High-risk procedure helps Lexington mother with sudden heart problem

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A former high school gymnast, Rae Wagoner knows the importance of exercising and eating right. She enjoys an active lifestyle, running and playing tennis with her son, but that all changed for the Lexington mother three years ago.

"One day I was running, about a quarter of the way through my run, and it was just like I hit a brick wall. My heart just pretty much gave out. I was gasping for air," says Wagoner.

Suddenly, an otherwise healthy 44-year-old woman was very sick and had no idea why.

"After that, walking up the steps in my house was difficult. Taking a shower was difficult. So I was basically housebound," says Wagoner.

Wagoner went to doctor after doctor, but no one could figure out what was causing her weight loss and breathing problems. It wasn't until she ended up in the emergency room and was referred to the UK Gill Heart Institute that she finally found out what was wrong.

"40% of her beats were abnormal. That's a huge number. All of us have some abnormal beats. I'm sure you have and I have. But we have a few of them, and she was having almost every other beat that was abnormal," says Dr. Sammy-Claude Elayi

It took a team of cardiologists including Dr. Samy-Claude Elayi, the director of the Electrophysiology Research Lab at the Gill Heart Institute. They determined she had what's called a V-Tach, or Ventricular Tachycardia.

"This abnormal beat was creating her heart to be not as efficient and contract. As a consequence, her heart started to get tired and she started to have some heart failure. Her body was not receiving the oxygen as it should be," says Dr. Sammy-Claude Elayi

In February of last year, Dr. Elayi and his team performed a high risk but minimally invasive procedure to find and destroy the heart cells causing the problem.
After seven hours, it ended with what's known here as a happy dance.

"When the nurse practitioner told me 'She's feeling better' I did this happy dance like this. This is why I do this job is to make a difference for people," says Dr. Elayi.

Wagoner was excited the procedure was a success but says "I was a little nervous to get my heart rate back up because I was afraid 'What if it breaks again?' Every day I would improve and improve and improve. Right now I'm right back to where I was."

And she's giving thanks for the doctors who refused to give up on her.

"It was just a miracle he and his staff were able to find it and fix it. I'm just so grateful."

Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the U.S. Wagoner's advice is to be an advocate for your health. She says when doctors tell you nothing is wrong, that doesn't always mean they're right.

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