Strolling through the Geauga County Fair on August 31, 2018, George and Kathleen Poyar stopped for a free blood pressure check at Lake Health’s exhibitor tent. Wellness nurse Barb Lieske, RN, took George’s readings―twice. Then she turned to George and asked, “Did you know you have an irregular heartbeat?”
George explained that he felt okay for a 62-year-old. In fact, he had been training and was scheduled to leave in a few days to hike the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, a 30-day, 500-mile trail across Spain. In the conversation that followed, Barb stated that George’s condition was serious. She advised him to follow up with his doctor immediately and postpone his trip to Europe.
A change of plans
With Kathleen’s concern and the urging of his family, George regretfully postponed the trip. At his doctor’s office, an EKG confirmed George’s atrial fibrillation (A-fib), the most common type of heart rhythm disorder. His doctor explained that, left untreated, A-fib can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. George’s doctor said, “You’re not going anywhere.”
George was able to get an appointment with Robert Goldstein, MD, right away. Dr. Goldstein, a Lake Health clinical cardiac electrophysiologist and director of the Lake Health Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Rhythm Center, specializes in treating patients with heart rhythm disorders. At the appointment, Dr. Goldstein identified another problem: George’s heart muscle was already weakened, most likely by the A-fib.
Shocking George’s heart to restore normal rhythm (called cardioversion) didn’t work for George long term, and medicines to control his heart rhythm didn’t work well enough. So Dr. Goldstein recommended “cryoablation,” a catheter procedure, to restore normal rhythm.
“The electrical signals that cause the heart to beat properly must follow a precise path through the heart muscle,” explains Dr. Goldstein. “Cryoablation uses a low temperature liquid, delivered by a balloon catheter, to freeze and destroy the heart tissue that's interrupting that path and causing the irregular heartbeat.”
The procedure worked, normal rhythm was restored, and his heart function improved. However, adding to George’s health risk, a chest x-ray revealed large air bubbles between his lung and chest cavity (called “blebs”). The condition required surgery. Through Lake Health’s heart surgery program with the Cleveland Clinic, cardiothoracic surgeon Rami Akhrass, MD, performed George’s lung surgery at West Medical Center in Willoughby, relieving the problem.
Back on track
In early February 2019, with normal heart rhythm and function restored and lung issues resolved, Dr. Goldstein said George was “good to go” on his trip.
"Either of those conditions would have put me at tremendous risk if I had gone to Europe without the blood pressure check that resulted in outstanding and much-needed health care. Barb was an angel in disguise, who may have saved my life!" says George.
George completed the 500-mile pilgrimage in April.
Heart rhythm disorders can be serious. Talk with your doctor about your risks and treatment options.
Since 1997, Lake Health has partnered with the Cleveland Clinic Heart Surgery Program to give you local access to leading-edge cardiothoracic surgery at West Medical Center in Willoughby.
Lake Health Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Rhythm Center
The Lake Health Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Rhythm Center offers holistic treatment for heart rhythm disorders: combining advanced diagnostics, innovative therapies, minimally invasive treatments and integrative wellness programs.
Lake West Medical Building
36100 Euclid Ave., Suite 400
Willoughby, OH 44094
Meet the Doctors
Robert Goldstein, MD
Board certified in cardiovascular medicine and clinical cardiac electrophysiology
Director, Lake Health Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Rhythm Center
Office: Willoughby, 440-602-6735
Rami Akhrass, MD, FACS
Board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon
Office: Willoughby, 440-918-4640