Tag Archives: heart rhythm problems

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

Lexington Medical Center‘s comprehensive cardiovascular program continues to use the best technology available to treat heart disease.

The Watchman

The hospital has begun to use a device called the Watchman™ to help reduce the risk of stroke in patients who have atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood properly. In these patients, blood can pool in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage and form a clot. If the clot travels to another part of the body, it can cut off blood supply to the brain and cause a stroke. The Watchman blocks the appendage. It may also eliminate the need for patients to take a blood thinner.

See how doctors implant the Watchman in this video below.

 

To learn more about Lexington Medical Center’s cardiovascular program, visit LexMed.com/Heart.