Wrapping up heart month: Three women share their joy, straight from the heart

A look back at how three U-M patients are doing today

As we near the end of Heart Month, here’s a look back at some of the patients who shared their U-M experiences with us in 2014. All three have a story to tell about the joy in their hearts, thanks in part to the doctors at the University of Michigan.

Baby Ethan is thriving

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Baby Ethan, with brother Emiliano, is thriving.

Last May, a special team joined hundreds of U-M employees on the campus of Eastern Michigan University for the American Heart Association’s 2014 Washtenaw County Heart Walk/5K Run. This effort to help fight heart disease and stroke was particularly meaningful for the team named  “Ethan’s Emissaries.”

The 26-member group was walking in honor of an unborn child who had been diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare condition in which the left ventricle of the heart is severely underdeveloped. Ethan was born May 22, just 12 days after the walk in his honor.

Today, according to his mother, Betty Esquivel, a medical assistant in U-M’s bone marrow transplant clinic, he is thriving. As expected, Ethan has faced several operations, including surgery four days after birth for a heart shunt and again five months later to remove the shunt, which he had outgrown.

Betty says Ethan requires extra precautions to keep him from getting a cold or virus, which could affect his heart. Otherwise, he’s doing even better than U-M doctors originally thought. “He’s gaining weight and isn’t too far behind in his development,” Betty says proudly.

Betty, her husband Andres and their two-year-old son Emiliano have welcomed Ethan into the family with open arms, thankful for the joy this special child has brought to their lives.

Read more about Ethan’s story. Continue reading

Atrial fibrillation patient Jason Henning is riding strong

Catheter ablation results in increased endurance

jason blogThere was a time in Jason Henning’s life when riding a bike might have been a challenge due to atrial fibrillation. Today, he’s sharing stories of last summer’s 700-mile bike riding season across Michigan, Florida and Missouri. And he’s making plans for the upcoming 2015 riding season — which includes his fourth Pedal Across Lower Michigan (PALM) ride — confident he’ll be faster and stronger this year.

That’s because Jason recently underwent a catheter ablation at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. He’s hoping the results will show close to 100 improvement in his A-fib condition. Ablation is a minimally invasive, catheter-based procedure performed on an outpatient basis to treat atrial fibrillation. Continue reading

U-M atrial fibrillation patient is back in the spotlight

The University of Michigan CVC team has extensive experience in treating patients with atrial fibrillation (Afib), an abnormal type of heart rhythm, for conditions that range from simple to complex. Treatment plans are tailored to each patient’s individual needs, with the goal of helping patients realize an improved quality of life.

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Joann Drayton credits Dr. Hakan Oral with helping her get back to the stage.

Sixty-five-year-old Joann Drayton was accustomed to the spotlight for much of her life. An established opera singer and a choreographer for full-scale productions at Jackson Community College, she was active and involved in the things she loved to do. But when diagnosed with Afib some 15 years ago, Joann’s health began to deteriorate to the point where she felt she just couldn’t function anymore. All that changed when she was introduced to Dr. Hakan Oral, who helped her rediscover the spotlight.

Joann shares her story …

“Dr. Oral is a brilliant doctor who gave me my life back. I suffered from Afib and atrial flutter and also had a history of stroke — conditions that I began experiencing around age 50. Through the years, I was put on as many as eight medications, which eventually left me unable to do the things I loved doing. It was difficult for me to walk up the stairs, let alone perform on stage and manage choreography for the theater group at Jackson Community College. Continue reading

Atrial fibrillation: what you need to know

Treatments vary depending on a patient's symptoms and stroke risk

September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness MonthStethoscope and heart ECG

Atrial fibrillation (“a-tree-uhl fih-bruh-lay-shun”), or A-fib, is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that starts in the upper portion (atria) of the heart. A-fib affects more than 5 million Americans and is the most common arrhythmia that leads to hospitalization. A-fib is the leading cause of stroke and is associated with an increase in morbidity and mortality. During A-fib, the upper chambers of the heart beat rapidly and erratically in a chaotic way without any effective muscle contraction. A-fib may develop as a result of changes in the heart due to age. Hypertension (high blood pressure), valvular heart disease, coronary artery disease, over-activity of the thyroid gland or excessive alcohol intake may promote A-fib. There can also be a genetic component. Continue reading

Back on top after mitral valve repair

Former U-M resident shares his story

Dr. Mel Twiest is back on top of the world, hiking 54 miles of England's Southwest Coast Path following surgery for mitral valve repair.

Dr. Mel Twiest hiked 54 miles of England’s Southwest Coast Path following surgery for mitral valve repair.

Dr. Mel Twiest, a general surgeon who attended the University of Michigan medical school and completed his residency at U-M in the early 1970s, found himself back in familiar surroundings recently, but this time in the role of patient. After experiencing shortness of breath while hiking in the mountains of Santa Fe a few years ago, the 70-year-old doctor realized something was wrong. He was diagnosed with severe mitral valve disease. After several procedures, including mitral valve repair, Dr. Twiest credits the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center team for getting him close to his goal of climbing a mountain again.

Dr. Twiest shares his experience …

I had my first encounter as a patient at U-M in February 2013 for an ablation procedure performed by Dr. Hakan Oral. He and the entire CVC team came highly recommended, so I didn’t hesitate to travel from Tennessee to Michigan for the procedure, which was successful. But Dr. Oral warned me at the time that I was going to get into further trouble with my mitral heart valve. Unfortunately, he was right. Continue reading

Atrial fibrillation – what you need to know

Causes, symptoms and treatments of afib vary

red-heart-stethoscopeAtrial fibrillation (a-tree-uhl fih-bruh-lay-shun), or “afib” (ay-fib), is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that starts in the upper parts (atria) of the heart. A common type of arrhythmia in those over the age of 60, “atrial fibrillation is being diagnosed with increasing prevalence,” says Michele Derheim, director of clinical operations at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center and a registered nurse. “The quicker you’re treated for an afib condition, the better your chances are for good cardiovascular health.”

Continue reading