Rex's Cardiology Story
A successful partner in a busy Atlanta law firm, Rex Lamb had little time to worry about his heart condition. Although cardiomyopathy is a serious disease of the heart muscle, Rex was fortunate not to have any of the disease's usual symptoms such as irregular heartbeat, fatigue and breathlessness. His cardiologist was monitoring Rex's condition and had him on a medication commonly used to prevent the disease from worsening and to reduce the risk of complications. Continue Reading
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Five years after his diagnosis, Rex remained free from symptoms and his condition was stable. Still exercising and enjoying his active outdoor hobbies, life was continuing on in a normal fashion.
In early 2007 Rex and his wife, Kathy, moved to Lexington, Virginia. A graduate of Washington & Lee University School of Law, Rex was happy to retire to the rural setting he had grown to love while a student there. That April Rex had first appointment with Cardiologist Chris Friend, MD.
Dr. Friend evaluated Rex's condition and strongly recommended that Rex undergo a procedure to implant an ICD (internal cardioverter defibrillator). Tiny wires attach the ICD to the heart, allowing it to monitor the heart's activity, store information and restore the heart to a regular rhythm should it began to develop a life threatening, irregular beat. It restores the heart's rhythm by delivering an electrical impulse. When this happens, the ICD is said to have "fired" delivering a shock to the heart muscle.
"My first question was 'why would I need an ICD?' I had no symptoms and hadn't experienced any problems since my cardiomyopathy diagnosis five years earlier," shared Rex. "Dr. Friend's response got my attention. He said often times the first symptom is sudden death."
Just a few weeks later, Dr. Friend implanted Rex's ICD. The procedure was done in Martha Jefferson's Electrophysiology (EP) lab, and Rex went home the next day. That next night he was already recovered from the procedure, and he and his wife attended an art gallery party in Lexington.
Another year went by with no heart problems.
On May 15, 2008, Rex arrived at the Lexington YMCA for his morning workout. While on the elliptical trainer, he had a brief sense of feeling lightheaded. Then, without any other warning that he was in trouble his ICD fired three times within 15 seconds, knocking him to the ground.
"I sat on the floor for a minute, coming to grips with what had just happened," shared Rex. "I decided that I felt alright. So I got my car keys and drove home to my wife."
After a call to Dr. Friend, Kathy drove Rex to Charlottesville. Rex was admitted to Martha Jefferson and underwent several tests including a cardiac catheterization. Cardiologists found a major blockage in one of his coronary arteries and implanted a stent to keep the artery open.
When the cardiac device team retrieved data from Rex's ICD, they found that during those seconds when his ICD fired, his heart rate had gotten as high as 260 beats per minute. That's more than four times the rate of a normal heart beat. Without the ICD, Rex's first symptom would have been his last.
"The best decision I ever made," said Rex, "was choosing Martha Jefferson for my cardiac care."
Rex first shared his cardiology experience with us in January 2009.
Cardiomyopathy is a serious disease in which there is a weakening of the heart muscle or a change in heart muscle structure. There are three main types of cardiomyopathy — dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive — all of which affect the heart's muscle and can make it difficult to pump blood and deliver it to the rest of the body. There are many causes of cardiomyopathy, including coronary artery disease and valvular heart disease.
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