With passions like large-game bow hunting, competitive golfing, and daily extreme workouts, Jay still made time for enjoying family, church, and work, even if it meant just 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night. That was until Jay started experiencing symptoms of atrial fibrillation.
“Occasionally I would feel my heart race, with a pulse up to 150 beats per minute,” recalled Jay age 55. “As a physician, I’m very aware of every abnormal heartbeat and self-diagnosed it as something else.” One day when he was playing golf, Jay bent down to pick up his ball and nearly lost consciousness. Realizing it was more serious than he originally thought, he rushed to the emergency room. There he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (Afib or AF), which occurs when the upper chambers of the heart, or atria, fibrillate. This means that they beat very fast and irregularly and do not pump blood efficiently to the rest of the body. Atrial fibrillation can produce symptoms like the racing heart and faintness that Jay felt.
“I was put on medication which reduced the number of Afib episodes at first,” explained Jay, “but the side effects left me with no energy or interest in doing anything.” And he certainly wasn’t comfortable hunting at 10,000 feet. Even with a change in medication, Jay’s energy level had plummeted as his atrial fibrillation worsened. “I was in a dark place,” reflected Jay. “The Afib would come on without warning, leaving me weak and unsettled. Everybody and everything became secondary in my life.”
Jay and his heart specialist discussed a catheter ablation procedure as an alternative to medication for treating paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Catheter ablation is a minimally-invasive procedure in which energy terminates (ablates) the abnormal electrical pathways in the heart tissue that are causing atrial fibrillation. The energy applied is either heat-based (radiofrequency or RF ablation) or cold-based (cryoablation). After some medical research, Jay chose cryoablation for his catheter ablation procedure.
Jay’s doctor suggested the Arctic Front® Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter, a flexible thin tube that is maneuvered through a vessel into the left atrium. Once positioned in the heart, the balloon portion of the catheter is filled with a coolant which applies subzero temperatures to the abnormal pathways and restores normal electrical conduction.
Jay’s procedure was done under general anesthesia and he spent that night at the hospital for observation. Jay experienced some minor episodes of AF during the first few weeks, which his doctor assured him was normal. If left untreated or managed with medication only, atrial fibrillation only gets worse and more difficult to treat. “It made no sense to me to wait around and let that happen. The procedure was a life-changer,” exclaimed Jay. “I want to get the message out that cryoablation gave me a second chance.” Jay was able to discontinue medications and is back to his rigorous daily workout regimen, competing at the state level in golf, and was back to hunting with his bow along the Continental Divide. “I had forgotten what normal was,” Jay added. “I’ll never take full energy for granted again.”
This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.