Today's news that Indians manager Terry Francona underwent a procedure called a 'cardiac ablation' to correct an irregular heartbeat hit close to home for me.
In 1994, I was just starting my sophomore year at Bowling Green State University when suddenly I was not feeling right. It felt like I had a bad cold, maybe bronchitis.
When I went to the doctor, a chest x-ray showed something rather horrifying: my heart was enlarged. I had a condition known as viral cardiomyopathy. In layman's terms, my heart was weakened, making it more difficult to pump blood to the rest of the body. In some cases, it can lead to heart failure.
Viral cardiomyopathy also caused my heart to have an abnormal rate or rhythm. Those irregular rhythms led to a condition called atrial fibrillation. Basically, my heart quivered and was prevented from pumping blood through its chambers as it should, allowing blood to collect in the heart. That puts you at risk for everything from a stroke to heart failure.
My cardiologist, Dr. James Hodsden at Akron General Medical Center, put me on a regiment of medication designed to keep my heart beating in normal sinus rhythm. On occasion, the atrial fibrillation would rear its ugly head and bring back an irregular heartbeat.
When that happened, I would undergo a procedure called cardioversion.
It's just what it looks like in this diagram. You are put into a light sleep, and doctors administer a shock to the heart to try to jolt it back into normal sinus rhythm.
Usually, this worked for me.
In 2010, it didn't. The atrial fibrillation finally got to be too much for me. I was having issues with fatigue, light-headedness, and sweating and had to find a new solution. Dr. Hodsden suggested that I undergo a cardiac ablation.
So what is a cardiac ablation? What did Terry Francona undergo on Thursday afternoon?
As defined by the American Heart Association, an ablation is a procedure that uses radiofrequency energy (similar to microwave heat) to destroy a small area of heart tissue that is causing rapid and irregular heartbeats. Destroying this tissue helps restore your heart’s regular rhythm.
Doctors run a line from the groin straight into the heart, they locate the site of the irregularity, and then send radiofrequency energy directly into the abnormal cells, destroying them.
The procedure can run anywhere from 2 to 6 hours depending on the extent of the abnormal heart tissue. Recovery really is just about making sure the site where the doctors made the puncture to run the line is healed and the heart is responding well.
Just to put it in perspective, I had my procedure on a Wednesday, and started my new job at ESPN Cleveland the following Tuesday. So I have every reason to be optimistic that Terry Francona will be back in the Tribe dugout when the Indians open the second half of a the season next weekend.
So I hope I've explained this well enough for you to understand what Tito went though. Please feel free to interact with me on Twitter at @dinocleveland or on email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.