For years, Lucy Lorden suffered from an irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath. But one April morning in 2014, the Ormond Beach, Florida, elementary school teacher was barely able to walk from the parking lot to her classroom.
Thinking she had pneumonia, Lucy, then 56, went to see her primary care doctor. “The doctor told me to go to the emergency room right away,” she recalls. “My heart was beating at 192 beats per minute.”
At the local hospital, doctors diagnosed Lucy with atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the upper heart chambers, the atria, beat irregularly.
Lucy visited a local cardiologist, who prescribed several medications to regulate her rapid heartbeat and her thyroid levels. He advised follow-up every three months and once she turned 60, blood thinners to prevent a stroke. Unfortunately, just a few months shy of her 57th birthday, she would need more than simple follow-up.