My Change in Rhythm

My Change in Rhythm
By: Ryan Fairley

Heart health, for me, is keeping my body fit by doing aerobic exercise. I am an avid runner and just completed my first half marathon this fall within the top 5% of over 10, 000 runners. I was not concerned about the place I received but more of the fact that I was able to cross the finish line. As a medical student, I balance my hectic life of studying with running to relieve stress. The heart quickly became a more intimate part of my life just recently as I was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.

This news came pretty abruptly as I just stumbled into getting an electrocardiogram performed on me. The physician came back into the room and informed me that I had an abnormality, called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Being a medical student, I knew exactly what that entailed but never expected something that I had studied would affect me. I, being a daily runner, had not once had a symptom of a fast heart. With this diagnosis, I became concerned that if I did not act on taking care of this matter, I may end up as one of the patients with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome that would die of sudden cardiac death. My physician told me that 1% of patients with this syndrome end up dying due to the heart going into atrial fibrillation and thus, leading into a fatal heart rhythm. I knew the next step was making an appointment with an electrophysiologist that specializes in abnormal rhythms of the heart.

When I was able to see the electrophysiologist, he recommended that I undergo a cardiac ablation procedure; the physician would go into my legs with a catheter up to my heart and map out where the extra nerve was and then cauterize it. I had not expected to hear this as the first treatment option, but knew, being only 24 years old, that I would not want to deal with this later in life.

Along with the worry of the procedure, I had never really been in this type of patient position before. I am normally on the other side of the situation as the physician in training. This experience opened my eyes to the importance of a trusting physician-patient relationship. Also, it gave me the opportunity to step back and remind myself that I am studying all of this information for the good of all of these patients. I have the chance to impact so many lives later in life and knowing how vulnerable patients are in their time of need, I will be the one whom they will give their upmost trust in. The heart, especially, is one of those vital organs that requires much attention. When addressing future patients, I will be more conscious about informing them about a heart healthy lifestyle.From screening high school athletes to monitoring stroke victims, I will be sure to put forth all of my energy in giving each patient the right to a long, healthy life.

I am now three days out of my cardiac ablation and am feeling well. I have so much to be thankful for and am glad I live in a nation with extraordinary healthcare. My heart is now free of Wolff-Parkinson-White and I will soon be able to get back running. I will constantly be reminded of my own heart health and will not let any chance of keeping my heart healthy slip by. As I continue my medical education, I will carry this experience and hope to share this with patients when they find themselves in scary situations. Wolff-Parkinson-White is, thankfully, a thing of the past for me and I will take each day with a new perspective when it comes to the heart.