Patient Perspectives

Damon Carter: A normal heartbeat – what a blessing!

“Because of arrhythmias I was incapacitated for two years. During that time, my life wasn’t my own; I was completely at the mercy of this condition. I can’t thank Dr Kerwin enough for getting my heart rhythm back to normal.”
- Damon Carter

Up until the sudden onset of tachycardia five years ago, Damon Carter was an avid athlete and cyclist. Symptoms, including discomfort in the chest and a galloping heart rate, began to appear in the middle of the night. At first, Damon would lie still and wait it out. His heart rhythm would return to normal. But soon, he was feeling these same symptoms during the day – every day – and experiencing more episodes of arrhythmia than he could count, upwards of 40 a day. As it became clear this condition wasn’t going to go away on its own, Damon went to the Emergency Room.

What happened in the ER?

“I had an episode when I got to the ER. But it was elusive; as soon as they hooked me up to an EKG, it disappeared. They gave me an appointment to see a cardiologist, who put me on Verapamil.”

Did the medication help?

“No, it had little effect. I was still experiencing tachycardia, and the drug made me lethargic. My life changed completely. I went from being in top shape to someone who moved around gingerly so as not to set off the tachycardia. It was really traumatizing.”

Did you consider other treatments at this time?

“I started reading up about my condition online. I found out about electrophysiology and went to see an electrophysiologist at a hospital in California where I’d moved to in the meantime to be near my family. She put me on a higher dose of Verapamil, which helped a little. The medication still made me tired and sluggish, but that seemed like the lesser of two evils.”

How was Dr. Kerwin referred to you?

“Well, that’s an interesting story in itself. I continued doing research online and came across the CryoCath web site. CryoCath is a company that produces catheters that are used for ablating arrhythmias using cold energy. I called them and asked if there was a doctor in my neck of the woods who performed cryoablation. They gave me Dr. Kerwin’s name.”

You called Dr. Kerwin?

“Yes, my initial contact with Dr. Kerwin was great. He spent an hour with me and got to know me and my condition. They did an EKG, and this time the EKG caught the arrhythmia: it was SVT and atrial flutter. Dr. Kerwin discussed ablation with me and compared the relative merits and risks of RF and cryo. He said he would use cryo, because he would have more control with it. On the left side, the tachycardia was too close to the HIS bundle, making it too risky to use RF.”

So you went ahead and had the procedure done?

“Not right away. I have to admit I looked at Asia to see if they did the procedure for less money. What I found out is that they were not well equipped to handle my condition. I wasn’t going to get better care than right here!”

Can you tell us about the procedure and what happened afterwards?

“Dr. Kerwin was very thorough. He performed the ablations and then tried to induce the tachycardia. It came back. So he went in and ablated again. This time it worked. I have only admiration and gratitude for that kind of persistence.”

Have you felt any episodes since the cryoablation?

“There were brief episodes, but nothing like before. I’m back to normal, working out, in great shape, riding my bike again. When you consider that I went into the procedure thinking that maybe they’ll need to install a pacemaker, I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back to normal – and no pacemaker!”

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