INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — When he was just six years old, John Livers knew something wasn’t right.
“I was playing at school and I had a history of having seizures and high temperatures and things like that, but I lived in a small town and ya know we went to the doctor, ‘Okay, you’re fine,’ but when I was at school, I would run around with my kids and friends and stuff like that and at recess, I would pass out and I’d wake up laying on the ground,” he said.
He was eventually diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect.
“Which is one of half a dozen so called blue baby diseases where if you have it, you may not be blue the minute you’re born but you usually have a blue tone to your skin in early childhood and that’s due to a lack of oxygen that goes to the body,” said Dr. Aaron Kay, Director of Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at IU Health.
“With Tetralogy of Fallot, you have a variety of different defects, but the bottom line is that your valve takes up the blood to the lungs from the right side of the heart is too narrow which makes it difficult for the blood to get out that way and there’s a hole, so the blood is like a river and it flows down hill. So, if you have a high pressure drop off across this narrow area, great big hole here, the blood’s gonna go the path of least resistance so it depends on how severe the narrowing is. But some babies are born with no valve at all.”
John underwent surgery as a child to help with his congenital heart defect.
“Basically was able to lead a normal and healthy life,” Livers said.
He got married. Had six boys and eventually a girl.
“They’re the best things that ever happened to me,” Livers said.
But last July, the life he knew was put on hold.
“It felt like two cats fighting in my heart,” he said.
He was experiencing atrial fibrillation or AFib.
According to IU Health, Atrial fibrillation causes your heart to beat abnormally. When someone is experiencing atrial fibrillation, that electrical system in their heart is not working the way it should causes the heart to contract erratically.
John was taken to IU Health where he would eventually see Dr. Aaron Kay.
“Atrial fibrillation usually comes from these pulmonary veins or the veins that drain the blood from the lungs back into the left side of the heart and it creates these random, little premature heart beats and they just kind of go with no rhyme or reason and eventually over enough time they can organize themselves to a random arrhythmia where the upper chamber might be going extremely fast maybe 300, 400 beats a minute, and instead of squeezing like it’s supposed to when it’s going that fast and that randomly, it just kind of wiggles and shakes,” Kay said.
Something John would experience many more times.
“I think I went to the ER 9 times,” he said.
Taking away time from his family.
“When you’re sitting in a chair and you can barely get up. Your kids are like ‘Hey let’s go toss a baseball and you’re like I just can’t do it. It’s hard,” he said.
But that is no longer the case. In February, doctors at IU Health performed an atrial fibrillation ablation.
“A procedure where we electrically find the circuit causing the AFib and we map it out and try to get rid of it.
John said he felt better right after the procedure.
“I said, ‘If you let me, I’d do cartwheels up and down the hallway’ and they all laughed and I’m like, ‘I’m being serious that’s how I feel.’ I mean my energy level and not being concerned that I would go into Afib just by going and doing something,” John said he told his doctors.
It’s given him the opportunity to return to his normal home life.
“We’ve got camping trips planned, we’ve got things that we’re going to do, stuff that we always took for granted that we did all the time,” he said.
Moments he won’t be taking for granted anymore.
Dr. Kay says Livers was at a higher risk for AFib because of his heart surgery as a child. He also has sleep apnea and high blood pressure, also risk factors.