Growing up on a 28-cow dairy farm in southern Minnesota, Becky and her four siblings learned the meaning of hard work early in life. Today, Becky, her husband Arlen, and his parents farm 1500 acres and milk a herd of 310 Holstein cows. With the help of 12 high-school girls ("12 girls a-milking" as Becky calls them), Becky's family can enjoy family time with their two teenage sons Brandon and Cody on Sunday nights – Arlen's only night off from the dairy business. Becky's grown daughter, Nicole, works in town and helps with the milking part time.
When Becky started experiencing shortness of breath in the spring of 2005, she tried to ignore the symptoms, as she was busy with her job as a cook at the local parochial school, her quilting passion, her farm chores, and taking care of her family. By the time Becky went in to see the doctor, he first thought she was having a heart attack and had her airlifted to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
After a series of cardiac tests, Becky was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a viral infection of the heart that weakens and stretches the heart muscle. Becky's ejection fraction (EF) was measured at a dangerously low 15 to 20%, and she was sent home from the hospital with medications to improve her EF.
That's how Becky describes the period following her diagnosis. She lacked the energy and strength to cook at the school, do her field work, participate in her kids' activities, or quilt. Even when she tried to fold a basket of clothes or cook dinner, Becky had to rest frequently.
In her initial panic at the hospital, and as she was trying to cope with fatigue and inactivity at home, Becky reached out to Kim, a friend with whom she had gone to quilting retreats for the past 6 years. A long-time employee at Medtronic, Kim visited and comforted her friend, giving her information on implantable device therapy and how it is helping thousands of heart patients around the world lead full and productive lives. When at the end of 3 months Becky's ejection fraction remained at the same low level despite the medications, she asked about Medtronic device therapy.
In September 2005, Becky received a Medtronic InSync Sentry CRT-D device, a new type of implantable defibrillator that also treats heart failure. The device provides cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), which ensures that the chambers of the heart beat together, or "in sync," and paces the heart at a level appropriate for the patient's activity level. Medtronic InSync Sentry is the world's first device to feature OptiVol® Fluid Status Monitoring.
"Within 2 weeks of the surgery, I could tell I was able to get up with energy and ask myself, 'What can I do today?' instead of sitting on the couch doing nothing," said Becky. A few weeks later, at her request, the clinic enrolled Becky in remote device monitoring with the Medtronic CareLink® Network. Knowing that her Medtronic CareLink Monitor allows her to transmit data from her device remotely has opened more options for Becky.
"I appreciate having that security there with my Medtronic CareLink Monitor. Now if I go to a quilting retreat up north, or to the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin in the fall, it's nice to know I can transmit device data to the clinic from there, if necessary." Becky, who had not left the farm after her diagnosis until she received the Medtronic CareLink Monitor, has quilted a bag for her portable monitor so it is ready to travel anywhere.
Becky does what she calls her "heart doctoring" in Minneapolis/St. Paul, nearly 2 hours from the farm. Following a schedule of four checkups a year, Becky expects to eventually be able to replace three of the four quarterly checkups with transmissions from her Medtronic CareLink Monitor.
Becky believes the experience has brought her whole family closer together. Her only regret is that she didn't get a device sooner. "As a mom in her forties, I want to be involved in my children's lives. With this therapy, I have the energy to move forward, be it camping or four-wheeling with my boys." A 20th wedding anniversary, buying a cabin up north, and more quilting retreats with Kim are just a few of the items on Becky's busy calendar. "I am back at it, and I have the energy to do it," she said. "It's about having the choice, being able to take advantage of time and enjoy it."
This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.
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