Barbara (Bobbie) Zimmerman
Retiree and Great-Grandmother
"Before the cardiac catheter ablation, I was afraid to do anything, for fear I would go into A-fib. Now I’m working in my garden, and I’m free to travel."
Today She Enjoys Life Without Fear of Her Heart Racing
In September 2009, 69-year-old Barbara (Bobbie) Zimmerman woke up out of a deep sleep one night to find her heart racing. The Dow Chemical retiree described the feeling as “fight or flight” panic. Her heart rate was 170 beats per minute, she was quivering and she couldn’t write. She was afraid she was having a stroke.
Bobbie called her daughter, who called 911. After emergency intervention at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland slowed her heart rate, her doctors – including Cardiologist Robert Genovese, M.D., – began the challenging task of identifying and treating the problem. This included prescribing medications to keep her heart rate down.
Searching for answers to an ongoing problem
Bobbie kept having night episodes, and at one point, she wore monitors 24 hours a day for six days to try to “catch” or track her in an episode of what is technically referred to as atrial fibrillation, or “A-fib.” Unfortunately, the monitors could never catch one.
Since Bobbie was eager to get off the medications, which made her feel tired and nauseated, Dr. Genovese referred her to Electrophysiologist Nilofar Islam, M.D., at the Electrophysiology Lab at the Medical Center.
Bobbie met with Dr. Islam in January in her Freeland office. Dr. Islam looked at Bobbie’s test results and explained cardiac catheter ablation. She said Bobbie was a prime candidate for the procedure, which ablates abnormal pathways in the heart – the cause of atrial fibrillation.
Dr. Islam went on to explain that a tiny catheter is inserted into four tiny holes, each one no bigger than the point of an ink pen. Bobbie was impressed with Dr. Islam’s calm demeanor and thought, ‘She knows what she’s talking about.’ She scheduled the procedure for February.
Before the procedure, Bobbie heard about a seminar in Towsley Auditorium at the Medical Center, featuring Dr. Islam. There, a nurse in cardiology at the Medical Center, Carol Bejarano, R.N., told Bobbie more about cardiac catheter ablation. She explained how Dr. Islam creates an event in the patient’s heart and then uses a 3-D Cardio Mapping System to see exactly where the electrical malfunction is occurring. Once the area is pinpointed, Dr. Islam can ablate (remove) the misfiring pathways.
Using this three-dimensional view, the electrophysiologist can accurately pinpoint and eliminate the abnormal electrical pathway in a patient’s heart.
Doctor able to see things differently by creating A-fib event and eliminating misfiring pathways
During the procedure, Dr. Islam and her electrophysiology team used 3-D Cardio Mapping to look into Bobbie’s beating heart. Through cardiac catheter ablation, Dr. Islam then eliminated five abnormal pathways that were causing the A-fibs. Bobbie went home the next morning and has not had an episode since. She’s been able to stop all the medicines that kept her heart from racing, including blood thinner.
Bobbie says, “Dr. Islam is the best; she trusts and believes in her patients. She’s relaxed and confident and has a good team. They know what they’re doing.”
Today, Bobbie says her life is “heavenly.” Before the cardiac catheter ablation, she was uptight and afraid to sleep. Now she’s no longer worried. She’s working in her garden again, which she was afraid to do, thinking she would make herself go into A-fib.
A grandmother with two grandsons in Midland, Bobbie also has seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren living in Hawaii. Fearing an episode in flight, she had put off air travel – but now she’s free to travel and see her newest great-grandchild.
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. Barbara Zimmerman’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.