Every once in awhile, Madlyn Del Grande would feel a tightening in her chest. Her heart would race. She became light headed, feeling like she might pass out. Del Grande learned to live with the sporadic attacks, frustrated that if she ever went to the doctor, everything would appear normal. After careful monitoring, Del Grande was found to have atrial fibrillation (Afib) and atrial flutter, plus a rare condition for women called Burgada Syndrome—which can cause sudden death.
“One attack was so severe, the chest tightening also felt like tightening in my throat,” Del Grande says. “I could feel it in my jaw. I knew something was wrong. My heart was beating so fast, I couldn’t even count it.”
Del Grande’s heart beat could reach 150 to 160 beats per minute during an episode. When these symptoms could no longer be controlled with medicine, Mills-Peninsula electrophysiologist, Christopher Woods M.D., performed ablation to bring Del Grande’s heart into sinus rhythm.
“Some patients with Afib have symptoms that you can ignore, others like Madlyn might pass out and you can’t leave them alone,” Dr. Woods says. “Dr. Frederick Watson caught Madlyn’s condition early and I’m happy to report that she will return to doing all the things she loves. I really try to learn each patient’s goals of care and provide a unique approach to match these goals.”
High-Tech Equipment Generously Funded by Donors
Dr. Woods uses groundbreaking 3D mapping software, purchased through donor gifts, to create virtual reality images of the heart’s electrical patterns. Using a small incision in the patient’s leg vein guiding a catheter to the effected region, he can perform an ablation to correct the irregularities in the heart rhythm. Although Del Grande spent her career as an OR nurse at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, she says she is totally amazed with the skill and technical knowledge of Dr. Woods.
“He blows me away,” Del Grande says. “It is truly amazing. And the technology is beyond anything I can comprehend. We are so lucky to have it at Mills and lucky to have such generous donors.”
Del Grande had a second ablation which Dr. Woods recommended to put her on the path to eliminating her Afib. One in three people will suffer from Afib by the time they are 80. Dr. Woods is energized by knowing his specialty is the only one in cardiac medicine that offers a cure. Even with all of his experience, Dr. Woods says he is amazed to be able to fix this complex arrhythmia in two 120-minute procedures.
Back to an Active Life
Del Grande is busy trying to keep up with her five grandchildren and great-grandson. She admits to being a “clean freak” and was delighted to hear from Dr. Woods that she was cleared to do all the cleaning she wants.
“I had been frightened to do things,” Del Grade recounts. “I love to swim, but sometimes I would have to stop suddenly. I felt like I couldn’t have any fun. After recovering from surgery, it was so great to swim the length of a pool, play with my grandchildren and do things without having repercussions.”