Patient Perspectives

Pete Nyquist: Getting my life back

“By 2005 my Afib was so bad, I could barely function. Thanks to Dr. Kerwin, cryoablation and God Almighty, I’ve got my life back and the arrhythmia is a thing of the past.”
- Pete Nyquist

Since 1994, Air Traffic Controller Pete Nyquist had been experiencing episodes of what eventually turned out to be periodic a-fib. In 1996, a severe episode required both a visit to the Emergency Room and several cardiologists, at which time it was verified that Pete did have a problem known as atrial fibrillation. He was put on several medications, which reduced the amount of, but failed to prevent, further episodes.

What did the cardiologist do?

“In 2001, I saw another cardiologist who told me about catheter ablation, a procedure where they disable the small tissue area in the heart that’s involved in the arrhythmia. I also spoke with my family doctor, who said that catheter ablation was a good option for me.”

What happened next?

“What happened next was that I moved to L.A. for a new job – and the stress of the move and the new job resulted in Afib episodes every few days. To say the least, it was very distressing. I got on the internet to find a specialist who could perform the ablation and found Dr. Kerwin at Cedars-Sinai. Incredibly, he gave me an appointment only four days after my call. During the initial visit, he spent a lot of time with my wife and me and explained all of the options. One such option was to change my medication, which he did, and it helped a great deal. However, Dr. Kerwin explained that remaining on the medicine was not a good long-term solution. He then explained what ablation was and how it could solve the problem in its entirety. So, after two weeks of the medication, I decided to have the procedure done. He told me that he could perform this with only ten days notice. I was thrilled, I actually might be able to live normally again. Talk about tackling the problem!”

What kind of ablation did Dr Kerwin perform?

“He ablated tissue in the four pulmonary veins using radio-frequency energy. Leading up to the day of the procedure, he explained all the ins and outs of ablation and set my mind at ease. Following the procedure, I still had a few episodes of Afib and went back to see Dr. Kerwin.”

When was that?

“That was in 2005. For about a year following the procedure, I had several a-fib episodes. And after consulting with Dr. Kerwin again, he said that another procedure would probably be needed. This time he told me about a new technique called cryoablation, which involves using cold energy on tissue instead of radio-frequency energy (which is heat). Dr. Kerwin said that it was safer – he also mentioned again, the small, but real risk of burning a hole in the esophagus when using radio-frequency – and that we should go ahead with cryo because it would probably cure me.”

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

With cryoablation, Dr. Kerwin felt he could be more aggressive. He worked not only on the pulmonary veins, but inside both atrial chambers, which means he treated not only the atrial fibrillation, which, at that time, was the only known problem, but also the atrial flutter. This was an unknown problem in my heart that appeared in the left atrium when he was working on the right atrium. I truly feel that after reading many other accounts of the pain that other people have described during and after their procedure, and the problems that they have had in scheduling it, that Dr. kerwin and Cedar-Sinai Hospital have to be the best in the country. My heart’s electrical system was a wreck, and he completely reconstructed it to the point that I lead a completely normal life.

Have you felt any episodes since the cryoablation?

“Yes, one episode three months after the procedure, which Dr. Kerwin told me to expect. He said it was a normal part of the recovery process and that it would not recur. And it hasn’t. I’ve been Afib-free since, and I can genuinely say that Dr. Kerwin literally gave me back my life.”

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