Mother and Sixth-Grade English Teacher
"I was afraid I would have a heart attack while my husband was deployed. Thank goodness I found a doctor who really listened to me."
Young Mother has a Whole New Life After Cardiac Catheter Ablation
For several years, 31-year-old Darcy Hite experienced episodes of her heart racing so fast she couldn’t even feel the rhythm or get a steady pulse. At the same time, she would perspire, feel dizzy and nauseated, and get headaches accompanied by ringing in her ears. She would have to sit down each time one of these episodes occurred, for fear she would pass out. After each episode, Darcy would be so exhausted she would have to sleep for a long time.
Darcy’s daughters, now ages 7 and 9, became concerned when they saw her perspiring during these episodes and saw how tired she looked. They asked, “Is your heart okay, Mommy?”
With her husband serving in the military, the sixth-grade English teacher from Gladwin worried about what would happen to her daughters if something happened to her while her husband was on tour. He was deployed to Iraq for 18 months a few years ago and will soon be deployed to Afghanistan for another 18 months.
Symptoms Consistent with Atrial Fibrillation
As time went on, Darcy’s symptoms continued to get worse, sometimes accompanied by shooting pain in her left arm. She tried everything to find out what was causing these episodes.
Darcy’s symptoms were consistent with a condition called atrial fibrillation, or atrial tachycardia. During atrial arrhythmia, the heart beats fast or irregularly, causing inefficient delivery of oxygen throughout the body. This condition can sometimes be fatal.
However, it was difficult to pinpoint and diagnose Darcy’s problem because she was so healthy when she wasn’t having an episode. Medications were ineffective in preventing her heart from racing. She even underwent extensive testing. When she wore monitors to try to trace her heartbeat during an arrhythmia event, the monitors didn’t catch the event.
Darcy became frustrated and anxious for her life and her family. With the added symptom of pain in her left arm, she was worried she might have a heart attack and die while her husband was deployed overseas.
Then Darcy’s mother learned of a seminar on arrhythmia and cardiac catheter ablation. The speaker was Nilofar Islam, M.D., an electrophysiologist at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland. Darcy’s mother attended the seminar and learned that arrhythmia disorders are as common in young women as in the older population. This description fit slender petite Darcy perfectly. On her mother’s advice, Darcy immediately made an appointment with Dr. Islam.
Using this three-dimensional view, the electrophysiologist can accurately pinpoint and eliminate the abnormal electrical pathway in a patient’s heart.
At Last, A Doctor Who Saw Her Situation Differently
When Dr. Islam walked into the exam room in Freeland, Darcy related her frustration and her fears. Dr. Islam listened and then explained how the heart’s electrical system works. She further explained that, using catheters, the electrical impulses in her heart could be studied. During an EP (electrophysiology) study, the heart is stimulated; arryhthmias are induced and then corrected through ablation.
“I will find the arrhythmia and correct it,” said Dr. Islam. Darcy was relieved Dr. Islam could create the event and see her situation differently.
During the procedure at the Medical Center, with Darcy’s heart beating 212 beats per minute, Dr. Islam asked her, “Is this what it feels like?” She then located a small area in Darcy’s heart where the electrical impulses were misfiring. Darcy stayed awake while the problem areas were eliminated through a procedure called cardiac catheter ablation. Three days later she was bowling, with four tiny scars in her groin the only evidence of the procedure.
Today, Darcy’s blood pressure is back to normal.
“My heart feels light. Before, it felt heavy,” she said.
Darcy learned from Dr. Islam that her heart had been working too hard – two to six times as hard as the normal heart. Now she feels like she has a whole new life, with no recurrence of episodes of atrial tachycardia.
Darcy says her “saving grace” was her mom hearing about Dr. Islam’s seminar. “I found someone who was able to find what was wrong. Someone who listened to me.”
Now, Darcy is back to a carefree, active life of bowling, riding bikes, rollerblading, and riding horses with her daughters.
“The worry is gone away,” she said. “Dr. Islam is sent from heaven. I can't put into words what she has done for me.”
Throughout MidMichigan Health, doctors have access to the most advanced medical imaging systems in the world. That means more accurate diagnoses, more critical information for surgery, and better patient outcomes. Darcy Hite’s story is just one example of how MidMichigan physicians help their patients by seeing things differently. Learn more about how MidMichigan doctors see things differently at www.midmichigan.org/difference. Or, for more information or referral to one of our medical specialists, call MidMichigan Health Line toll-free at (800) 999-3199. Online, visit www.midmichigan.org/doctors.