Phyllis

specialty: Cardiac Arrhythmia

'Oma', 70, Bronx NY

Seventy-year-old Phyllis Steel is one of the most athletic retirees you’ll ever meet. Skiing moguls, playing tennis, she does it all. But her favorite time of each day is the forty-five minutes she carves out to swim.

I love swimming. It’s my meditation.

I love swimming. I’ve always been a good swimmer. It’s my meditation, I can do my own thing, relax, let any thought processes go in and out. And take all the stress away from my life and I become a new… I become refreshed and renewed. It’s wonderful.

But something threatened her athletic lifestyle when she developed an irregular beat in the upper chambers of her heart.

I would wake up in the middle of the night with a racing pulse. It’s unsettling.

I would wake up in the middle of the night with a racing pulse. I mean, I’m lying down in bed, and my pulse is 160, 165, like I’m doing cardio. It’s unsettling. It takes your body over. You can’t concentrate on anything. You don’t know what to do. Do you walk? Do you stay in bed? I’m constantly taking my pulse. Is it lowering? Is it steadying? It’s an unnerving situation.

Recognizing that these ailments had to be fixed, she sought out prominent electrophysiology specialist Dr. Luigi Di Biase at Montefiore.

As soon as I met him, I felt his confidence. I never panicked when I was around him.

As soon as I met him, I felt his confidence. I loved him. I never panicked when I was around him. He said, “Don’t worry, this is not a life and death situation, you can handle it. We’ll handle it. We can do one of two things; I can zap you into sinus rhythm or I can do an ablation.” And I remember looking at him, this young, handsome doctor, and I said, “If it was your mother, what would you do?” And he just smiled and says, “I would tell my mother to do the ablation.” (And) I said, [CLAP] “Then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Ablation is basically you go in the heart and eliminate the electrical signal that is responsible for that arrhythmia.

Luigi Di Biase, MD, PhD

Ablation is basically you go in the heart and eliminate the electrical signal that is responsible for that arrhythmia. The most common energy source utilized is radio frequency energy which is heating. We basically heat tissue. And by destroying some of the tissue we destroy the electrical conduction that is below that tissue so that no more abnormal electrical activity can originate in the heart of that patient, and then the patients are free of medication and they can go back to a normal life.

I remember being wheeled in and there were like five or six computers.

It looks like we are playing a video game like Pac-Man

Phyllis: I remember being wheeled in and there were like five or six computers. And I think they don’t even look at the patient, they’re just doing it [LAUGH] via the computers. It’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing.

Dr. Di Biase: It looks like we are playing a video game like Pac-Man because we’re working on the heart without an open chest. We just go in the heart with wires, with catheters. So we use this three-dimensional system so you can see this 3D view of the heart with more red, more purple, more yellow, according to the amplitude of the signal that we’re recording the heart. So when we move the wires of the catheters in the heart it looks like we’re playing video game to go from point A to point B and we want to destroy and fill with and every point when we burn we actually give a red dot into the map so it looks like we’re filling the map with dots.

Today, Phyllis is doing great and back in the pool. She’s even planning a special trip with her four grandchildren now that “Oma” is back on her feet.

I had so much confidence in Dr. Di Biase, I was never scared. He gave me a gift of life back all over again

I had so much confidence in Dr. Di Biase, I was never scared. I’m very grateful that I had Montefiore, that I had Dr. Di Biase, that he gave me a gift of life back all over again, you know. And I’m able to do the things that I really wanna do. My experience at Montefiore was fabulous.

Meet Dr. Luigi Di Biase

  • Section Head of Electrophysiology
  • Director of Arrhythmia Services
  • Professor of Medicine (Cardiology)
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