In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 10, 2015

Her Heart Skipped a Beat

By In the Loop

a model of a heart with a stethoscope

Buck Owens and Olly Murs, and many songwriters in between, have made the idea of our hearts skipping a beat sound romantic. For Carol Strittmater of La Crosse, Wisconsin, however, a little arrhythmia goes a long way. In 2012, she started having episodes of fainting that she would eventually learn were caused by an irregular heartbeat. “My heart just stops,” she tells WKBT-TV in La Crosse.

The first sign that something was wrong was anything but subtle. “I was taking care of my little nephew and got him in his crib, and down I went on the floor,” Carol says. But at the hospital, tests were inconclusive. A few months later, she fainted again. At that point, “Doctors at Mayo Health System fitted her with an implanted loop recorder that monitored her heart and tracked exactly was happening as she fainted,” WKBT reports. As Carol tells it, “It was able to determine that I had had an episode with my heart, my heart just stops.” 

An irregular heartbeat, also known has heart arrhythmia, occurs when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats don’t work properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly. That can feel like a simple fluttering or a racing heart, and it can be harmless. However, some heart arrhythmias may cause bothersome — sometimes even life-threatening — symptoms. There are many possible causes. In Carol’s case, doctors didn’t determine the exact cause but implanted a pacemaker “to regulate her heartbeat and prevent another fainting episode,” according to WKBT.

The pacemaker has given Carol her life back, she tells the station, allowing her to once again do things she couldn’t do when she feared she could experience another fainting spell. “It kicks in, and my heart continues beating, so I’m pretty confident,” she tells the TV station. So she’s back on the road (no more depending on family member “chauffeurs” for her mobility) and spending time doing the things she enjoys.

You could knock us over with a feather if you’d share your comments below and share this story with others using the handy social tools. And you can find more stories about heart health throughout February/Heart Month on the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Tags: heart arrhythmia, Heart Month, Mayo Clinic Health System, Patient Stories

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