A Country Race to Diagnose Atrial Fibrillation

In this story, I’m going to tell you my experience with the healthcare system of the 3 countries: Sweden, Denmark, and Italy.

A Country Race to Diagnose Atrial Fibrillation
Photo by paolo candelo / Unsplash

“An Italian, a German, and a French guy meet in a pub…” is a classic Italian’s joke punch line. But in this story, I will not make jokes.

I’m going to tell you my experience with the health system of the three countries I deal with in my life – Sweden, Denmark, and Italy – as they tried to diagnose me with Atrial Fibrillation.

I was born in Italy, and my family still lives there. That means that I can ask my mom to refer me to a doctor or google out a private specialist and book an appointment with them. Of course, I have to fly a few hours to make it to that appointment.

I work in Denmark, where I have private health insurance provided by my employer. It’s a bit tricky to get appointments here as the call center recorded voice only speaks Danish.

I live in Sweden, where I have paid my taxes for the last eight years. A whole LOT of taxes, if you ask me. I have full access to the public healthcare system, and I can call into my local healthcare center, where people usually speak good English.

HealthCare sign Emergency
Photo by Waldemar Brandt / Unsplash

Who did diagnose me first?

I’m about to share the whole story of my diagnosis with you, so sit tight and put on some relaxing music, please. In exchange for your patience, I’ll try to entertain you with some wittingly placed Italian sarcasm …

… but if you are in a hurry or can’t read the full story just yet ...
👉 here is the quick classification:

  1. ITALY, 30 seconds - I could choose an AFib specialized cardiologist that diagnosed me in about 30 seconds - for free - by looking at my Apple Watch ECG trace.
  2. DENMARK, one week - I got booked with a cardiologist through my private health insurance. He suspected AFib by looking at my Apple Watch ECG trace and confirmed it with an echocardiogram in the same visit.
  3. SWEDEN, two months (and counting) - I went to the local healthcare system multiple times begging for help. I got to the emergency room twice due to a heart rate above 200bpm. I’ve always provided the Apple Watch ECGs, but all the doctors disregarded it as an unreliable toy.
Plastic tartan track and field athletics stadium start block
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

You're In for the Ride

It takes some time to tell the whole story, so I split it into a few articles.

Here comes the suggested reading order to get the timeline out of it. But the pieces can be read alone, as each takes an insight into a particular aspect of my experience.

I hope you enjoy it :-)

AFib, Early Symptoms
The first signs, my worries and how I got to pay full attention to my condition. #afib #atrialfibrillation #symptoms #holter #diagnose
The Apple Watch got it first!
The first diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation came from my Apple Watch. And my cardiologist took that into serious consideration. #afib #atrialfibrillation #AppleWatch #diagnose #arrhythmia #heart
The Swedish Struggle
Sweden is the country I live in. I sought help here but I received nothing so far. Here is my testify to a nightmarish healthcare experience. #afib #atrialfibrillation #healthcare #diagnose #sweden #vardcentralen
The Danish Doctor
This is how I got my AFib diagnosis in Denmark thanks to my company’s private healthcare insurance. Part of the series: A Country’s Race to Diagnose. #atrialfibrillation #afib #diagnosis #heart #cardiologist
The Italian Job
This is how I got my AFib diagnosis in Italy. Part of the series: A Country’s Race to Diagnose. #atrialfibrillation #afib #diagnosis #heart #cardiologist

Who's Next?

We are at the end of today's story.

I guess the moral of it is that it is not easy to diagnose AFib. Many folks have no symptoms at all and go on for years without treating it. And that's it.

Treated AFib is a condition you can live with.
Untreated AFib will get you under before your time is due.

It is important to listen carefully to one’s body and to do not feel ashamed in seeking medical help. I wish you eternal health, but you could be next. Be a prepared man!

Yes, sometimes I feel I'm a little maniac about Atrial Fibrillation, and with my lovely wife, we make inside jokes about me being a hypochondriac.

But we got one body and one Life.
It’s better be safe than sorry.

Also, the medical profession is made by human beings, and we all have our limits and we all do mistakes. My personal suggestion here is to do not stop at one single voice or opinion.

I hope none of my doctors will get mad at me for what I wrote on this page. It is not a lack of trust and I feel blessed to have them helping me ❤️.

The thing is: I'm an engineer – I manage (software) risk for a living, and I'm completely ignorant when it comes to medical care.

The only strategy I can deploy is to cross-reference multiple expert opinions, looking for agreement and discrepancies. Then run my questions and cross-reference again, and again.

👉 You can do the same.