When he was healthy, Michael Palmer used to run three or four miles at a time throughout the scenic countryside and lush forests of Laramie, Wyoming. That was before a heart problem slowed him down - way down.
"When my heart was in a normal rhythm, I could run just fine," he says. "But when it was out of sync, the contrast in my function was so depressing. I could barely make it a mile before I started to black out. I also had periods of nausea and erratic heartbeats. I did not want to live my life like that."
He doesn't have to. Thanks to Cleveland Clinic experts, Palmer, 59, should soon be back in running form. Last fall, he flew to Cleveland and underwent a cardiac ablation to resolve his atrial fibrillation (a-fib), a condition that causes the heart to beat chaotically and irregularly. A-fib leads to poor blood flow and causes heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness.
The ablation procedure was performed at Cleveland Clinic in a state-of-the-art electrophysiology laboratory. How was it that a man in Wyoming ended up having surgery in Ohio?
"Here in Laramie, we have a shortage of physicians, and there are no cardiologists," says Palmer. "Since it takes about four months to get an appointment with a doctor, I go to a nurse practitioner. To see a cardiologist, I drive 80 miles to Ft. Collins, Colorado. I can make it there in about an hour and a half, unless it's snowing in the mountains.
"I was seeking a medical solution for my afib, and the Cleveland Clinic was the number one place recommended by several sources. So I went to the Clinic's Web site and talked interactively with a nurse online. She suggested that I look into a service offered by eCleveland Clinic called MyConsult."
MyConsult Online Second Medical 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 program provides remote second medical opinions from Cleveland Clinic specialists for more than 1,100 life-threatening and life-changing diagnoses.
The online service is a perfect fit for Palmer, who is a computer expert. A native of Colorado, he was a college professor at the University of Colorado, where he taught social psychology and computer research. Several years ago, he decided to do something different and moved to Laramie, where he now serves as a consultant and writer of textbooks about computer networking that have achieved international acclaim.
"The eCleveland Clinic MyConsult service fits my lifestyle," Palmer says. "It was great because I didn't have to fly to Cleveland for the second opinion, the forms were easy to use, and I received a quick response. The Cleveland Clinic cardiologist wrote a long analysis that was personalized for me. In it, he summarized the information I had sent him, and he provided a detailed assessment of my condition.
"It was clear he had read through everything and thought carefully about it," he notes. "The doctor also gave me options for treating my a-fib. One of those options was ablation, and he said I would be a good candidate for the procedure. The report was very lengthy. I was very impressed."
Palmer decided to go ahead with the ablation, which is a relatively non-invasive procedure that "disconnects" the pathway of abnormal heart rhythms. During the procedure, a catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted through a blood vessel and into the heart. Then a special form of energy destroys a small amount of tissue, ending the disturbance of electrical flow to the heart and restoring a healthy rhythm.
"I would recommend the Cleveland Clinic and its healthcare professionals to anyone," Palmer says. "Whenever you have an ablation, there's always the risk for puncture of the femoral artery. This happened to me, and I lost a lot of blood. But the Cleveland Clinic took good care of me and made it right.
"The MyConsult service was not only thorough, but it opened the door for me to find the kind of help I wanted," he notes. "After an ablation, it takes two months for the heart to heal. I'm almost at that two-month point. Then I'll get back to running. MyConsult opened a door and made a great opportunity available to me."