Calvin Bowen has been happily driving trains for 38 years. But when his heart started beating irregularly, it almost derailed his career as an engineer with CSX Corporation.
"I was feeling weak and fatigued," says the 65-year-old resident of St. Alban's, WV. "You can't drive a train very well when you're half asleep. It took me a while to figure out what was wrong - that it was my heart."
Bowen had developed atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that more commonly occurs as people get older. During atrial fibrillation, the heart beats chaotically and irregularly. This leads to poor blood flow to the body and causes heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness. The condition also increases a person's risk of developing blood clots that may lead to stroke.
Under the guidance of his cardiologist near his hometown, Bowen underwent electrical cardioversion, a procedure that uses an electric current to try to reset the heart's rhythm back to its regular pattern. Unfortunately, the procedure failed to correct Bowen's erratic heartbeat.
"When the electrical cardioversion didn't work, my cardiologist suggested I go to Cleveland Clinic," Bowen says. "He told me they have a whole wing of the hospital devoted just to atrial fibrillation. I figured why not go to a place where they deal with this everyday?"
At 265 miles away, it is a four-and-a-half-hour trip for Bowen to get from his home to Cleveland. Yet, this would not deter him from seeking top-notch care. So he called Cleveland Clinic to discuss his problem. To his surprise, they suggested that he use an online program from Cleveland Clinic called MyConsult.
"They charge a fee to use the service, but it was a lot cheaper than traveling to Cleveland," says Bowen. "So I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did."
Getting in rhythm
The MyConsult® Online Medical Second Opinion program is a sophisticated, Web-based extension of Cleveland Clinic's 90-plus-year role as one of America's most respected referral institutions. The secure, online service provides medical second opinions from Cleveland Clinic specialists for more than 1,200 life-threatening and life-changing diagnoses.
Thanks to expert advice provided by the Clinic's cardiology specialists via MyConsult, Bowen determined that he should have a cardiac ablation, a minimally invasive procedure that involves destroying abnormal heart tissue with catheters heated with radiofrequency energy.
"I'm in rhythm now," Bowen says. "MyConsult worked real well for me. The MyConsult physician reported back to me and explained everything and sent information. I'd recommend MyConsult - especially for people who have a long-distance drive to the Clinic. It saves time and money and decreased my anxiety.
"I was real impressed by Cleveland Clinic," he adds. "When we arrived, we got right in to see the doctor, without waiting. Everyone was real helpful. There is a doctor in my area who does ablations, but I felt more comfortable coming to Cleveland Clinic, where they do ablations all the time.
"My wife, Brenda, and our children are also happy with my outcome," Bowen notes. "I plan to enjoy my job as a train engineer through the end of the year. Then I'll retire and have fun hunting and fishing."