I’ve been physically active my entire life, but in the fall of 2011, my health was jeopardizing my everyday on-the-move lifestyle. The thought of not being able to do the activities that I have always enjoyed—skiing and bicycling among them—was frightening.
It all began with a bicycle accident in Alexandria, Virginia that resulted in a concussion. Within the month, I was seeing my primary care physician Dr. Armand Auger to get a neurological clearance for masters ski racing. Following my exam, Dr. Auger had concerns that I may have had some sort of heart episode that triggered the fall, so he had me wear a Holter monitor for 24 hours, a machine that continuously records the heart’s rhythms. The monitor documented non-sustained ventricular tachycardia (rapid, irregular pulse) associated with dizziness. Dr. Auger then referred me to cardiologist Dr. Paul Sweeney for follow-up care.
Dr. Sweeney ordered a nuclear stress test, which is used to diagnose coronary heart disease. This test that was completed at Franklin Memorial Hospital, measures blood flow to the heart muscle, both at rest and during physical stress, to see if the heart is pumping blood normally. It provides images that can show areas of low blood flow through the heart and areas of damaged heart muscle.
As a follow-up to that test, Dr. Sweeney arranged for a diagnostic catherization procedure to be done at Maine Medical Center with Dr. Heinrich Grube, a cardiologist affiliated with MaineHealth Cardiology. This procedure revealed no blockage or narrowing of the arteries, or leakage from the valves. As someone who rides a couple thousand miles on a bicycle each year, I was thankful for that payback.
The very next day, cardiologist Dr. Andrew Corsello, who specializes in cardiac electrophysiology, performed an electrical study to stimulate the heart to replicate the physical conditions that triggered the initial bicycle fall. Those test results revealed a rhythm disturbance that was reviewed by four cardiologists, who collectively came to the conclusion that a combined defibrillator/pacemaker was indicated.
After having the defibrillator/pacemaker implanted, Dr. Sweeney had some physical limitations for me in place that very first year. Knowing how important it was for me to get back to ski racing, Dr. Sweeney came up with a safe plan to return to the sport by consulting with a colleague, Dr. Charlie Hogue, a cardiologist who also ski races at the masters level. My first races were short, recreational races that I competed in when Charlie was there to monitor
my condition. I then took on increasingly demanding courses throughout the season, culminating in the Alpine Masters Eastern Championships in February 2012. My implanted heart-rhythm devices are monitored 24/7 and absolutely no unusual activity or alarms went off during this entire time.
As the 2013 alpine ski racing season enters the month of March, competitors at many levels will compete for national titles, including me. I recently qualified for the U.S. Alpine Masters National Championships and I look forward to the camaraderie and competition I’ll experience at Big Sky, Montana. I feel great and fortunate that I have no limitations and am able to compete at the highest level.
-Joseph Bujold, Farmington