Feeling an occasional mild flutter in your chest, slightly lightheaded, or occasionally being a bit tired are things many of us may have felt at some time in our lives.
John Thibault, a 47 year old sergeant with the Wauconda Police Department, started having these occurrences more frequently right after a very bad chest cold.
“I figured it was probably a combination of the chest cold and stress that was causing the symptoms,” John said.
A co-worker jokingly teased him saying that he should go to the doctor because if he died he didn’t want to do this job by himself. In jest, but with serious undertones, John decided to consult his physician…
With no family history or previous history of heart issues, John was reluctant to think anything serious could be wrong. He was an active jogger running 3-5 miles several times a week without any problems or issues.
“I wasn’t really short of breath or blue in the face and my symptoms seemed very minor at the time,” said John. “It’s scary though because I later learned with heart rhythm problems if I didn’t do anything I could have started having blood clots or possibly a stroke.”
For the next year, John worked with his primary care physician who did initial tests of his heart, monitored him and tried managing his atrial fibrillation, also known as A-fib, with medications. He was referred to a cardiologist who delved deeper into the issue and continued efforts using medication to suppress the A-fib, without success.
According to the American Heart Association, A-fib affects nearly 3 million Americans, The disorder occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions. Instead of a normal electrical signal prompting muscles in both chambers of the heart to work uniformly, rogue heart cells generate additional signals. This causes the heart muscles to contract at different times.
One last effort to control the arrhythmia with medication was attempted, though a side effect of that particular medication could result in the onset of other arrhythmias, possibly life threatening. His cardiologist conducted a stress test and confirmed that he was prone to having other arrhythmias while on that medication.
John was then referred to Dr. Mehran Jabbarzadeh a cardiac electrophysiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington who reviewed the electrical activities of his heart.
“Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn’t life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment and we didn’t want that to happen to John,” said Dr. Jabbarzadeh. “Our goal was to eliminate John’s irregular heartbeats so he could go back to his active life as a police officer.”
Traditionally, physicians treat a-fib with a catheter ablation procedure using heat generated by radiofrequency current by threading a catheter through a vein in the groin that leads to the heart, without open surgery explains Dr. Jabbarzadeh.
But a few months prior to my meeting John, Good Shepherd Hospital started a new procedure using a coolant, instead of heat.
“Using heat and cold are both minimally invasive procedures but this newer technology using a coolant shortens the procedure and allows us to safely and more effectively treat the triggers for A-fib,” said Dr. Jabbarzadeh. “John’s cryoablation successfully destroyed the electrical cells in his heart responsible for conducting the arrhythmia.”
“This procedure may have saved my life,” shared John. “In addition, I was physically active a mere three weeks later as I started jogging and four months later I ran 5.1 miles in the torch run for the Special Olympics.”
In less than five minutes, Advocate Health Care’s Heart Risk Tool, found at iHeartAdvocate.com, can provide the answers you need to help take control of your heart health. The tool is backed by a promise that if you are determined to be at the highest-risk level, one of Advocate’s cardiologists will meet with you within 24 hours.
Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Illinois is a 169-bed acute care hospital with more than 700 physicians representing 50 medical specialties. It is part of Advocate Health Care, named one of the Top Ten hospital systems in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters. For the second consecutive year, Good Shepherd has been named one of the nations 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals by Truven Health Analytics. Advocate is a faith-based organization that exists to serve its communities.
For more about Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, visit advocatehealth.com/goodshep.
About the Author
Erin Abbey is the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington where she works on getting the word out about hospital news and accomplishments as well as community events and activities.
She is also the author of our 365 Barrington Health Beat series focused on advice from area physicians, the latest medical news and trends toward better health.
Erin recently relocated from Chicago to the northwest suburbs where she lives with her husband, two young daughters and her dog Kallie. When she’s not at work, Erin enjoys exploring new restaurants, practicing yoga and pilates, reading as much as possible and attempting to keep up with all the news on social media.