Bob Breck just went through another life changing experience. Doctors say his heart was beating so slowly last week that he risked collapsing at any time. His heart rate was 33 beats per minute - alarmingly low - and his doctor sent him to cardiologist immediately.
"Unfortunately when he said your pulse is 33, I've never been that low. He wanted to know if I was getting dizzy. I had no symptoms. They sent me to cardiology right away, and by then my heart rate had gone down to 27 beats a minute," said Breck
For the next 24 hours, Bob wore a heart monitor and he kept it on when he slept that night.
"My heart stopped beating for ten seconds while I slept and that alarmed the cardiologist, and he said 'you have to have a pacemaker,'" Breck said.
Ochsner Cardiac Electrophysiologist Dr. Daniel Morin was charged with getting Bob's heart back up to speed. He says everyone is born with a normal set of pacemaker cells that make the heart beat at a regular rate throughout their life. Over time, that set of cells can slow down.
"A pacemaker is a small, implantable electronic device that helps us regulate a slow
heart rate. It
's a box connected to two wires and the wires connect to the blood vessel that lives under the collar bone. Via that blood vessel, it goes to the heart. One wire goes to the top chamber of the heart and one on the bottom chamber of the heart," Morin explained.
He said if the heart beats at the correct speed, then the device does nothing at all - it just sits there and "watches." But, if the heart rate goes too slowly, then it will pace via a painless electrical stimulus and make the heart beat at a faster rate.
"We make a small incision one-and-a-half inches to two inches right up here in the chest wall in the pectoral region. We make a small pocket big enough to fit this device right into the skin," he said.
Bob was awake during the procedure.
"I love talking to them while they're working because they're so focused.
I wasn't feeling any pain, and after it was over, time goes by very quickly," Bob said.
"He came out of the procedure talking, animated and everything," said Bob's wife, Brenda.
Dr. Morin says pacemakers are pretty common. Last year, his department implanted 450 devices. For Bob and other patients, an arm sling is the only restriction at first. The doctor asks him to wear it a week to he won't dislodge the wires when he raises his arm.
"It's going to be a while before I'm swinging the golf club again. I can get back to work, but I can't raise my arm. They'll understand why I'm only using one arm and I'm not flailing with two," Bob said.
The little guy with the big heart now has a ticker that's back up to speed.
"I want people to know keep check of your health, if you don't take care of your body, your body will take care of you. Stay on top of it. Get those checkups so the doctors have a history of them so he can look back and say 'whoooa, look at what's changed.' In this case, it probably saved my life."