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Listening to the Beat

Lucille Messer, 86, of Wolcott, remembers the first time she fainted. She was in church and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. When she woke up, she was looking at her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren gathered around the foot of her hospital bed.

Despite a full evaluation, a cause was not identified. Her fainting spells continued.

“It wasn’t something that was debilitating,” said Lucille, who was otherwise in good health. “I took it with a grain of salt.” The oldest of five children, Lucille hails from a large French Canadian family and was raised in Waterbury’s Fairlawn neighborhood. Her father, who was one of 19 children, worked for Scovill Manufacturing Company, one of the local brass mills. Lucille herself worked for American Brass for 10 years and for more than 30 years at Eastwood Garage, a three-generation family business started by her father-in-law, William, and continued by her husband, Charlie, and now their son, Jim. She and Charlie, also had two daughters—Mary and Julie—seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Following her retirement at age 67, Lucille traveled extensively and has remained active in her church, St. Leo the Great, where she volunteers at bingo and serves as president of the Ladies’ Guild. She has lived with her son, Jim, and his wife, Patti, since Charlie passed away in 1995.

Asked what would happen when she felt faint, Lucille said, “I would get these sensations. It wouldn’t last long. I could sense lightheadedness coming and just stopped what I was doing and tried to hold onto something so I didn’t fall."

"It happened once when I was driving,” Lucille said.

Luckily, she was able to park her car safely on the side of the road. Another time, she was in the kitchen, making breakfast. “All of a sudden I was sitting against the kitchen cabinets. I was on the floor. My son called the ambulance.”

Lucille was referred to a cardiologist and a friend recommended Dr. Paul Kelly, Chief of Cardiology at Saint Mary’s Hospital. He diagnosed atrial fibrillation, or a-fib, and prescribed Coumadin. “I was fighting it,” Lucille said. “I never took medication. Up to that point the only thing I took was a multivitamin.” But by January 2015, she began keeping track of how often she felt faint.

“Every time I had one of these episodes, I wrote it down.”

When she shared her journal with Dr. Kelly, he decided that Lucille would benefit from new monitoring technology that records every single beat of a patient’s heart for up to three years. Called the Reveal LINQ™ Insertable Cardiac Monitoring System, the device helps doctors diagnose and treat irregular heartbeats that may be related to unexplained fainting. Lighter than a credit card and less than 4.5 cm in length, the ultra-thin device is inserted just beneath the surface of the skin through an incision that is so small, no stitches are required. The same day the monitor was placed near her heart, Lucille had one of her episodes and called Dr. Kelly, who was able to view the results from the monitor on a computer. He could see immediately that Lucille’s heart was slowing down so much it was causing her to feel lightheaded or faint.

“It was lucky that we were able to get the device in right before she had an episode,” said Dr. Kelly, who explained that no other technology could continuously monitor her heart and help identify the underlying cause of her symptoms. “It worked out great. In a situation like this, we can’t see the episode on an EKG or when we attach a Holter monitor for 24 or even 48 hours because it isn’t happening often enough.”

The Reveal LINQ monitor can also help to rule out heart rhythm issues in patients who are also experiencing infrequent fainting symptoms that are instead caused by blood pressure or neurological issues. In Lucille’s case, the cause was clear. Dr. Kelly referred her to Dr. Aziz Richi, a surgical specialist with Franklin Medical Group, who removed the LINQ monitor and inserted a pacemaker to consistently regulate Lucille’s heart rhythm.

Less than a month later, she said, “I feel good. I feel a little bit more like myself.” Her children are clearly relieved that they now know the cause of her infrequent fainting. “The three of them have not hidden their concerns,” Lucille said. “Even today they still ask me, ‘How do you feel? Is everything all right?’” This summer, Lucille spent her time reading, watching movies, and playing solitaire on her laptop. She is considering taking up painting again, noting that one of her paintings won first prize years ago at a local fair. Most importantly, she no longer worries about getting that funny feeling.

“Of course, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are the joys of my life these days,” Lucille said. “I’m just content.”

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