They say cats have nine lives, but a woman in the US has increased that expression by coming back from the dead 10 times.
The 63-year-old retired school teacher has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart muscle disease that affects one in 500 Americans and Britons.
She was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a device that restarts the heart if it stops beating, when doctors diagnosed her in 2003.
They are usually only used once in a patient’s life, if at all.
But the unidentified woman, from Duluth, Minnesota, was saved 10 times in the space of 19 years.
His heart stopped beating for 18 seconds on one occasion.
Doctors at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, said their case shows the “power and durability of devices” to preserve life.
Danish footballer Christian Eriksen received an ICD after he collapsed when his heart stopped beating for five minutes during a Euro game against Finland last May.
The 63-year-old retired school teacher has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart muscle disease that affects one in 500 Americans and Britons. She was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a device that restarts the heart if it stops beating, when doctors diagnosed her in 2003.
The unidentified mother from Duluth, Minnesota had her heart started 10 times over 19 years by an ICD. The electrogram, data from the ICD (pictured), shows her heart stopped beating for 18 seconds during a near-death experience, which occurred at 4am. The device shocked his heart, restoring it to its normal rhythm
The doctors who treated her at Tufts Medical Center reported that the case is “especially impressive” because only a third of the 125 HCM patients treated at their hospital need their ICD more than once in their lifetime. Even so, most only experience one or three near-death experiences
WHAT IS HYPERTROPHIC CARDIOMYOPATHY?
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is an inherited disease of the heart muscle, where the muscle wall of the heart thickens.
It is a genetic condition caused by a change or mutation in one or more genes and that is passed down through families.
It affects one in 500 Britons and Americans. A child of someone with HCM has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease.
It happens when the muscle wall of the heart thickens, which can stiffen the heart muscle.
This can make it harder for the heart to pump blood out of the heart and around the body.
Its main symptoms are shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations and dizziness. Most sufferers have few or no symptoms and lead normal lives.
Abnormal heart rhythms and infections of the inner lining of the heart can develop as a result of HCM.
There is a rare risk of developing a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm, which can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death.
Source: British Heart Foundation
HCM causes the heart muscle to become excessively thick and stiff, making it harder to pump blood out of the heart and around the body.
It is caused by genetic mutations and is passed down through families.
A child of someone with HCM has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease.
Its main symptoms are shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations and dizziness.
Most sufferers have few or no symptoms and lead normal lives.
But a small group are at risk of developing life-threatening arrhythmias, an abnormal heart rhythm that can cause it to stop suddenly, putting them at risk of death.
Stress, exercise, caffeine or other drugs can be a trigger.
HCM used to be the most common cause of sudden death, but the deployment of ICDs has caused the rate to drop dramatically.
Writing in The American Journal of Cardiology, doctors described the case as an “extreme example” of the power of the tiny machines, which are about the size of a matchbox.
Doctors at Tufts Medical Center, led by cardiologist Dr. Barry Maron, diagnosed the patient with HCM in July 2003, when she was 44 years old.
After her son was diagnosed with the condition, she was referred for a scan which revealed that parts of her heart were twice as thick as they should be.
Although HCM was detected early, he was at risk of sudden death as his two brothers had died of the disease when they were only 20 and 34 years old.
So he was implanted with an ICD in August 2003.
It is surgically inserted under the skin, usually in the space just below the collarbone.
Thin wires connect the ICD to the heart, where it is always checking the heart rate and rhythm.
If an ICD senses a dangerous heart rhythm, it sends a series of low-voltage electrical impulses at a rapid rate to try to correct the heart rhythm.
In extreme cases, it acts like a defibrillator, sending large electrical shocks to get the heart pumping again.
Danish footballer Christian Eriksen (pictured) wore an ICD after he collapsed when his heart stopped beating for five minutes during a Euro game against Finland last May.
During the next 19 years, the patient suffered 10 times from life-threatening ventricular fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat.
The first incident was only 17 months after wearing the device.
On five occasions the woman was asleep. It’s not clear if he noticed, but most patients don’t.
During the events, he lost consciousness when it happened.
Data collected from the ICD shows her heart stopped beating for 18 seconds, believed to be the longest duration, during her ninth near-death experience, which took place at 4am.
The device shocked his heart, restoring it to its normal rhythm. The heartbeat must be restored within three minutes to reduce death.
Despite her close brushes with death, the woman has no other symptoms of HCM.
The doctors wrote: “This unique case presentation underscores the life-preserving power and durability of the ICD in patients with HCM.
“In fact, in our patient, the ICD demonstrated consistent reliability for nearly two decades.”
They reported that the case is “particularly impressive” because the device never improperly impacted her or caused any other complications.
And only one-third of HCM patients need their ICD more than once in their lifetime. Even so, most only experience one or three near-death experiences.
“Therefore, experiencing 10 independent device interventions is extraordinary and probably unprecedented in HCM practice,” the doctors added.
They called for ICDs to be used more widely even among those who have only one risk factor for developing the disease, such as family members who have it.