Tag Archives: Dr. William Brabham

Finding the Right Beat: Pacemaker puts Blythewood Woman Back in the Cycling Seat

Sharon Sherbourne knew something wasn’t right. An avid cyclist and runner, she was training for a long-distance race when her legs felt heavy and her heart rate remained low even when she was exercising vigorously.

The 67 year old had begun an exercise routine about 15 years earlier, while she helped implement wellness programs as vice president of human resources at a Blythewood manufacturing plant. “I knew I had to walk the walk, so I started doing aerobics. A friend from church got me involved in the running community, so I started training for a 5K, and that morphed into doing an 8K.”

Sharon cycling in Blythewood

She eventually completed four full 26-mile marathons, along with numerous half-marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks. About 10 years ago, she added long-distance cycling to her workouts, but recently, she found herself out of breath climbing a flight of stairs. She made an appointment to see a doctor.

“My first cardiologist told me I was simply getting older and I probably didn’t need to be doing all that stuff,” Sharon said. “But I knew it was more than that. You know your own body.”

Then, she was referred to Lexington Cardiology and William W. Brabham, MD, FHRS, an electrophysiologist with Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. Dr. Brabham specializes in the treatment of abnormal heart rhythms. He scheduled a treadmill stress test for Sharon.

“As her workload increased on the treadmill, her heart rate peaked in the 70s to 80s, which is very unusual for her age. At 67, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for her heart rate to reach the 150s to 160s, especially with the level of activity that she typically would participate in,” Dr. Brabham said.

He diagnosed her problem as chronotropic incompetence, which is the inability of the heart to increase its rate to a level that matches a person’s activity level, combined with AV block, a condition where the signals from the top chambers of the heart don’t make it to the bottom chambers.

“It appeared most likely a result of age-related changes in the conduction system of the heart,” he said. “Just the way the rest of your body ages, the conduction system in your heart can age to varying degrees.”

Dr. William Brabham, Lexington Cardiology

He recommended a pacemaker, a device that monitors heart rate and stimulates the heart if it drops below a pre-programmed rate. A dual-chamber pacemaker, the type Sharon has, also restores the connection between the top and bottom chambers of the heart.

Sharon’s pacemaker was implanted in March; by late June, she was training for a 100-mile bike ride.

“I feel fantastic. It had gotten to the point where, when I was walking up stairs at the house, I’d get to the top and I’d be completely out of breath. So I had my pacemaker implant on March 7, I came home March 8 and the very first thing I did was walk up the stairs to see if it had made a difference. It had.”

For Sharon, a mother of two, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of one, the experience drove home the importance of listening to her body and going the extra mile for answers.

“Age should not be the marker for anything. Your physical fitness level, what you enjoy doing, what you’re used to doing — that should be what drives your behavior and drives your medical practitioner’s response,” she said. “I felt that Dr. Brabham really understood that and worked with me to make all of it happen.”

Outrunning Heart Disease: A Lesson in Fainting, Family and Faith

Diane McNinch loves to run. She routinely logs more than 20 miles a week around Columbia.

“When I’m running, I leave my stress behind, pray and spend time with friends,” she said. “It’s not only my fitness; it’s my therapy.”

Diane McNinch on her favorite running trail in West Columbia

But there was a time when the 51 year old was afraid she wouldn’t be able to run anymore.

“I have a history of fainting,” Diane said.

Over the years, she fainted while pregnant with her daughter, when singing in church, and after having hip surgery. There was never a definitive reason why.

That’s until she went to an annual checkup with her primary care physician. Results of an EKG showed something was wrong with her heart’s electrical activity.

Diane’s doctor referred her to Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, for a full workup.

At Lexington Cardiology, Diane received a diagnosis of Long QT Syndrome, a condition where the muscle cells of the heart take an abnormally long time to “recharge.” Untreated, LQTS can increase the risk for a life-threatening arrhythmia.

“While many patients with LQTS don’t have any symptoms, others experience palpitations, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, seizures or even cardiac arrest,” said William W. Brabham, MD, FHRS, an electrophysiologist with Lexington Cardiology.

Doctors treat LQTS with medications called beta blockers or by implanting a defibrillator. Treatment decisions are individualized based on many factors.

Dr. Brabham implanted a defibrillator in Diane’s side.

“It’s like an insurance policy,” Diane said. “If something goes wrong, the defibrillator will go off and I’ll be OK. I’m so thankful for this technology.”

LQTS can be acquired through certain medications that inhibit electrolyte movement. It can also be inherited from a parent or occur spontaneously without family history.

Diane learned her case was genetic. So, she shared the news with her family.

Family Ties

Diane, her brother and sister were screened for LQTS. Her sister tested positive. Her brother is waiting for his results. Diane’s two children – in their 20s – will be tested, too.

Diane had an infant brother who died unexpectedly in the 1960s. She now wonders if he had the condition. Both of her parents also passed away after a history of heart problems.

“Many people have no symptoms, no family history of heart problems and may never know they have the condition,” Dr. Brabham said. “Others my have a family history of sudden cardiac death or worrisome symptoms. They should see their doctor.”

Using her own experience to help others, Diane stressed the importance of developing a relationship with your physician and knowing your family history.

“I’m thankful our heart condition was found. Now that we know we have it, we can treat it,” she said.

On the Road Again
After having the defibrillator implanted, Diane took some time off from running. But doctors permitted her to work her way back into it gradually.

She ran the Lexington Medical Center Heart & Sole Women’s Five Miler in honor of her parents and their heart history.

She also joined a group called “Run for God,” a faith and endurance program.

“’Run for God’ not only helped me with running, but it also taught me how to work through adversity,” she said. “I plan to persevere and make the best of my situation.”

The Watchman Reduces Stroke Risk

May is Stroke Awareness Month. The Watchman is a new device that can dramatically reduce the risk of stroke in patients with a type of abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation (A-Fib). Patients with A-Fib have a higher risk of blood clots. Often, these clots form in the left atrial appendage of the heart. The clot can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. The Watchman works by closing off the appendage to prevent blood clots there.

Dr. William Brabham of Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center practice, talked about The Watchman in this WIS-TV interview this week.


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