Hospitals may never be Bob Helland’s favorite place, but Methodist Mansfield Medical Center offered a welcome lifeline when his heart went haywire last summer and led to an atrial flutter.
The longtime Arlington resident had dealt with atrial fibrillation (AFib) for years, but the pain and palpitations returned in July 2023. His wife, Julia, drove him to the ER, and he says she chose the perfect place.
“I’ve been in many, many hospitals,” says Bob, who tragically lost his teenage daughter to a rare form of colon cancer in 2016. “The staff at Methodist Mansfield was different than any of my previous experiences.”
Bob was surprised by how “super special” the staff treated him and his wife as he was quickly shuttled from the ER to undergo a cardioversion, a series of electric shocks that can restore a normal heartbeat.
“Their actions and kindness helped ease this stress for us more than I have the words to say,” Bob recalls. “That is remarkable.”
Taylor Helland certainly “chose joy” the day she met pop star Ed Sheeran.
Since his daughter passed in 2016, Bob has strived to follow Taylor’s mantra: choose joy.
“She just had a remarkable effect on folks,” he says. “She was always finding joy.”
Some days choosing joy is a tall task, including the last time Bob wound up in the hospital, for atrial fibrillation. Back then, he underwent an ablation, a minimally invasive procedure that uses heat (or sometimes extreme cold) to block electrical signals in the heart.
“That was a different hospital,” Bob says. “And I didn’t have a great experience there. But the procedure worked really well for about a year.”
But in July 2023, chest pains and a racing heart compelled Bob to visit Methodist Mansfield. And from the moment he and his wife entered the hospital, the staff made them feel like “we were the most important people in the world.”
“I had the feeling that everybody in the hospital somehow knew what we had been through with our daughter,” he says. “But we would learn later that nobody knew.”
Cardioversion restores a normal heartbeat using an electrical shock or series of shocks.
During Afib, the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia, the right and left atria (the upper chambers of the heart) are out of sync with the ventricles (the lower chambers).
“Afib causes an increased risk of stroke and symptoms like a racing heart, palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath, heart failure, and light-headedness,” says Amit Guttigoli, MD, cardiologist on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield.
An electrocardiogram helped determine that Bob’s Afib had developed into an atrial flutter, a less common condition where the chambers of the heart beat up to four times faster than a normal rate of 60 to 100 bpm.
While Dr. Guttigoli had performed the ablation that resolved Bob’s previous arrhythmia, this time they would have to turn to another option: electrical cardioversion.
“We had to shock him to get him back into a regular rhythm,” Dr. Guttigoli says. “With a combination of ablation, medications, and cardioversion, we were able to keep him in a regular rhythm.”
During a cardioversion, the patient is first sedated before the doctor delivers an electrical shock through two paddles placed on the right side of the chest and left ribs. The shock resets the heart, restoring a normal heart rate, or “sinus rhythm.”
“When I woke up, everything was just back to normal,” Bob says. “Now I have a really steady heart rate, and I feel much better.”
A yellow butterfly holds special significance for the Hellands, signifying the joy that Taylor spread.
In the days after his procedure, Bob made a point to share his good experience with Methodist Mansfield President Juan Fresquez.
Bob asked how the staff knew about his daughter and what he and his wife had gone through in cancer centers from Houston to Dallas-Fort Worth.
“This was news to him, and he told me every member of the staff is taught that you never know what somebody’s going through during what might be the toughest times in their lives,” he says. “So treat everybody special.”
Bob says the staff embraced that wisdom, just as their daughter Taylor did before, choosing to bring joy to others.
“There are truly special people in this world,” Bob says, “and a heck of a lot of them work at Methodist Mansfield.”
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