FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – An abnormal heart condition plagued 21-year-old, Wesley Cuthbert’s life three years ago. Though he didn’t have physical pain, he would have fainting spells multiple times a day and simply didn’t know what was going on with his body. It wasn’t until he met one of Community Medical Centers’ pediatric cardiologists that he got to the root of his heart issue.
Wesley’s been seeing UCSF Fresno pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Athira Nair since his fainting spells began when he was 18.
“She always took care of me–never left any questions unanswered. She was always really thorough with everything and made me feel really comfortable,” Wesley said.
Dr. Nair was Wesley’s advocate, helping him figure out why he was having fainting spells. An electrocardiogram or EKG showed Wesley had an irregular heart beat.
“I saw that every other beat of his was an extra beat coming from the bottom chamber of his heart every third beat his heart is an extra abnormal heart beat,” said Dr. Nair.
Wesley says he never felt physical pain, but Dr. Nair says his heart was getting strained by the extra beats.
His heart had indeed taken a hit in the sense that it had actually grown larger so it was dilated and the function was actually lower than expected–it was mildly decreased.
Wesley was prescribed beta blockers, which cause the heart to beat more slowly and with less force to help lower blood pressure, but they didn’t work.
He then underwent two cardiac ablations, including one at Community Regional Medical Center.
An ablation is a procedure to create tiny scars or destroy the bits of tissue in the heart that is causing an abnormal heart rhythm, but even the ablations did not help restore Wesley’s heart’s regular rhythm in Wesley’s heart.
“It was frustrating you know being hooked up to heart monitors for weeks at a time and you know, going to doctors appointments every month and taking time off of work and traveling to Fresno or San Francisco to see a doctor,” Wesley said.
But Wesley and Dr. Nair never gave up.
With the help of a doctor at UC San Francisco, they did genetic testing and found Wesley had a very rare heart condition that was causing the abnormal heart rhythms.
“There are only about 16 patients in Europe who have been found in the same family to really have this and so it’s incredibly rare. Only about 50 percent of them do well with ablation, 50 percent of them do much better with a medication called Quinidine and so we tried Quinidine on Wesley, and immediately noticed a difference,” said Dr. Nair.
Quinidine is a medication that is used to treat irregular heartbeats. Dr. Nair says because of advancements in genetic testing, they were able to pin point the perfect treatment for Wesley and this young man couldn’t be happier.
“I can finally live life and not have to worry about anything besides taking my pill every 8 hours,” Wesley said.
“Very thankful that we could get this medicine on board and that it worked–an easy fix, thankfully for the problem he has. It’s going to be a lifetime medication, but at least his heart function has normalized now,” Dr. Nair said.