At 64, Gail Behrle battled cancer with chemotherapy and the help of her oncology team, but had never seen a cardiologist. That is, until she started feeling her pulse quicken without much activity.
“I would move, and my heart would race like crazy. I could feel my pulse going fast,” Behrle said. “It got up to 200 beats per minute at times.”
Often, patients like Behrle are diagnosed with having panic attacks or an anxiety problem. In her case, doctors recognized it was more. Her oncologist, Dr. Kavitha Kosuri, recommended she see a cardiologist and connected her with Dr. Mark Vogel, cardiologist with Mercy Clinic Heart and Vascular.
“It seemed to be happening more and more, from three or four times a year to three or four times a month, and I was only able to stop it half the time,” Behrle said. “I would be lightheaded, dizzy and see stars. It wiped me out for several hours, and I would just feel terrible.”
As the frequency of the episodes increased, Dr. Vogel suggested additional testing, including a stress test and heart monitor. That’s when Behrle was found to have supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, and atrial fibrillation, often called AFib. She was referred to Dr. Amit Doshi, Mercy Clinic electrophysiologist, who said she was a great candidate for an ablation – a procedure that treats AFib by burning or freezing the abnormal signals and/or pathways that may be responsible for causing the heart rhythm disorder.
“It was easy. They went through the groin area and hit a couple spots,” Behrle said. “When I woke up, I wasn’t groggy at all and could already tell it was better.”
Behrle said she went to the hospital in the morning, left that night and has had no episodes since. She recommends anyone who notices a change in their heart rate to get checked out to see what the problem is and what can be done.
According to doctors, the true prevalence of atrial fibrillation and heart rhythm disorders is vastly underdiagnosed.
“Newer technologies, including wearable devices, are able to provide an earlier diagnosis to a greater percentage of the population,” Dr. Doshi said. “Patients often don’t realize that there are therapeutic options aside from just having to deal with the symptoms. There are options that may actually correct the underlying disorder.”
Behrle, who has 17 great-nieces and nephews, is glad to have her life back.
“I now have regular appointments every three months to make sure everything is working well,” she said.