My Aspirus Story
A-fib procedure puts patient’s life back in rhythm
Patient Name: David Holmes
Like any typical night, David Holmes was getting ready for bed when he noticed that his heart had started to race. Not thinking much of it, Holmes got into bed figuring it would go away. When his wife put her head on his chest, she shot out of bed and took him to the hospital.
Doctors’ attempts to shock his heart back into rhythm were unsuccessful, so Holmes spent the night in the hospital where his heartbeat finally returned to normal. It was determined that Holmes had atrial fibrillation (a-fib), a common condition that increases the risk of stroke and creates faulty electrical impulses in the heart, causing it to beat irregularly.
Unfortunately for Holmes, that night back in March of 2005 was only the first of many instances when a-fib disrupted his life. The condition landed him in the hospital a handful of times and forced him to take several medications to control the condition, including Coumadin, a blood thinner that reduces the risk of stroke and required Holmes to have his blood tested frequently.
“Taking Coumadin made me feel vulnerable, and I don’t like needles, so all the blood tests were a huge burden,” Holmes said. “I felt like I became an invalid because I had to curtail my activities.”
Prior to his diagnosis, Holmes was an avid runner who also enjoyed playing softball and basketball. These activities became a thing of the past as the condition progressed, and the routine blood tests began to weigh on him. By 2009, he’d had enough.
“I finally decided I didn’t have to walk around feeling vulnerable all the time,” he said. “I was too young to keep doing all of this.”
Holmes knew from the beginning that medications would be used to manage his a-fib, and that a surgical procedure would likely be needed at some point. After four years of dealing with the condition, Holmes opted to have surgery.
Fortunately, Holmes was a candidate for a surgical procedure at Aspirus Wausau Hospital called minimally invasive ablation (it is also referred to as MAZE), which would require only a few small incisions on Holmes’ side, rather than alternative options like an open-heart procedure, or a catheter-based treatment through his leg.
“If I had to have an open-heart procedure I probably would have put it off longer,” he said. “A couple of my friends had the other procedure through their leg, and they had to have it redone. I didn’t want to have to do things twice.”
Holmes had the minimally invasive ablation procedure done on July 7, 2009. Afterwards, his heart was in normal rhythm and within several months he was off his blood thinners and anti-arrhythmic medications.
It took just over a month for Holmes to return to work at Charis Counseling, LLC in Wausau, and he wasn’t the only one who could notice how much better he was feeling.
“Shortly after the surgery, people would tell me I was acting differently. I was more energetic and was in a better mood,” he said. “My surgery did what it was supposed to do.”
Created: Jan 29, 2010