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Life's Rhythms Restored

  • Author: Jim Crooks
  • Date Submitted: Oct 3, 2022
  • Category: Cardiology

"A procedure to calm his irregular heartbeat has this Clarion man back doing what he loves best"

When Clarion business owner Jim Crooks needed an ablation procedure for his atrial fibrillation (AFib), he realized he had many choices for his health care. But Jim went to Butler Health System, he says, because it’s an easy drive from Clarion and has a reputation for excellent cardiac care. “I felt Butler was more than capable of taking care of me with their level of care,” Jim says. “And I felt extremely comfortable with Dr. Storey.” Jim is referring to electrophysiologist James A. Storey, MD, the Butler specialist who performed Jim’s cardiac ablation. Dr. Storey had Jim back to work at Jim’s family’s 117-year-old men’s and women’s specialty store, which he is passionate about, just a few days after his procedure. “That’s pretty amazing,” Jim says.

A heart out of sync
AFib is a common type of irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia. It occurs when the heart’s natural electrical signals misfire and cause the heart’s upper chambers, or atria, to contract irregularly. Jim’s irregular heartbeats occurred off and on (called paroxysmal AFib) for years. But by 2021, heart¬†monitoring showed that his AFib episodes were happening almost 50% of the time. Although AFib typically causes symptoms such as skipped heartbeats, dizziness, fatigue and shortness of breath, Jim’s symptoms felt something more like panic attacks. “It felt a little like hyperventilating,” he says. “I could tell when my heart went into irregular beats.”

Advanced cardiac care

At Butler, Dr. Storey determined that Jim was a candidate for an ablation procedure that helps restore the heart’s normal rhythm. “He was just a calming individual, and he answered my questions,” Jim recalls. Dr. Storey could have prescribed antiarrhythmic medications to manage Jim’s AFib. But for many AFib patients, ablation can be a front-line treatment to help reduce symptoms and progression of the disease. “Ablation has been shown in clinical trials to be much more effective in controlling the paroxysmal AFib, compared to antiarrhythmics,” Dr. Storey says. For the ablation procedure, Dr. Storey placed two IVs in Jim’s femoral veins (in his groin). Through the IVs, Dr. Storey placed a catheter equipped with ultrasound to visualize Jim’s heart, along with a device to freeze and scar (cryoablation) small areas of tissue that were causing Jim’s irregular beats. Dr. Storey also used radio frequency energy to treat a separate atrial flutter condition Jim had.

Grateful for great care

Jim has had dramatically fewer AFib episodes since his ablation last November. “I feel like myself again,” he says. His prognosis is excellent. The procedure should help keep his heart stronger in the long run too, Dr. Storey says. Jim expressed gratitude for the care he received from Dr. Storey and 23-year nursing veteran Selena McMichaels, RN. She prepped Jim for the procedure in Butler’s cardiac catheterization laboratory. “I walked Jim through every step,” McMichaels says. “This makes our patients calmer and gives us a chance to know them better.” “She was superb,” Jim says.