A Small Heart Device Got This Coach Back on the Field

After three decades of coaching high school football, there’s still nothing that gets Chris Hardman’s heart pumping like teaching and mentoring kids on the field.

“My job is to help them be the very best they can be,” said Chris. “How can I take their God-given skills—physically or emotionally—and help them be at their very best. That’s the simple goal I’ve always had as a teacher and a coach is to bring that out.”

It was on the football field, during a high school varsity game, that Coach Hardman first noticed his heart beating unusually fast.

“It felt like my heart was beating out of my chest,” he explained. “It wouldn’t stop. It would eventually diminish and go away but there wasn’t anything I could do at the moment to make it stop.”

“It felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. It wouldn’t stop.”

Chris ignored the heart episodes for several months, but when he started feeling an ongoing deep fatigue, he made an appointment with his doctor and by a stroke of luck, Chris experienced a heart episode at the checkup.

“I went through some checks and when the doctor came in we started to talk and I said my heart’s beating quickly. He said, ‘No, you’re in the middle of AFib and we’re taking you to ProMedica Toledo Hospital right now.”

Coach Hardman was diagnosed with the most common heart problem–atrial fibrillation, or AFib, a rapid, irregular heart rhythm, which Kamala Tamirisa, MD, FACC, FHRS, calls an epidemic. Dr. Tamirisa is a cardiac electrophysiologist who sees patients at the new ProMedica Heart Rhythm Center.

“One in four patients over the age of 65 will have AFib,” said Dr. Tamirisa. “AFib has two components to it. One is: It could cause the symptoms where the patients have fatigue, like in Coach Hardman, or make them lose consciousness, dizziness, chest pain, those kind of symptoms. Or, the heart can get weak and they could go into congestive heart failure. The second component of AFib is stroke risk. It’s a major risk factor for stroke.”

Dr. Tamirisa told Coach Hardman he’d need a pacemaker to keep his heart rhythm steady and avoid the risk of heart failure or stroke.

“The pacemakers now are very small. You can’t even see much of a bump under the skin,” explained Dr. Tamirisa. “Risk of the procedure is less than 1%. It’s a 45-minute procedure. If we do the procedure in the morning we wouldn’t hesitate to discharge the patient later that day.”

Five years later, the solution has proved a good one for Coach Hardman. The fatigue is gone, he’s in top physical condition and at age 66 feels he still has lots to contribute on and off the football field.

“Since the pacemaker I’ve not had any more episodes and I see her every 6 months,” he said. “I told my health class my goal has always been to live to be 100. There’s so many reasons to have not only quantity of life, but quality of life. I guess it eased my mind. I’m still gonna go-go-go and there is some reassurance my heart is going to be able to handle it.”

Do you know the risks and symptoms of AFib?

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