B.J. Marsh breathes easily these days. But for the Missouri state representative and motor coach company owner, that was not always the case.
A self-described Type A personality, Marsh balances legislative commitments with the demands of running Marsh Travel, a motor coach touring company. For the last few decades Marsh had to live with atrial fibrillation.
"My heart would go into A Fib and I would collapse," he explains.
During the 1980s, Marsh was initially treated in Missouri, where a physician implanted a pacemaker. When the device and medications did not offer relief, Marsh's cardiologist referred him in 2004 to electrophysiologist Andrea Natale, MD.
Following an evaluation, Dr. Natale performed a cardiac ablation. Marsh's heartbeat had become so irregular and his condition so severe that Dr. Natale cautioned that he would probably not be able to ablate each section of the heart that was triggering the A Fib. Marsh would most likely require a second ablation.
"If I had gone to see Dr. Natale first, I would not have had needed the pacemaker," Marsh explains, "but it was already in place so it had to stay. After Dr. Natale performed the ablation, I was back on my feet again. Any procedure involving the heart is serious, but if you have a physician like Dr. Natale, there is really no fear."
Back in Springfield, Marsh returned to his fast-paced lifestyle, running his business and fulfilling his legislative responsibilities at full throttle.
"I personally think Dr. Natale saved my life," he recalls. "I know how I felt before the ablation, and how much better I felt afterward." The state representative's condition had improved markedly but as Dr. Natale had initially cautioned, there would come a time for additional ablations. That time came four years later.
"My heart rhythm became abnormal again," Marsh explains. "I began to feel bloated and short of breath. I never felt that I could breathe deeply enough and could not even bend over to tie my shoes; I had to sit up quickly and catch my breath."
In the spring of 2008, Marsh called Dr. Natale, who had recently relocated to Austin to become the Executive Medical Director for the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute (TCAI). A cardiac ablation was scheduled for August 21 at St. David's Medical Center.
"The nurses at St. David's explained everything to me," Marsh recalls. "Dr. Natale, his staff and the hospital all put me at ease. I felt like an individual, not a number."
Dr. Natale performed Marsh's procedure at noon and by that evening he was in a hospital room eating a turkey sandwich. Marsh was discharged the following day; he and his wife Joanie spent the weekend in an Austin hotel before seeing Dr. Natale on Monday.
Marsh now feels like a different person. Only four days post-op, he and Joanie rode one of their company-owned buses to Houston to take in a baseball game.
"I feel great," Marsh says enthusiastically. "Going into the procedure, I felt like I had no health, but now I feel like it has been restored. One person - Dr. Natale - worked on me for three hours and gave me a quality of life that I had not had."