A Heart Procedure Helped This Pilot Fly Again

Bob Gorrell has always loved flying airplanes. His father was a World War II veteran and a pilot.

“I like the freedom,” Bob explains. “Go where you want to go, not worry about speed limits, soar where the eagles fly. There are so many wonderful things about flying.”

At 35, Bob completed his pilot’s license, but for the last 15 years he wasn’t able to take the controls. That’s because for more than two decades, he suffered from a heart condition called SVT (supraventricular tachycardia).

Johan Aasbo, DO, FACC, FHRS, ProMedica Physicians, explains how this condition affected Bob’s heart. “The normal world we’re in all the time is called sinus. For Bob, he’d have sinus vast majority of the time, but would have short segments of a fast rhythm coming from the top of the heart called supra ventricular tachycardia. A lot of patients have it, but it also can be debilitating.”

For Bob, the condition meant he had to take medication, which made him tired and sluggish. He also suffered from anxiety, worrying about when he would have an episode. Worst of all for Bob, because of requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), he had to give up his pilot’s license and lot a big part of his identity in the process.

Dr. Aasbo suggested Bob undergo a low-risk outpatient procedure called a catheter ablation to get the electrical circuits in his heart back to normal.

“What you’re doing is causing a very small area of a scar,” explains Dr. Aasbo. “Once you take care of the mechanism, then the normal rhythm is able to resume. That’s the beauty of this procedure is that it’s really curative. In 95% of cases, they’re not on medications anymore. And I’ll put it this way, I like Bob very much and I’m going to miss him because he doesn’t need to come back for regular checkups to see me. He’s cured!”

“It’s hard to call things a miracle, but it certainly is to me…”

“He said, ‘You’re cured!’ and I said ‘Hallelujah!'” said Bob. “Believe me, it is hard to call things a miracle, but it certainly is to me because I don’t have to worry about this anymore.”

After the procedure, Dr. Aasbo provided a letter for Bob to take to the FAA to ensure the organization that his heart problem no longer existed. After 15 years, he’s able to take the controls again.

“I relate to these guys, I talk to them,” says Bob of his pilot friends. “You can go to other airports and see other people in airplanes, it’s a whole bunch of stuff. That’s what I missed as much as anything.”

Airplanes have always had a special place in Bob’s heart. Now that his heart is working the way it should be, the sky is truly the limit for him.

Learn more about abnormal heart rhythms and treatment options.