Dealing with supraventricular tachycardia or SVT has been a way of life for Newport’s Jeri Pishvai, 61, who has suffered with the condition since she was a child. SVT, an abnormal heart rhythm that causes the heart to suddenly start racing, became a daily struggle for decades of her life.
“Most episodes of SVT are caused by faulty electrical connections in the heart,” said Samaritan Heart & Vascular Institute Electrophysiologist, Jeff Hsing, MD
. “Heart rates greater than180 beats per minute are not unusual during an attack, which can occur without warning and can cause fainting, weakness,lightheadedness and chest pain.”
Pishvai has never forgotten her first SVT attack, which occurred when she was 7 years old.
“I was playing hide and seek with friends, and passed out while I was hiding in my closet,” Pishvai said. “It was scary but I ignored it and chalked it up to playing hard all day long with my friends.”
But the attacks kept coming. To cope, Pishvai learned techniques like lying on the floor and breathing deeply to help get an attack under control. But as she got older, it became increasingly difficult to stop the attacks.
“I’ve spent my entire life trying not to trigger an attack,” she said. “Just walking too much or even bending over to do some gardening could cause an attack. It controlled my life. I wasn’t really living.”
In addition to not really enjoying her life, Pishvai also wasn’t getting much rest.
“When I would sleep at night, there was always this buzzing inside my body. My heart would race throughout the night. I’d wake up most mornings feeling like I’d run a marathon,” said Pishvai. “I was tired all of the time.”
And, for Pishvai, getting people in the medical profession to listen to her was difficult.
“People like me suffer with SVT for years without it being captured on an ECG (electrocardiogram) tracing. And it’s hard to get anyone to believe you,” said Pishvai. “I can’t tell you how manytimes I was told there wasn’t anything that could be done and that it was all in my head.”
After a severe attack in 1990, Pishvai ended up in a Portland hospital where a cardiac specialist concluded she did have an issue with her heart. She was prescribed Digoxin, a medication commonly used to treat atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. While the medicine helped her keep SVT under control, the attacks never fully went away.
It wasn’t until last July, after experiencing a severe SVT attack while visiting friends in Corvallis, that paramedics were able to get a reading of her racing heart. Pishvai finally had the proof she needed and was considered a candidate for ablation.
“I was excited, but I had a lot of anxiety. After all, it is my heart we’re talking about,” said Pishvai. “I was referred to Dr. Hsing and Samaritan Heart & Vascular Institute by my primary doctor in Corvallis, and I am so grateful. They were so patient and always listened to me. I had felt so ignored for so long, I am sovery grateful to them for giving me my life back.”
According to Hsing, “An ablation allows us to eliminate the abnormal electrical connection that causes SVT. During the procedure, small catheters are inserted into the veins and threaded up into the heart. We then pinpoint the tissue in the heart which is disrupting or causing the abnormal electrical signals and burn it away with radiofrequency energy.”
“Catheter ablation offers a very high success rate and a low complication rate to cure a condition that is often very symptomatic and troublesome for the patient,” said Dr. Hsing. “It allows patients like Jeri to live without the fear of a reoccurrence of their arrhythmia.”
Pishvai underwent the ablation procedure in September and now, she says that she’s learning how to live and looking forward to living what she calls her “new life.”
“I used to put as little effort as possible into my daily activities because I was afraid of an SVT attack. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve fainted in public. I always was trying to avoid that,” said Pishvai. “But now, life is a whole new experience. Most of my life, I felt like I was like living with an old refrigerator in my chest. I was so used to it I didn’t notice it. After Dr. Hsing did the ablation, it was like the old refrigerator was unplugged. Now, the buzzing inside of my body has stopped and I can do all of the things I’ve always wanted to do and not live in fear. I can’t wait!”
Read more about electrophysiology, the Heart Rhythm Center and Jeff Hsing, MD.
Learn more about common heart rhythm disorders and effective new treatments. Find our more at a free seminar on June 11 at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.