Mark’s story: ‘Doing great’ after AFib treatment
Monday, November 4, 2019
Mark McCartney knew he was short of breath. He had no idea his heart rhythm was out of whack.
That’s atrial fibrillation, when electrical impulses in the heart malfunction and become unstable. People with AFib often experience heart palpitations – the heart beating too fast or irregularly or pounding or throbbing. Mark didn’t.
“Mark had what we call an atypical presentation for atrial fibrillation,” says Dr. Vinay Mehta, a cardiac electrophysiologist with Aurora BayCare Cardiology. “Sometimes the symptoms can be very subtle.”
Mark, who is in his late 60s, was short of breath when woke up at his Shawano home early one morning in March 2018. It was about 4 a.m.
“I told my wife, ‘We’ll just wait until 8 o’clock until the doctor’s office opens,’” Mark says. Four hours later, “they took one look at me and did an EKG and sent me on my merry way to Aurora BayCare Medical Center” in Green Bay.
That EKG, or electrocardiogram, detected AFib.
Once in Green Bay, Mark was seen first in the emergency department.
“We’re in very close contact with both the electrophysiology and cardiology departments. Getting their expertise within minutes provides excellent care for the patient,” says Bryan Stoppenbach, a physician assistant with BayCare Clinic Emergency Physicians.
That system worked perfectly for Mark.
“They immediately set the train in motion about what tests needed to be ordered, what medications needed to be ordered. Cardiology was consulted right away,” Mehta says.
“We could see Mark and initiate the treatment that was required and make the recommendation for rhythm control, getting him in normal rhythm, and starting the process quickly, rather than him being in that situation or condition for a long time.”
That teamwork is crucial in treating AFib.
“There are several protocols in place for atrial fibrillation. One of the protocols that we’ve developed is for atrial fibrillation patients who come to the emergency department. How their treatment can be optimized, how they can get the best medical care in the most efficient manner,” Mehta says. “That requires close collaboration, and our emergency department has been fantastic with that collaboration.”
Mark also had a leaky heart valve, which can cause AFib. But as it turned out, AFib wasn’t Mark’s only problem.
“He had heart failure along with atrial fibrillation. His heart muscle was extremely weak and the heart pump function was very weak. Frequently, that can be caused by atrial fibrillation,” Mehta says.
“It took a lot of time and effort to finally get him into normal rhythm, but we could get him in normal rhythm. His heart function improved dramatically to the extent that now it’s almost normal.”
Mark was treated with medication and occasional cardioversion treatments, in which normal heart rhythm is restored by sending electric shocks to the heart via electrodes placed on the chest.
In January 2019, Mark had a cardiac ablation procedure, in which a catheter is guided through a blood vessel to the heart and directs radiofrequency energy to destroy small areas of heart tissue that cause arrhythmia.
Now, Mark says, “I’m doing great.”
Life is back to normal. He’s enjoying outdoor sports, going to football and basketball games and spending time with his grandchildren and family. He works out. He follows a low-salt diet and eats fresh foods.
“I came in in very, very poor condition. In fact, I shouldn’t even be alive today,” Mark says. “Dr. Mehta and his team of physicians here have done miracles for me.”
Dr. Vinay Mehta sees patients in Green Bay and Two Rivers. To request an appointment, call 920-288-8300 in Green Bay or 920-793-6550 in Two Rivers or do so online.