Surgery with short recovery time beneficial during pandemic

Heart surgeries continue in pandemic, changes made to protect patients

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Every day Mid-Southerners are having to make the decisions that are best for their health, pandemic or not. Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare reports cardiovascular disease and strokes cause the most deaths in Memphis.

One surgery to fix a serious heart condition could be even more beneficial to patients during this pandemic. It’s called atrial fibrillation ablation.

In the age of Fitbits and Apple Watches, doctors said more and more people are being alerted to potentially serious heart problems. That’s what happened to marathon runner and Memphis native Donny Scallions.

“I started monitoring my heart rate and when I monitored my heart rate I started getting these spikes,” said Scallions.

Scallions was sent to Dr. Rajesh Kabra at Methodist University Hospital and learned he had atrial fibrillation or afib -- an irregular heartbeat.

“People who have symptoms like tiredness, shortness of breath, palpitations, lightheadedness,” said Kabra.

Millions of Americans are living with afib, but knowing he wants to continue to lead an active lifestyle Scallions knew he needed to get it fixed. He received a minimally invasive surgery to correct the problem called atrial fibrillation ablation. It uses a catheter to help cauterize tissue creating a faulty heartbeat.

“I’ve had no issues since the procedure,” said Scallions. “I’ve actually [run personal records on] all my distances since.”

What makes this very different compared to other heart surgeries is its short inpatient recovery time. Scallions was in the hospital for just over 24 hours. During the pandemic, some patients are getting discharged even sooner.

“We have started discharging the patients the same day just for the precise reason to minimize their potential exposure to any infections,” said Kabra.

“The less time you stay in there the less chance you have of getting any kind of infection, not just COVID,” said Scallions.

And Scallions used that time to get healthy at home. He was running just weeks later, and two years after his operation he completed an ultra-marathon, which is just over 30 miles, this month.

“We’re going to keep pushing. We’re going to run Chicago, Boston, New York, London [marathons],” said Scallions.

Scallions said the pandemic canceled a lot of his planned races this year, more than a heart problem ever will.

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