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Implantable defibrillator offers 'insurance policy' for father's heart

Implantable defibrillator

One afternoon last fall, Mario Williams took a short walk down his block. He was exhausted by the effort and his muscles burned; he couldn’t breathe.

Just a few days later, two days before his 40th birthday, his fiancee, Angela See asked him to go to work with her in the morning. She had been concerned about his health and the symptoms he’d been having. Instead of going to her office, however, Angela drove Mario straight to the Emergency Room entrance at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis.

He sat in the car for at least 10 minutes. He wasn’t sure he really wanted to go in. He thought he might have pneumonia.

Finally, Angela convinced him to go in.

Mario’s ‘insurance policy’

An EKG showed problems with Mario’s heart that indicated he is at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. The cardiologist prescribed a LifeVest wearable defibrillator for Mario, but he found it frustrating. It alerted the physician when Mario wasn’t wearing it, so Mario was referred to David Margolis, MD, who specializes in cardiac electrophysiology, which focuses on heart rhythm issues.

“Mario was a good candidate for a new subcutaneous internal defibrillator, called the S-ICD,” says Dr. Margolis. This is a device that can shock Mario’s heart to reset his heart’s rhythm if it stops beating.

The device doesn’t treat Mario’s heart condition, but it does act as an “insurance policy,” says Dr. Margolis.

“Angela thought I would die,” says Mario. “But I feel so much better having the S-ICD there, just in case.”

Life changes

Mario hasn’t let the device slow him down because he feels so much more confident having it. He has been healthy all his life, having never been hospitalized before this. He works out at least three times a week and plays basketball with his and Angela’s kids.

After spending many years as an over-the-road truck driver and heavy equipment hauler, Mario has temporarily taken on the role of a stay-at-home dad. He makes sure all the homework gets done, attends the kids’ sporting events and parent-teacher conferences, and generally takes care of things at home.

He taught Mary, 13, to shoot a basketball, and encouraged Jeremy, 15, to participate on his high school track team.

Mario plans to return to college in the fall to finish his associate degree at Butler Community College.

‘Happier than I’ve ever been’

Mario says that because of the care he has received at the Via Christi Heart Failure Clinic and from Dr. Margolis, he feels so much better than he did a year ago.

“I’m able to notice when I have symptoms, thanks to the care and education I’ve received at the Heart Failure Clinic,” he says. “The nurses and staff there are awesome. I can call any time if I’m not feeling right.”

Doctors don’t know what actually caused Mario’s heart condition. He says that thanks to the great care he’s received, “I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.”

“If there’s one good thing to come out of getting sick, it’s shown me what’s really important in life,” he says. “I tell everyone I meet that they should go to Via Christi.”

About Via Christi Health