For Vance Mecozzi of Kenosha, an occasional racing heartbeat wasn’t always a big concern. “I could just feel my heart speed up,” the 59-year-old Mecozzi recalled. “Then later that day, or maybe the next, it would slow down again, so I never really thought about it.”
Until two years ago, while Mecozzi was on vacation. “I was swimming in the pool,” Mecozzi said, “and when I got out, my arm was numb. I woke up that night with a heart rate of 200-plus beats per minute.”
At a hospital near where Mecozzi was vacationing in Arkansas, doctors diagnosed his condition as ventricular tachycardia – better known as V-tach. Surgeons there implanted a defibrillator – a device to automatically shock his heart back into normal rhythm when it started beating erratically.
“For six months, I had no problems,” Mecozzi said. “Then my defibrillator started going off as many as six times a week. It was horrible. There was nothing I could do. I tried to work, but the defibrillator would go off and I’d have to go home. It would happen when I was driving. It just totally destroyed my life.”
That’s when Mecozzi’s heart doctor back home in Kenosha – cardiologist Dr. Kevin Fullin with the Froedtert South Medical Group - introduced Mecozzi to a colleague: Dr. Indrajit Choudhuri, also with the Froedtert South Medical Group, and a specialist in cardiac electrophysiology – diagnosing and treating disorders of the heart’s electrical system.
ENGINEERING AND MEDICINE
“I became an electrical engineer first,” Dr. Choudhuri said, “then went to medical school, because I always wanted to bring engineering and medicine together. That’s essentially what electrophysiology is, and I really love the interplay and how it all comes together for patients. I was lucky enough to train under the mentorship of one of the world's first electrophysiologists before he passed away."
“Heart problems can be frightening,” Dr. Choudhuri said, “I want to allay a patient's anxiety, so they know that I'm going to do my best to find the most effective treatment options for them.”
For Vance, that meant what’s called an “ablation” – a minimally invasive heart procedure that can hunt down and eradicate the electrical signals that cause the heart to beat chaotically. It worked.
“It’s been over a year,” Vance said, “and I haven’t had a problem since. There have been no new episodes.”
CURING WHAT AILS THEM
“Cardiac electrophysiology can cure many heart patients of what ails them,” Dr.Choudhuri said. “It can prevent people with heart failure or a weak heart from suffering sudden cardiac death. In almost all cases, we can improve a patient’s quality of life so they feel a lot better.”
“It’s great,” agreed Vance. “I can do things now. I can mow the lawn. I can go for walks. I can do as much as I want. Dr. Choudhuri is a wonderful person” Vance added. “He cares. He’s always happy to see me, and happy when I have good results. He’s changed my life tremendously.”
EXCEPTIONAL CARE JUST AROUND THE CORNER
Receiving leading-edge cardiac care close to home was a big benefit for Vance.
“In the past,” Dr. Choudhuri said, “some people in the Kenosha area have gone to Chicago and Milwaukee for advanced heart care ‘just to be safe.’ People don't always realize that expert cardiac electrophysiology is offered right here, and without a long wait. We see patients who need urgent care immediately, and others the same day or same week. In most cases people who have a procedure can go home on the same day.”
For Vance, the collaboration between the Froedtert South physicians working in Kenosha and the other experts with the Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin network was also very important. “Our clinical relationships with the physicians there are very strong,” Dr. Choudhuri said, “and I have several colleagues there that I can call on for a question or concern if needed.”
A FAMILY TRADITION
For Terry Dawn Walker, also of Kenosha, heart problems were a tragic family tradition. “I had a brother who passed away with a massive heart attack when he was just 30,” Terry said. “My father also passed away from a heart attack.”
Beginning in 2005, that unhappy family history caught up with Terry, requiring bypass surgery and, later, an implanted defibrillator.
Over the years, her heart weakened further.
“I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t walk or do anything,” Terry recalled. “I could barely get out of bed. I might sleep for two or three days, then wake up and have to go back to the hospital.”
“Terry had developed congestive heart failure,” Dr. Choudhuri said, “requiring that I replace her defibrillator with a special defibrillator that recoordinates the way both sides of the heart beat. She was feeling better within days – even able to exercise again.”
“I tell people that Dr. Choudhuri is great,” Terry said. “Now, I can walk a block or two. I’m back on my feet. That’s the best thing that’s happened since my heart problems began.”
A TEAM APPROACH
Terry also gives credit to Dr. Choudhuri’s nurses and staff. “They worked and took care of me and got me back on my feet,” Terry said. Vance Mecozzi agreed with Terry. “They’re all wonderful,” Vance said. “Our whole team is energetic, enthusiastic, educated, and highly skilled,” Dr. Choudhuri said. “Our electrophysiology labs are state-of-the-art, with the very newest and best technologies, allowing us to give the best care to our patients.”
“I’m so glad that Dr. Fullin referred me to Dr. Choudhuri," Vance said. "I tell everybody I love him. He just changed my life that much.” And those sentiments are shared by Terry Walker. “I thank God for Dr. Choudhuri,” Terry said, “because he’s very good. He fixed me up. I go outside on my porch early every morning, and I just look up at the sky and say, ‘Thank you. I’ve got another day.’”
“I love what I do,” said Dr. Chouhuri, “especially when I can discharge a patient and tell them they don’t need to see me anymore because they’re cured. Best yet, I’m able to do that right here in Kenosha, close to home for so many people who need the exceptional cardiac care we provide.”