Hunter, Fisher and Electrophysiology Patient
“Before, I was having trouble breathing. I never felt the extra heartbeats, but I was sometimes gasping for air and was getting worried. Now I don’t have any of those problems anymore."
Expedited Treatment Saved His Heart and His Life
When William Cusenza of Lake, Michigan slipped on some ice and broke his kneecap, doctors at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland had to delay surgery because he was experiencing atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat.
After two cardioversion treatments, a procedure that delivers a shock the heart, Cusenza’s heart rhythm still wasn’t normal. Finally, it was stabilized with medication so that he could undergo surgery to repair his injured kneecap.
Cusenza has been active all his life, but he was not surprised to learn about his irregular heartbeat. Doctors had told him about it for years. “My doctors downstate kept asking me if I felt weak or tired,” said the 69-year-old retiree. “I never had any symptoms. They couldn’t understand why I couldn’t feel it.” In fact, atrial fibrillation is a serious condition that can be very debilitating or fatal.
When Cusenza retired and moved up north from the Detroit area in 2002, he began seeing Interventional Cardiologist William Felten, M.D., near home at MidMichigan Medical Offices–Clare. To explore the possibility of permanently resolving the Cusenza’s heart rhythm problem, Dr. Felten referred him to Electrophysiologist Neelima Paladugu, M.D. Dr. Paladugu uses a procedure called cardiac catheter ablation to treat the underlying issues that cause problems such as atrial fibrillation.
“During my initial appointment she explained what the procedure was,” he said. “She said the heart quivers, and the ablation procedure stops it from quivering.”
Before the ablation procedure Cusenza took medication to keep his heart in rhythm and wore a heart monitor that let his doctor track how his heart was functioning as he went about his normal activities.
“They had me do everything I normally do to see how my heart would react. I was cutting grass, cutting wood and working on my 1923 Model-T Ford,” he said. He appreciates that the care he needed was conveniently available close to his home. “Living here is a lot different from the city. There’s a slower pace that is very enjoyable. I’ve come up here quite a bit all my life to hunt and fish. I knew it was where I wanted to retire.”
In July, Dr. Paladugu performed Cusenza’s cardiac catheter ablation at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland in the electrophysiology (EP) lab, a facility specially equipped for the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. After creating a 3-D map of the electrical impulses in Cusenza’s heart, she located the areas that were misfiring and confusing the heartbeat, and then used radiofrequency energy to eliminate (ablate) the misfiring segments. Only the well-functioning electrical pathways remained.
Cusenza said the outpatient experience was all over in a little more than three hours. “After explaining again what they were going to do, they put the pads on my chest, then they gave me an IV and that was it,” he said. “I had more time in recovery than I did in the procedure. I got out of recovery and went home. There were no aftereffects.”
Cusenza said that after having surgery in July, he was told to take it easy for a week, and after that had no restrictions. He said that in September, he would follow up by wearing a 24-hour heart monitor for a week before a final check-up with Dr. Paladugu.
“So far, so happy,” he said. “Before, I was having trouble breathing. I never felt the extra heartbeats, but I was sometimes gasping for air and was getting worried. Now I don’t have any of those problems anymore.” He’s particularly glad to be able to hunt and fish and take care of his place. “Now I can get ready for fall.”
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 additional information on the MidMichigan’s comprehensive cardiovascular team may visit www.midmichigan.org/heart.