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A-Fib Patient Story #49

Daily Exerciser Passes Out on Treadmill: Successful Ablation at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston

by Mark, 2011

My name is Mark and I am 58 years old. I passed out while running on a treadmill in September, 2010 and ended up in the emergency room of my local hospital. 

Shocked to See An Irregular Rhythm on My EKG

After running tests that ruled out heart attack and stroke, I was seen by a cardiologist who saw an irregular rhythm on my EKG.  He was part of a local practice that included EPs, who diagnosed A-Fib and Flutter.  This was shocking to me as I have been exercising almost daily since 2004 (alternate running 5-6 miles and weight lifting). 

I stayed in the hospital for monitoring for a couple of days and started Metoprolol and Flecainide.  Shortly after, I had a stress test which confirmed everything structurally was fine with my heart. I wore a Holter monitor for 24 hours which confirmed I still had irregular rhythms and that my heart rate was spiking to 180+. 

Most Asymptomatic: Metoprolol and Flecainide Not Eliminating the A-Fib

Other than this initial episode, I never had any symptoms and would see my heart rate this high when I would check it at the end of a run.  My cardiologist increased the dosages of both the Metoprolol and Flecainide, and referred me to an EP in his practice.

In the couple of weeks waiting to see the EP, I did have a couple more A-Fib episodes.  In one case I was carrying grocery bags in from the car, and the other occurred while I was walking while fertilizing my lawn.  I experienced shortness of breath, a racing heart-beat and broke out in a sweat.  I checked my blood pressure and heart rate with a monitor I purchased at the local pharmacy, and could see both had spiked.  In both cases, the symptoms subsided within an hour.  I did have a third episode when I fainted when standing up, but attribute this to taking the 2 daily Metoprolol dosages too closely together ( Noon & 5PM).  While I didn’t experience any other episodes or side effects from the medication, I couldn’t run as far or as fast as I could before starting the medication.

I went to see the EP at a local Cardiac practice in Manchester, NH.  He did another stress test to rule out any structural issues, and Holter monitor study which confirmed the A-Fib and Flutter diagnosis.  At this point I had been on the meds for about a month, and they were not eliminating the A-Fib.

Ablation Recommended, Got Second Opinion

Even though I was pretty much asymptomatic, the EP suggested an ablation since the A-Fib was not chronic and I was otherwise very healthy.  He felt the chances for success were high and the risks low.  Since I live an hour North of Boston, I decided to get a second opinion and asked the EP for a referral.  He recommended Dr. Bill Stevenson or Dr. Gregory Michaud at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 

After much research (this web site,, was very helpful) and prayer, I decided to move forward with the ablation.  Both doctors came highly recommended through contacts I made through family members who work in healthcare, and I decided to work with Dr. Michaud.  He does about 20 ablations per month versus the 5 per month the EP in NH does.

Dr. Gregory Michaud and Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Dr. Michaud and the Brigham and Women’s staff were excellent.  From scheduling the initial appointment all the way through the ablation, the treatment and communications have been outstanding.  Dr. Michaud called me at home the night before the ablation just to check in and answer any final questions I might have.  I had the ablation on December 16th, 2010.  Everything went smoothly.  I went home the next morning, and did not have any more A-Fib episodes.

I had a follow-up visit with Dr. Michaud in February, 2011.  Everything looked good, and he scheduled a 2 week EKG study with a wireless monitor for early March.  I stopped the Flecainide and Coumadin (which I started before the ablation) during the study and made sure I got to the gym daily. 

Today’s Results: No Irregular Rhythms, PRAISE GOD!!!

Today is March 23, 2011. I got a call with the final results from the monitor study confirming there were no irregular rhythms, PRAISE GOD!!!  They did see spikes in my hear rate, but they occurred when I was running and subsided when I stopped.  I will now start weaning myself off the Metoprolol over the next couple of weeks.

Claustrophobic MRI and Anxiety for Me and My Family

Like many stories I read on this site, I was very nervous and unsure about the thought of having catheters inserted into my heart to burn and scar tissue.  For me, the most uncomfortable part of this whole process turned out to be the MRI to map my heart for the ablation procedure.  While not claustrophobic, lying in a “cigar tube” for 45 minutes was an experience I still haven’t forgotten. 

I realize A-Fib is not seen as a “life-threatening” illness, but it still created a lot of anxiety for me and my family.  I feel very fortunate and blessed to live in an area where I could access the medical resources needed to diagnose and treat this quickly.

E-mail: seagullsnest(at)

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