Patient Stories

How to Fix a Hole in the Heart

March 19, 2011
Patient Stories

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How to Fix a Hole in the Heart

Like most families, the Gudenraths enjoy spending time together. The only difference is that dad, Mike Gudenrath, just hasn’t had the energy to do it.

“It would start on the way home from work,” he explains. “I would just be dragging. I didn’t want to do anything.”

Once Mike hit the house, it was lights out. He would often fall asleep for the night within an hour of arriving home. This went on for years, until a health scare helped unravel the mystery.

“These little episodes would start where I would just be sitting and my heart would start beating really hard,” he recalls. “You could almost see my chest jumping. Then I would get really clammy, hot and sweaty. It would last about 10-15 minutes and then go away.”

A trip to the CHI Health Lakeside Hospital emergency department ruled out what Mike feared most: a heart attack. But he wasn’t out of the woods; a series of tests would prove even more frightening.

“I remember when the doctor came out and said he has at least one hole,” Mike’s wife Janis says. “I said, are you sure you have the right patient?”

Turns out, Mike had three holes in his heart. One measured 28 millimeters, which is larger than a quarter.

These holes are usually detected in children. But at 48 years old, the fix for Mike would be anything but routine. A friend recommended CHI Health Clinic Interventional Cardiologist Himanshu Agarwal.

“What I told him is, ‘let’s try to fix this without open heart surgery’,” Dr. Agarwal says.

The CHI Health Clinic Heart & Vascular Specialists pride themselves in taking complex, high-risk cases and providing care few can. So on June 10, 2011, Dr. Agarwal set out to plug the holes in Mike’s heart by inserting two large devices through a tiny hole in his groin.

We use a sizing balloon and go up inside the hole,” he explains. “Then we blow up the balloon with saline to see how big the holes are because we have different device sizes. Then we come up with the device to close the hole shut.”

The device is permanent so it has to fit just right. Dr. Agarwal describes it as similar to a stopper with two rims that plugs the hole. And unlike open heart surgery, patients like Mike can go home the next day – already feeling like a million bucks.

“It’s just nice that he’s not always sleeping,” Janis says. “He asked my daughter and I to go shopping the other night. That’s really not like him, so it’s been nice.”

And it’s all thanks to Dr. Agarwal and his team.

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