When Heart Arrhythmia Disrupts Your Life

By Lindsey Klingensmith

For more than half his life, David Lawrence, now 57, has been living with a heart arrhythmia called Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT).

Simply put, SVT is a faster-than-normal heart rhythm that begins in the heart’s upper two chambers.  Symptoms can include heart palpitations, chest pain, fainting, fatigue, lightheadedness and sweating.

Beginning at Age 26

“I had my first SVT episode at 26,” said Lawrence. “Out of the blue, I felt like I’d run a marathon.  I was short of breath and dizzy.  I also had pain in my left arm.  It was quite scary.”

It took a few more incidents before Lawrence researched his condition.  In his reading, he discovered a maneuver that would help him manage his symptoms for several years. “I read a book that detailed ways to slow my heart rhythm.  My method of choice was to get my head below my body.  I’d either stand on my head or lie on my desk and hang my head over the side,” he said.  “It might sound funny, but it worked.”

Stopping and Resetting His Heart

However, as the frequency of episodes increased and the maneuver stopped working, Lawrence was forced to seek medical intervention. For a short time, this included a series of hospital visits where physicians would administer a medication that would stop and reset Lawrence’s heart.

“I became increasingly frustrated with my health because it was impacting my daily life,” said Lawrence.  “For instance, when planning vacations, my wife and I would have to make a list of the nearby hospitals just in case my heart acted up.  It became expensive and disruptive to all our lives.”

Seeking a Long-term Solution

Lawrence had had enough.  After visiting his cardiologist, Lawrence was referred to Dr. Danny Talwar, MD, FACC, a cardiac electrophysiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital.

Dr. Talwar diagnosed Lawrence with Atrioventricular Nodal Reentry Tachycardia, the most common form of SVT, and scheduled him for a catheter ablation in the hospital’s new Electrophysiology Lab. During the procedure, Dr. Talwar threaded a catheter through Lawrence’s blood vessels and into his heart.  Then, using electrodes in the catheter, he used heat to burn a small spot of heart tissue to block the irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

According to Dr. Talwar, research shows that catheter ablation has a cure rate greater than 90 percent for SVT and may enable patients to get off life-long medications.

Living Life Without SVT

Today, Lawrence is feeling great.  He’s back to enjoying life.  In fact, he and his wife vacationed on Lake Livingston last month without the fear of a hospital trip.

“Life is great without SVT,” Lawrence added.  “While I wish I would have considered this procedure years ago, I can’t look back.  Moving forward, I just hope my experience and story can help others make an informed choice about SVT and their options.”

For more information about AFib, SVT and arrhythmia, or to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist, visit heart.memorialhermann.org.

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