Kish's Story: Advance Technology Provides Peace of Mind
Lifesaving Science Gets Runner’s Heart Back on TrackKish was only 41 years old when he suffered an irregular heart rhythm that sent his heart spiraling into cardiac arrest. A former marathon runner, a non-smoker and the father of two, he had never experienced any type of heart problem until this episode six years ago.
While the cause of Kish’s dangerous heartbeat still remains a mystery, today his risk of a repeat incident has been minimized. That's because he is the recipient of an internal defibrillator – his own 24-hour emergency medical team – which can get his heart back on track in 15 seconds should this problem ever surface again.
"Historically, only 5 to 10 percent of people who had a cardiac arrest survived," Alan Schwartz, a Mills-Peninsula electrophysiologist said. "But, in the last few years, that rate is improving due to advanced technology and knowledge."
The lifesaving begins in the field, as first responder techniques have steadily improved.
"If it's an electrical problem, they get treatment immediately with an external defibrillator," Dr. Schwartz said. "If it's a blockage, they get early EKGs to identify a heart attack and medications until they can get to the cath lab."
Cardiac arrest patients treated with an Automated External Defibrillator are frequently unconscious by the time they arrive at the hospital. To help protect the brain from injury due to lack of oxygen, they receive hypothermic treatment at the hospital.
"The patient is surrounded with tubes of icy circulating fluid that lowers their body temperature to approximately 33 degrees during the first 24 to 48 hours," Dr. Schwartz said. "This slows down the metabolism, much like a hibernating bear, and helps protect the brain from injury while the person is unconscious."
People like Kish who have heart rhythm disorders are at risk for future episodes. But the Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) is a 24/7 monitoring device that can be the difference between life and death.
Implanted in the patient like a pacemaker, it monitors every heartbeat. Within 5 to 10 seconds, the device detects if a dangerous rhythm has begun and can instantly deliver a life-giving shock.
"My episode was quite a reality check," Kish recalls. "It's frustrating to still not understand what happened, what caused my cardiac arrest. But knowing I have my defibrillator, my ICD, taking care of my heart 24/7, gives me the peace of mind to know I will be able to see my kids grow up."
Read more patient stories.
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