Doctor restores happy heartbeat

Dr Neil Hendricks performed the first minimally invasive catheter surgery to fix heart palpitations on Enslin Puller st Greenacres hospital this week
Dr Neil Hendricks performed the first minimally invasive catheter surgery to fix heart palpitations on Enslin Puller st Greenacres hospital this week. Picture by: Fredlin Adriaan

Relieved patient pleased with novel procedure available in PE

THERE were smiles all around at Greenacres Hospital as resident electrophysiologist Dr Neil Hendricks completed the Eastern Cape’s first minimally invasive catheter surgeries to fix heart palpitations this week.

Enslin Pullen, of Newton Park, is the happiest patient in the hospital’s cardiac care unit.

“I came in yesterday; going home today. All I have left of my procedure is a tiny blue mark. And the best part is I didn’t even have to go to Cape Town to get this done.”

The 55-year-old former teacher was one of the first patients to have an ablation procedure in the new electrophysiology cath lab yesterday.

The specialist cath lab was opened in November last year.

Pullen said he had been getting heart palpitations for some time.

“The first time was 15 years ago. I’d just played a good game of squash and suddenly my heart started beating super fast.

“I didn’t know what it was. It made me feel very anxious. Of course, once this has happened to you, you will always be waiting for the next time,” he said.

“It is difficult to describe what heart palpitations feel like but let me just say this: it is not a nice feeling at all, especially if you do not know what is wrong with your heart. It is a strange, very uncomfortable feeling.

“I went to see a cardiologist and was given medication. Earlier this year, the doctor referred me to Dr Hendricks, who works as a cardiologist and an electrophysiologist.

“He said he could fix it in the cath lab.”

The procedure is done under conscious sedation and Pullen said it was relatively easy to get through.

“They make a tiny cut in your groin and go in there with the catheter.

“It is fascinating to see the inside of your heart. I felt I was in good hands because I think there were 12 people looking after me during the procedure.

“The doctors explained to me where they were working and what was happening.

“It wasn’t sore at all. My heart is in a good condition.

“My arteries are open. I know this now because I could see for myself.”

Hendricks explained that electricity flowed through the heart in a regular, measured pattern and this formed the basis of heart muscle contractions.

“But sometimes the electricity gets blocked or short-circuited, disturbing normal heart rhythms,” he said.

In some cases the best course of treatment is to destroy the tissue causing the short circuit in a procedure called ablation, he explained.

“We use a catheter to access the heart muscle and collect data that pinpoints the location of the ‘fault’. We can then destroy a small amount of tissue, correcting the short circuit.”

Patients are kept in hospital overnight.

Pullen said he felt very well yesterday morning.

“I am alive. My heart is beating well. I have no operation wound. I am very happy.”

Pullen’s procedure took three and a half hours.

“I was out by 6am. You are awake all the time as the doctors stimulate different parts of your heart.

“There are times that you feel uncomfortable but it is not that bad.

“It is a huge blessing we now have Dr Hendricks here because the cost alone of going to Cape Town for this procedure would have made me think twice.

“I am now off my medication and on my way home,” he said.

-Estelle Ellis

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