He was only 44 years old. Medication no longer worked. He started looking for options. He found them at Geisinger Wyoming Valley.
During one 18-month period, Bill Gavigan, of Laflin, PA, made so many emergency trips to the hospital that he couldn’t remember them all. He does remember the anxiety. He often suffered severe heart palpitations. And when they started, he worried that no one would be nearby to help.
“I even kept my cell phone in my hand whenever I was alone, so I could call for help if I needed to,” he says.
600 beats per minute
...In his own words
Geisinger physicians diagnosed Bill with atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the upper chamber of the heart (atrium) beats very quickly--up to 600 beats per minute in some cases, and more than 200 beats per minute in Bill's case. A normal heart rate is under 100.
“Many, many times, my business partner or my wife took me there,” he says. “Sometimes symptoms subsided by themselves. But many times, I needed emergency care.”
In addition to emergency room visits, he ended up in the critical care unit for five days. His cardiologist found medication to help him control it.
Medication worked, for a while
Describes the Geisinger Electrophysiology Program
“I was very thankful that medication worked for me for many years, even though I had mood swings and every other side effect listed,” he says. “I know I was hard to be around.”
But over time, even this medication stopped working for him. Emergency room trips became more frequent. During one trip, physicians had an especially difficult time getting his heart to return to a normal rhythm.
“I was worried all the time, and I did not want to live like this any longer,” he says.
Using the Internet, Bill delved into research of the newest treatments for the type of atrial fibrillation he had. He learned about a new and exciting “catheter ablation” procedure and discussed this with his cardiologists as well as with a new Geisinger physician, one with expertise in the specialty of cardiac electrophysiology (care to correct irregular heart rhythms).
This specific catheter ablation procedure was not even invented when Bill first developed a heart condition. At that time, an implanted pacemaker or open heart surgery were the other options when medication did not work.
“I was willing to travel out of state to get this treatment,” he says. “But I was thrilled to find out that Geisinger was investing in the technology and the physicians to bring this procedure here.”
A “tremendous” cure
Bill received this new procedure at Geisinger and reports a dramatic change in his quality of life.
“It’s just tremendous! I don’t take any medications now, and I no longer feel like I need to keep the cell phone in my hand when I’m alone. I’m much happier and my family is much happier.”
Bill reports that friends and neighbors sometimes mention that Geisinger physicians treated him for atrial fibrillation. He feels the need to correct them.
“No, they cured me of it,” he says. “I feel very lucky to live in this day and age when, first, this technology is available at all. Plus, it just blows me away that this technology is now here at Geisinger, just three miles from my home.”
Geisinger Heart Radio Spot
To make a referral, schedule an appointment or for more information, call the Atrial Fibrillation Center at 1.800.GWV.AFIB