By Carmel Reid, Somerset, UK
I am an engineer, and I have come to realise our bodies are amazing pieces of engineering, with extraordinary delicacy in the way our various systems keep our bodily functions in balance, and I have come to truly appreciate the exquisite instrument we live inside every single day!
In 2002 I was noticeably breathless at the smallest exertion, like climbing a flight of stairs, and my major muscles were weak – with my arms I could not lift my own body weight on parallel bars at a children’s playground and with my legs I could not stand up from a squatting position and my hands were very shaky. My GP checked me for asthma by inviting me to blow into a tube, but I had been attending singing workshops and my lung capacity was pretty good, so he suggested I might have a thyroid problem and gave me a blood test, thinking, as I was overweight at the time, that my thyroid was underactive.
As it turned out, my thyroid was hyperactive; I had a swelling on the right side of my neck and a radioactive iodine test showed a ‘hot nodule’ in the thyroid gland. Then in 2003 on a visit to the gym, my heart rate showed up at 166 on the cycle machine, and a further visit to the doctor gave me a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. He explained that hyperthyroidism can cause weakening of the major muscles (which explained my weak arms and legs) and can also cause atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm). This can lead to clots forming in the heart, which can then cause a stroke, and he recommended I take aspirin to thin my blood.