Matters of the heart

Regaining spirit, life with a pacemaker

When the heart is not functioning properly, it can leave a person feeling fatigued, disoriented and lifeless. At 40 years old, Julie Clifford was a wife, mother of three young daughters and a small business owner. She understood how her busy life affected her health and was accustomed to the general weariness that came with being a working mom. However, when her energy dropped to an unfamiliar level, she knew something more serious was wrong.

“I went to several doctors and their responses were always the same: ‘You are the mother of three young children. You should expect to feel tired,’” Clifford said. “But I knew my body and knew something was wrong.”

Nearly three years after the onset of her symptoms, Clifford’s physician confirmed she had viral cardiomyopathy — a condition caused by a viral infection in the heart. From that point on, Clifford took on a fighter’s spirit.

“My attitude played a strong part in my recovery. When I was first diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, I got on the Internet to learn more about the condition,” Clifford said. “The first line I read said the average life expectancy for someone with this condition was five years. I immediately clicked off and never looked back. I refused to lie down and die.”

Clifford was put on seven different medications to fight the virus and assist with her heart function, but her condition improved only slightly. Her physician approached her about an alternative treatment — installing a special type of pacemaker/defibrillator to help resynchronize her heartbeat and restore heart function.

According to Clifford, she felt she had nothing to lose and immediately agreed to the procedure. Her pacemaker was installed nearly eight years ago by the team at the Heart Rhythm Center (now named Heart Rhythm Program), led by cardiologist David E. Mann, M.D.

The Heart Rhythm Program provides comprehensive care for patients experiencing conditions affecting heart rhythm. It is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and staffed by an experienced group of physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners and technicians.

“Our team works solely on the diagnosis, treatment and management of patients with heart rhythm disorders,” Dr. Mann said.

Clifford credits the team at the Heart Rhythm Program for educating her about her heart condition and guiding her through treatment.

“You can get lost, confused and overwhelmed during treatment. There are a lot of questions,” she said. “But the team at Norton Healthcare was there through it all — no matter what came up.”

After the pacemaker was implanted, Clifford’s recovery seemed almost immediate. She recalls the color returning to her cheeks and the feeling of warmth in her toes. Since the onset of her symptoms, Clifford had gained weight due to her lack of energy and immobility. After the procedure, she was able to become more active and begin losing weight.

“[The pacemaker] changed everything,” she said. “I instantly felt better, felt stronger. I was able to lead a normal life again.”

Today, Clifford is healthy and living a normal life with much to look forward to in the near future.

“I am expecting my first grandbaby in the spring. Life couldn’t be better,” she said.


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