“My heart was in such bad shape that my heart rate would go from a normal rate of 60 or 70 to over 200, just from walking from one place to another,” says Joel Watson. “When I was experiencing chest pain, I checked into Northwest.”
His irregular heartbeat was related to atrial fibrillation (also called AFib). This condition affects at least 2.7 million Americans, and can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.*
For Watson, specialty cardiac care was needed to treat his condition. After arriving at the Heart Hospital at Northwest Texas Healthcare System, he was deemed a candidate for cardioversion. This procedure involves delivering an electrical shock that briefly stops the heart and resets its rhythm.
Before having this treatment, a test called a transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) was conducted to make sure there were no blood clots in his heart, which could lead to serious complications. With TEE, a scope is placed down the throat into the esophagus, and ultrasound is used to capture highly detailed images of the heart and its blood vessels.
After the results of that test confirmed it was okay to proceed, the cardioversion was performed by cardiologist Arunava D. Ray, MD, FACP, FAAC. “My wife initially was terrified,” Watson says. “But the nurses and Dr. Ray helped her through all this.”
The treatment was successful, and after a couple of days recuperating in the hospital, he was able to go home. He is now back into his routine and his job as a dispatch employee for LIFESTAR air medical transport. “Today, I feel great. I feel rejuvenated,” he says of his lifesaving care at Northwest. “I’m back on track of being where I need to be.”
Warning Signs of Possible AFib
Sometimes, people with AFib have no symptoms, and other times they may experience a number of signs, with the most common one being a quivering or fluttering heartbeat, according to the American Heart Association. Chest pain or pressure may be signs of a possible heart attack and are a medical emergency. Also, people with AFib may be at increased risk of a possible stroke and should know the BE FAST acronym to help remember the warning signs.
New Treatments at the Heart Hospital
Putting the freeze on AFib
To provide another treatment alternative for patients with AFib, Northwest recently became the first healthcare facility in Amarillo to offer cryoablation, a minimally invasive approach that isolates pulmonary veins and uses cooling technology to stop erratic signals that can cause AFib. This can help improve quality of life for patients and significantly reduce symptoms.
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Advanced heart-lung support with ECMO
Adding to its comprehensive cardiac services, Northwest now offers extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a lifesaving machine that mimics the natural function of the heart and lungs. With ECMO, the patient’s blood is pumped out of the body where it is infused with oxygen, carbon dioxide is removed, and it is returned to the patient. Candidates may include people with reversible organ damage from illnesses such as respiratory failure, sepsis, blood clots and pneumonia. Northwest is the first facility in the Panhandle to offer this technology.
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*American Heart Association
Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if minimally invasive surgery is right for you.