Atrial Flutter

In the early 2000s there was no medical remedy in Portland for atrial fibrillation unless you had the right type of arrhythmia. I went to the highest qualified electrophysiologist I could find. He went in to my heart with a catheter to see what he could do but found a condition that made him quit — atrial flutter. At the time I was told that this condition made him squeamish because it could more easily transfer its energy to the ventricles, making the whole thing rather more life threatening.

It was time to ratchet up the search for a medical fix. Ultimately, I heard that Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, was experimenting with a procedure called Radio-Frequency Catheter Ablation. I had spent 5 years pastoring within 35 miles of the Mayo Clinic from 1980-1985. I knew the Mayo, as it is called, first hand. My cardiologist made a referral to the electrophysiology (EP) clinic at the Mayo.

So, I’m off to MN. I had to stop taking the medications that regulated my heart rhythm a full week before the procedure. This in itself made me really nervous. On the flight to Minneapolis/Saint Paul I thought anything might happen. As it was, I sat next to a nurse from the cardiac critical care unit at Mayo returning to work after visiting family in Portland! Imagine that!

Boy, once you get to Mayo, everything happens at whirlwind pace! I was given every kind of inoculation possible. Echocardiograms. Blood tests. Electrocardiographs. Lots of paper work. Since this was an experimental procedure at the time, I had to be made aware of everything that could go wrong, everything from stroke to death. Finally I was given the pre-surgical sedative and rolled into the Cath lab. I don’t remember how it made me feel at the time but my memory of this now leaves a smile on my face. The chief surgeon leaned over me and said, “I’ll be praying for you.” Yikes!

9 hours later I was back in a recovery room. The procedure was successful. I felt like I’d been run over. They shot me full of adrenaline at several different times during the procedure to see if they’d gotten all of the errant nerve cells.

It got to be time to remove the sheaths used to run the catheters into my heart through the groin. I was still partly under the influence of the anesthesia when the nurse said, “This is gonna hurt.” There were 6 of these sheaths. Ouch!! My wife said they were about 8 inches long. I stayed in hospital for one day and the next day, I was on a plane headed home. I headed home on June 22, 2007. Twelve years ago from when I am writing this.

I haven’t had any trouble since then, not even a little!

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