Patient Testimonials

Kindergarten Teacher Returns To The Classroom

Doris Van SickleIn 2002, Doris Van Sickle, a 46-year old kindergarten teacher, began to experience rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, and dizziness. “I was in the classroom and I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “My heart was literally skipping beats.”

After the symptoms continued for a couple years, Doris was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation, a rapid irregular heartbeat caused by faulty electrical signals. The condition caused Doris’ heart rate to soar to nearly 250 beats per minute. Every couple months she was given a new medication. “I felt really, really bad all the time, even when my heart rate was normal,” she said.

Doris was referred to the George Washington University Hospital Cardiovascular Center, where she scheduled to have a cardiac ablation procedure with Dr. Haroon Rashid. During the procedure, which relies on the most advanced technology, doctors use high frequency radio waves to “zap” abnormal heart tissues and correct the heartbeat. During Doris’ surgery, a camera showed images of a blood clot and doctors had to stop the procedure, probably saving her life. Doris returned for the cardiac ablation two months later.

Since then, she has returned to her normal life. “Thanks to GW, my heart is stronger than ever and I’m back, doing what I love most… teaching.” To anyone experiencing similar symptoms, Doris says: “You don’t have to live like that! There is a procedure!”

GW Uses Non-invasive Treatment For DVT

In the course of 11 years, Richard Hillman, 73, suffered three attacks of blood clots, but had no family history of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots. In 2006 he experienced shortness of breath and a cramping pain in his legs that would not go away. Doctors told him that the blood clots in his legs were caused by DVT. Because of a recent brain hemorrhage and evacuation surgery, the typical treatment was too dangerous.

Although the blood clots were too severe to dissipate normally, Hillman could not take traditional medications to prevent them. In order to prevent bleeding in his brain, Mr. Hillman had to stop taking his blood thinner, Coumadin. Doctors at The George Washington University Hospital, led by Dr. Anthony Venbrux, Director of Interventional Radiology, used an innovative, minimally invasive technique to vacuum the blood clots and restore blood flow to his veins. Hillman had been to another hospital because of the blood clot, which was a side effect of his hospitalization and brain surgery, but GW had the equipment and surgeons to treat his special case non-invasively. “We came to GW because of Dr, Venbrux and because of the equipment and procedure that he uses,” said Richard Hillman’s wife, Ava.

Mrs. Hillman said she appreciates the care given to her husband and the comfort doctors brought to her family. “Dr. Venbrux is not only a leader in his field, he is a compassionate man,” she said. “He and the support staff at GW Hospital certainly helped my husband and I with his complete recovery from a very serious medical situation.”

Heart Intervention Allows Fundraiser To Resume Travels

Minchau NguyenBefore boarding a plane for a business trip in June 2006, Minhchau Nguyen, 56, felt dizzy walking up the stairs. She has three brothers who have had bypass surgery, and her father had a stroke, but Minhchau, who has kept high blood pressure under control with medicine, diet, and exercise, had never experienced heart attack symptoms. Taking the advice of her family doctor, Minhchau cancelled her flight and took a stress test. She collapsed during the stress test and an echocardiogram (EKG) showed that her arteries were blocked. Her doctor recommended a cardiac catheterization, and Minhchau was rushed by ambulance to The George Washington University Hospital.

Cardiologists at GW Hospital, led by Joel Rosenberg, MD, director of clinical cardiology, performed an angioplasty procedure and implanted a stent into Minhchau’s right coronary artery, restoring the flow of blood to her heart and saving her life. “GW Hospital was very efficient in preparing for the procedure and I was out of danger in less than two hours,” Minhchau said.

One month after the procedure she was able to resume her regular travels abroad- as an international fundraiser she travels 90 days a year. Having always eaten a balanced diet, Minhchau eats less meat and more fruits and vegetables. She takes medication to treat her left artery, which was 50 percent blocked, and continues to exercise.

Now, Minhchau, who lives in Washington, D.C. and is the mother of two boys, ages 23 and 26, is completely free of symptoms and is able to do all the activities she enjoyed before the procedure, including aerobics, kickboxing, dancing and skiing. She says she feels great and has no problem enjoying her active lifestyle.

“I feel quite safe thanks to the timely intervention from Dr. Rosenberg and GW Hospital,” Minhchau said.

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