Joan Vasseur was a 54-year-old busy career woman when she started to experience atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder that affects more than 3 million Americans each year. Each time she had atrial fibrillation she experienced fluttering in her chest and a choking sensation in her throat. These episodes often occurred at night, and she became afraid to fall asleep. For the first two years, Joan’s symptoms were controlled with medications. But for the next 10 years, her rhythm condition worsened, and she began to have frequent visits to the emergency room with many hospital admissions.
Eventually Joan retired, but she felt like she was being robbed of a peaceful retirement due to the endless ER visits, sleeping difficulties and constant fear of going back into an irregular rhythm. In April 2008, after 12 years of battling her heart rhythm condition, Joan underwent catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation (also known as pulmonary vein isolation). Dr. Joseph Lin, a heart rhythm specialist at MHVI and Mercy Hospital, performed a pulmonary vein isolation. With catheters that were steered from veins in Joan’s groin into her heart, Dr. Lin precisely delivered radiofrequency energy to electrically deactivate tissue around four veins in her heart so that electrical impulses could not get out and start the the irregular rhythm that afflicted her. Joan went through the procedure without incident and in the end, it was able to control and prevent recurrences of the arrhythmia that so debilitated her.
“Although I was certainly apprehensive about the procedure, I now wish that I had had it 10 years earlier because it’s given me back my life,” said Joan. “I feel confident now that when I plan something, I can actually do it. Dr. Lin and his care was superb and the proof is that I haven’t had atrial fibrillation since I had the ablation. I am very grateful for the great care I received at Mercy.” Two years after her ablation, Ms. Vasseur sent a framed picture, The Liberation of Saint Peter by Rafael (1514) to Dr. Lin. It was a gift to thank him for freeing her from what she felt was the bondage of her heart condition.