Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
At mile 123 of the Lake Placid Iron Man triathlon, there was perhaps no one more aware of his steadily beating heart than Steve Offenhartz.
A few years earlier, Steve, a carpenter, had been building an addition for a house when he noticed that his heart suddenly started beating rapidly. If he hadn't been an athlete who often wore a heart rate monitor while exercising, he might have written it off as nothing. But he knew this wasn't right.
After several examinations, Steve was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation - a condition characterized by irregular, rapid beating of the heart's two upper chambers. For awhile, Steve was on a drug regimen to control the episodes. Over time, he grew tired of the drugs, which either didn't work very well or had significant side effects.
Steve was referred to Dan Lustgarten, M.D., Ph.D., a Fletcher Allen physician who specializes in the treatment of abnormal heart rhythms. Using a technique called cardiac ablation, catheters are placed in the heart to ablate, or burn, the diseased tissue. The scar tissue can no longer conduct electricity, and the irregular heart beat vanishes.
Steve felt confident in the electrophysiology team right from the start. "Dr. Lustgarten really made me feel that this was the place to be for my condition," he says today. "And Dawn Fragola, R.N., did a great job helping me - and my family - understand what to expect before and after the procedure."
For Steve's type of a rhythm disturbance, it is not unusual for patients to require more than a single procedure to take care of the problem completely. Ultimately, it took two ablation procedures for Steve's condition to be cured.
Today, Steve continues to live a full and active life - whether he's biking through the hills of Vermont or competing in a triathlon. "I sometimes advise other cardiac ablation candidates," he says, "and I tell them that this is the team and the approach that will really make all the difference in their lives. It's a much better way to live."