Getting your life back after atrial fibrillation

Hansjörg Brücker suffered from atrial fibrillation for fifteen years. Now he has recovered from his cardiac arrhythmia and trying to regain his former level athletic performance – despite multiple heart operations.

Sport has always been very important to Hansjörg Brücker: the security officer at Zurich Airport goes for a demanding run almost daily and regularly competes in Switzerland and around Europe. To complement this, he completes moderate strength training with barbells and suspension slings: exercise and physical activity are part of Brücker’s daily life.

This did not change even when his atrial fibrillation started in late 2000 – while out running, of all things. He continued his athletic activities in the years that followed, even as the episodes become more frequent and at times more acute. While treating the cardiac arrhythmias with medication as needed and after a catheter ablation, Brücker still kept moving no matter what – even if, understandably, not to the same level as before.

But this not only physical difficulties for Brücker during this period; the cardiac arrhythmia also placed him under greater mental stress. The unpredictability of the next episode was unsettling for the otherwise well-adjusted man, causing him much more trepidation during his training.

A battle against the clock

It was only after the third catheter ablation in the summer of 2013 that Brücker was truly able to resume running without any trouble. “It’s true that I felt a bit hesitant,” said the athlete. After all, the fear of relapse after two unsuccessful catheter ablations was so ingrained in him at this point. “But I’m feeling more and more confident as the weeks pass without any problems.”

Brücker is ramping up his training regimen: the endurance athlete wanted to add to his past victories and compete again with new vigour. This goal in itself was not only an enormous challenge for a body that once suffered from a cardiac disease – it was also a battle against the clock, for one and a half decades had passed between the first attacks in late 2000 and the time he was declared to be healed in 2015. The young adult had now become a man aging gracefully in his early fifties

(Almost) ageless fitness

In the fall of 2013, Brücker attained a level of athletic fitness that was comparable to his performance in his younger years – and did so just a few months after the recent catheter ablation in April of the same year! In October he participated in the Hallwilseelauf (Lake Hallwil Run) in the canton of Aargau and once again finished among the very top runners.

In the years that followed, Brücker felt confident enough to compete more often. Brücker has worked ambitiously day after day to reach his goal and asserted his exceptional position in the running community. As it so happens, in October 2015, the Aargauer Zeitung ranked the “indestructible Hansjörg Brücker” among the best long distance runners in Switzerland. And the running community’s popular online newspaper asked the question considering Brücker impressive level of fitness – which easily holds a candle to fellow runners half his age – “Does the man even age at all?”

The next run in sight

The victory at the Sikinga-Lauf in Untersiggenthal in 2016 marked yet another successful milestone for Brücker in getting back to the life he had before his atrial fibrillation began.

Brücker has finally reached the finish line: “I’ve fully regained my past level of performance,” he is proud to report. “I can participate in my sport again without holding back at all.” The ambitious athlete laces up his running shoes almost every day. Strength training is also on the agenda. And more than anything he still loves to compete. He’s already circled the next event on his calendar.