathlon by her brother-in-law, Paula Wheatley has been an avid swim, bike, runner for a number of years and now balances taking part in the sport alongside managing her diagnosis for paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.

“Paroxysmal basically means intermittent,” Wheatley commented. “It came about during a period of intense illness, that’s what triggered it.

“What I didn’t know at the time was that [it was] atrial fibrillation, it was just palpitations that didn’t stop ad that happened a couple of times and I had to be hospitalised because it is quite serious.”

Having been discharged from hospital, Wheatley didn’t experience further palpitations and carried on as normal until, last year, when the palpitations returned.

“What happens is, when you get it, it’s not during the activity,” she added. “You’ll do the activity as normal and then it’s later when you’re resting, something, I don’t know what, triggers your heart to go into this irregular rhythm. It’s basically going from about 70-80 beats per minute to 170, but all within a split second.

“I was quite surprised that they [the doctors] didn’t seem that concerned when I told them. I got re-referred back to cardiology last summer and, to the cardiologist, I said to them that I do a lot of training and he said I would have to go on medication as they can’t leave it untreated.”

Wheatly was put on beta blockers by the cardiologist but has now been put onto a different drug to enable her to continue to train and race whilst managing her diagnosis.

“I’ve only been on it about six or seven weeks now,” Wheatly said of her new prescription. “It does seem to be helping. What was happening on the beta blockers, particularly when I was swimming, I couldn’t push off the wall, I couldn’t get my breath and it felt like I had a sack of potatoes on my back. As soon as I came off them [the beta blockers], almost within days, I swam, only for a couple of weeks, I swam PBs every time I was in the pool.

“Obviously I don’t think I’m going to be amazing or anything, but as long as I can keep doing it and I’m safe.

“All I can say is, as a lady of my age, if I can stop people ending up like me. That would be a cautionary thing, drink plenty and watch your caffeine. Other than that, go out and have fun.”

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