None of us wants to feel like we’re tied to the same place or routine for the rest of our lives. But if you have a heart condition or a blood clotting disorder, it becomes essential that your INR levels are closely monitored, often involving regular trips to your local clinic or surgery. So what happens if your career or lifestyle depends on the flexibility to travel at home or abroad, sometimes at the drop of a hat? Do you have to wish it all ‘bon voyage’?
Testing that works around your diary
The great news is that there are all sorts of people who are on warfarin whose lives don’t fit neatly into a nine to five routine. Everyone from global business executives and long distance lorry drivers to military personnel – even rock musicians! And many of them are already enjoying the benefits of choosing to self-test. The advantage is that self-testing allows you to be in control of your INR and always know what level it is at. So rather than monthly trips to the clinic, you can commit to your own diary and test yourself. That way, you can turn a Friday meeting in London into a long weekend or book a spontaneous trip abroad with more peace of mind.
The view from someone who’s already on board
But practically, what is self-testing like? We caught up with James, who has a full time job as an IT Consultant and is also a reserve officer in the Royal Naval Reserve. He had a mechanical heart valve fitted in 2005 and was subsequently prescribed warfarin. “Self-testing was suggested to me whilst I was still within my first 12 weeks of recovery”, which was fortunate for James as his work hours aren’t that conventional. He loved the flexibility it would give him, so he began testing as soon as he left hospital. “Initially, I had to have a venous check up every month but now I just have a venous test every six months – to check my self-test results are aligned”. It has meant less intrusion on his work schedule, family life or passion for shooting. It also gives him the freedom to say yes to last minute business meetings or jump on board a ship when the Royal Navy ask him to. “If I couldn’t self-test it would definitely impact my lifestyle. I wouldn’t want to travel without self-testing. I don’t think it would be possible”.
Empowered to live an extraordinary life
The beauty of self-testing is you don’t have to compromise when it comes to achieving great things in life. In James’s case, it empowered him to take command of a deployed naval party for six months. It was demanding, intense and certainly not your average nine to five role. But because warfarin wasn’t constantly front of mind and he could get on with the job at hand, James didn’t feel the need to tell his team apart from his second-in-command. He simply checked his INR every Monday and kept his tablets in a medicine box so he remembered to take them at the same time each day.
A little confidence goes a long way
James believes that self-testing is nothing to feel nervous about. All it takes is a bit of confidence, and that’s something that quickly develops as soon as you start the process. One of the reasons that James is such a confident self-tester is that he’s built up his own knowledge about how his body reacts. He knows he has to be consistent with his Vitamin K and recommends anyone on warfarin to check which foods contain high levels of it. “Some things are obvious like spinach, but surprisingly chickpeas and hummus are also quite high in Vitamin K,” he says, and if he has a glass of wine or two, he knows this will also affect his INR. He can then adjust his medication accordingly. His other piece of advice is, “When you see the doctor and they prescribe you other medication, check that it doesn’t interfere with your warfarin. Antibiotics always seem to impact my INR levels, so I always double check with my GP that it is essential I go on them…otherwise I’d rather not take them”. But what James’s story reveals most is that by having the freedom to get on with life his way, he’s proved to his friends, family and himself that he can confidently balance warfarin with his work and travel.
Take a step closer to independence
If you’ve been inspired by James’s story and you’d like to start self-testing, here are some helpful links to get you started:
If you’re having difficulty convincing your GP, then click here for more information about speaking with you GP or clinic.
If you want to know more about how INR impacts your diet so you can be confident about staying in range, check out this article
If you’d like to read about other people’s experience of self-testing, click here
We would always recommend that you speak to your GP if you have any concerns or queries about your own warfarin management.