Patrick's Story- Atrial Fibrillation

Patrick McClure knew he was tired and not feeling well. What he didn’t know was that his heart was functioning at a fraction of its normal capacity. After consulting with his Virginia Heart specialist, Patrick opted for surgery that has changed his life—and left him feeling better than he ever has before.

Patrick McClure just thought he had a bad cold, acquired from walking a puppy “with a very small bladder” in the rain.

But after several weeks, his cold wasn’t getting any better. And he wasn’t sleeping. A friend finally insisted on taking Patrick to the emergency room at Alexandria Hospital. After the ER doctor finished examining him, he asked Patrick how long he’d had his heart condition.

“I had no idea what he was talking about,” Patrick recalled. But before long, he was in the cardiac catheterization lab for tests that ultimately revealed he had three blocked arteries and atrial fibrillation.

When the shock of the news wore off, Patrick sat down with Jeffrey Jackman, M.D., from Virginia Heart to weigh his options. Dr. Jackman told Patrick that he did not have to have surgery immediately, but neither could he ignore the reality that his heart was functioning at a fraction of its normal capacity.

Patrick admits that the thought of open heart surgery was daunting, but the alternative was no better. “The fear was really overwhelming,” he recalled. “But I figured there were two ways of looking at this: either it is a bump in the road, or I could obsess over it and spend the rest of my life as an invalid.”

In the end, the latter was simply not an option for him. So Patrick had triple bypass surgery to address his arterial blockages as well as a procedure called Maze to correct his a-fib. Maze involves making multiple incisions through the atrium. The resulting scar tissue allows for normal impulse conduction through the heart’s electrical system but prevents atrial fibrillation.

Following his surgery, Patrick was determined to be a model patient. He did not want to have to go to a cardiac rehab facility, but because he lives alone, Patrick also knew that he would need to demonstrate to his care team that he could manage his recovery and rehab at home. He made such great progress that three weeks after his surgery, Patrick went right from the hospital back to his fourth floor walk-up apartment. “Going home was a game changer for me,” he said. He hired caregivers to assist him during the first few weeks after his discharge and continued to work hard every day to regain his strength…and his independence. 

Patrick, who will turn 69 this year, is now exercising regularly, following his cardiac diet faithfully and has made room in his apartment for a home gym that will allow him to keep up his healthy routine regardless of the weather. He goes on weekend hunting trips with his friends and Dr. Jackman says he is in better shape now than he was before his surgery. And as for that big scar that now runs down the center of his chest, “I am going to start telling people it’s from a knife fight I survived in the 80s,” Patrick joked.

His friends constantly remind Patrick that he did not let his medical condition beat him. He beat his medical condition. “I have a strong faith and I believe that there is a plan for me every day,” he said. “In the end, I just told myself that I had to concentrate on letting the experts at Virginia Heart do their job because I have a really good team.”