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After heart procedure, Gig Harbor man regains active lifestyle
A story about this patient also appeared in The Gateway newspaper:
For the first time in years, 63-year-old Bill Stuenkel can walk nonstop from the Gig Harbor waterfront up to his house on Peacock Hill.
Back when Stuenkel was on medication to treat his atrial fibrillation, the steep seven blocks required a rest break every few minutes.
“It would take me about five stops,” Stuenkel said this week. “I could make it, but I’d have to catch my breath. If you’re heart is going 90 (beats per minute) and it should be going at 130, you’re oxygen deprived. It’s almost like you’re gasping for breath. It’s a weird sensation. My heart just wouldn’t go.”
In May, Stuenkel underwent a cardiac ablation procedure by Dr. Tariq Salam at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital. The procedure corrected his heart rhythm problems, and Stuenkel has been pleased with the results.
“I am completely off all medication now and I’m back to exercising,” Stuenkel said. “I’ve restarted my membership to YMCA here in Gig Harbor. I go in and exercise two or three times a week. I took some weight off and I’m feeling a lot better.”
For about 12 years, Stuenkel had treated his atrial fibrillation with a series of different medications. That worked well for about 10 years, as the medication kept his heart from racing. But Stuenkel eventually reached the point where more medication and stronger medication was needed.
Even at rest, his heart rate would often shoot from about 65 beats per minute to above150 beats per minute.
“I could feel it happening,” Stuenkel said.
The condition grew progressively worse – and one time lasted three days. That was in 2009, and his heart needed to be stopped and restarted with an electrical shock.
Additionally, his medication was in effect around the clock, so when Stuenkel tried to exercise, his heart rate wouldn’t get up to speed.
“When I’d exercise, I’d be fatigued in about two minutes,” Stuenkel said. “I really couldn’t exercise, and that was the downside of it. I got frustrated. I told the cardiologist, ‘I’ve had it.’ I want to be active and exercise and hike.”
“I’ve had no recurring symptoms. The A-fib is gone,” Stuenkel said. “It’s been totally positive for me.”
Posted on Dec 23, 2011 in Cardiac