Back on Pace and Feeling Better Than Ever
| Judith Gaeth of Pigeon
Last summer, the regular pace of Judith Gaeth’s life was disrupted when she developed a condition that caused her heart to sometimes beat too fast.
Before her heart rhythm problem, and despite a history of other heart issues, Gaeth had been able to take regular three-mile walks around her hometown of Pigeon, located in the Thumb. Retired for seven years, she was able to be active with her grandsons, nieces and nephews. She kept busy cooking, baking and reading.
But then she began feeling tired, weak and miserable. “I did not feel well and it wasn’t safe for me to go anywhere,” Gaeth said. “I had heart palpitations and shortness of breath. My defibrillator was doing its job, but something was wrong and I was afraid. I kept getting shocks through the defibrillator to stop the fast heart rate. I don’t wish this kind of problem on anyone.”
One day when her heart began beating too fast and wouldn’t calm down, Gaeth was taken by ambulance to MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland. She was diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia, a life- threatening heart rhythm arising from areas of scar in the bottom chambers of the heart. Electrophysiologist Opesanmi Esan, M.D., used a procedure called cardioversion to shock her heart and restore its normal rhythm.
Gaeth’s underlying problem still needed to be resolved, though, so her cardiologist, William Felten, M.D., referred her to Electrophysiologist Nilofar Islam, M.D., who also specializes in heart rhythm disorders.
From the start, Gaeth was comfortable with Dr. Islam. “I could see she was interested in helping me. When she explained how she could find and fix the problem areas in my heart, I felt she knew what she was doing,” Gaeth said, “and she did.”
“Even the people in her office were just wonderful to me,” she added. “Those girls are just excellent. I especially appreciated that, when I also developed problems with my pacemaker, Dr. Felten’s nurse got in touch with Dr. Islam’s office and they were able to move up my appointment. I was so glad they could do that.”
Gaeth’s cardiac catheter ablation was a minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Islam created a 3-D map of the electrical impulses within her heart and located the areas that were misfiring and confusing the heartbeat. Using radiofrequency energy, she eliminated (ablated) the misfiring segments, leaving only the well-functioning electrical pathways. Like the cardioversion procedure, it was performed at the Medical Center’s electrophysiology (EP) lab, which is equipped for every diagnostic and therapeutic EP procedure.
Gaeth went home the next day with just four small incisions that would leave only minor, if any, scars. Best of all, she saw an immediate improvement. When she went in for a checkup, she told Dr. Islam how happy she was to feel so wonderful.
“Many arrhythmia patients have an experience like Judy’s,” Dr. Islam said. “They have disturbing symptoms and feel frustrated, but after having cardiac ablation, they go home feeling dramatically better.”
Gaeth just remembers how she kept thanking Dr. Islam for making her feel so good “This procedure just did wonders,” she said. “I was able to breathe easier and had more of a feeling of wellbeing because my heart was working better. I felt like I did way back when.”
MidMichigan Health offers a full array of heart and vascular services, including open heart surgery, vascular surgery, electrophysiology for heart rhythm problems and advanced interventional procedures. Those who would like more information on MidMichigan’s comprehensive program may visit www.midmichigan.org/heart.