Kerri Powers is an accomplished singer-songwriter, but since age six she has struggled with a heart problem that limited her ability to do the things she loves.
“My heart rate would increase. I could literally see my heart beating through my chest.”
For over 30 years Kerri was repeatedly misdiagnosed while the symptoms were allowed to get worse and worse. First she was told that it was a viral infection; later, that it was a heart murmur; and, finally, that anxiety was causing her heart to pound. Yet none of these diagnoses sounded right to Kerri, and her symptoms became increasingly debilitating.
“I felt like a ticking time bomb,” she recalls.
In 2007, Kerri finally received a correct diagnosis. She suffered from an irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, called atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT), a type of supraventricular tachycardia.
Her physician suggested that she undergo a catheter ablation procedure that had the potential to completely eliminate the problem but, like all invasive procedures, carried the risk of significant complications. Fearing the risks associated with catheter ablation, Kerri opted to delay treatment.
Her situation continued to devolve. Her work as a personal trainer—which centered on speed and agility training—would almost always trigger an arrhythmia. She was unable to run or play basketball without fear of having an episode. Even a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, or a piece of dark chocolate seemed to induce an arrhythmia.
The problems had become so frequent that she found herself becoming intensely anxious whenever she was in an unfamiliar or isolated setting. As a professional musician, Kerri would frequently travel and was deeply afraid that she’d have an issue and not have access to a doctor.
“I tried so hard to abandon the anxiety and hold strong, but the arrhythmia made it so difficult.”
In early 2010 Kerri was scheduled to fly to California for an important performance with Lyle Lovett. The morning before the flight, Kerri was exercising at the gym when she felt the all-too-familiar signs of an arrhythmia. When the pain didn’t go away, she dialed 911 and was taken to the hospital. Unable to stop the arrhythmia any other way, the EMTs administered a powerful and unpleasant medication—adenosine—to Kerri.
The terrifying and painful experience was enough to spur Kerri into action. She made an appointment with her physician, Dr. Joseph Dell’Orfano of St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT, where she learned more about the cardiac ablation procedure. Dr. Dell’Orfano told her about a cutting edge technology, Stereotaxis Robotic Magnetic Navigation, which could perform the procedure with unsurpassed safety and accuracy.
“The overall precision, the accuracy, and the safety of the system” encouraged Kerri to go through with the procedure. “It was comforting to know that this technology would be used for my procedure.”
In July of 2010 she underwent her ablation procedure and couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.
“I was amazed at how smoothly the procedure went. I couldn’t believe how easy [my recovery] was.”
Just a week-and-a-half after her procedure Kerri went on her first run, something that just weeks prior would have certainly caused her discomfort and anxiety. For the first time in years she was able to play basketball. The fear and anxiety that she used to feel when traveling or exerting herself are gone.
“My quality of life has improved three fold,” she exclaimed.
Regarding the role of the Stereotaxis system in her decision to undergo treatment, Kerri unequivocally asserts: “I wish I had done it sooner. I can’t express how important it is to educate patients about the benefits and safety of the system. I would, hands down, tell people that the safety of Stereotaxis makes it worth it. I feel so fortunate to have the quality back in my life, thanks to a wonderful electrophysiologist and to Stereotaxis.”