I am a 12-year UVM Medical Center employee who needed to utilize the services of the Arrhythmia Service I later worked for. As someone who has first-hand knowledge of how complicated and how successful arrhythmia treatments can be, I wanted to share my story.
My first experience in 1997 was as a patient who was having what I thought was a cardiac problem. My symptoms consisted of chest pressure, sweatiness, losing my vision (but not my hearing) and feeling the need to have some fresh air. There was no pattern and the episodes had a very rapid onset. These episodes occurred over a period of nine months, while I was seeing multiple doctors and having multiple tests, some of which were cardiac tests.
I was finally referred to the UVM Medical Center Arrhythmia Service and doctors Joseph Winget and Mark Capeless. With their cardiac expertise and a simple test ordered, my problem was diagnosed in three days: I had ventricular tachycardia and atrial flutter. Their plan of care involved an immediate admission to the hospital and multiple cardiac tests to be completed in one day. I immediately was very frightened, seeing how quickly they were trying to complete all of my testing. As a mother of three children the thoughts in my mind for my health and care for my children were very frightening. My youngest child was utilizing pediatric cardiology services which resulted in a trip to Boson for a pacemaker implant for him. However, the calm demeanor and reassurance from my cardiac doctors placed me in a more relaxed state.
The next five years consisted of taking medications which worked initially but usually failed in three to six months. I continued to try new medications or combination of medications. Ablation of my dangerous rhythm was unsuccessfully attempted twice.
During these five years of complicated medical care, the support and confidence that these two doctors gave me sparked a real interest for me to better know and understand the complexity of the heart. I soon became the scheduler for the Arrhythmia Service. I worked closely with referring providers to bring patients from out of state into our system of care. I would meet them in registration and guide them where they needed to go. I gave them my pager number and showed them how to pick up a black phone and page me if they needed to reach me. I felt it was hard enough for patients to come a long distance to our hospital, so I wanted them to feel as comfortable as possible while they were here.
With my first hand experience and knowledge learned on the job, I felt more able to understand my condition and also formed a strong bond to the patients we were serving. I was able to discuss my experience with patients; they often felt more at ease after discussions with the doctor and then hearing my personal experience.
In my sixth year of treatment, technological advances had come along and the UVM Medical Center was fortunate to have two well known arrhythmia specialists, Dr. Peter Spector and Dr. Daniel Lustgarten join our staff. Those specialists performed my successful ablation in 2003.
In the last seven years I have not had any break through episodes – meaning I haven’t had any cardiac symptoms – and I’m currently off all medications for my cardiac arrhythmia. I feel fortunate to have such a well known, respected program in close proximity to my home.
Judith Reposa is currently a Surgical Clinical Office Assistant at the UVM Medical Center. She worked for the Arrhythmia Service for eight years.