• Cardiology Patient Stories

    David Hawley: Overcoming Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

What began as an isolated episode of shortness of breath and developed into symptoms of increasing fatigue in 2008, turned into an unexpected and serious medical condition for David Hawley, a retired hotel executive in Phoenix, Arizona.

David Hawley received the diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetic predisposition to abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, just two years ago. HCM affects one in 500 Americans, making it more common than muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis or AIDS. It affects each person differently; there is no "typical" HCM patient and no standard treatment.

HCM requires specialty care so David was referred to Mayo Clinic in Arizona where he met with cardiologist, Steven Lester, M.D. Initially, medication and the placement of both a pacemaker and a dual chamber defibrillator controlled the disease. Then in April 2011, David states, “all went haywire with shortness of breath, fatigue, neuropathy and ice cold toes.”

After consulting with Dr. Lester, David made the decision to travel to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for a surgical evaluation. He appreciated both Dr. Lester’s expertise and his kindness in actively seeking his participation in making the final decision to make the trip to Rochester. David stated, “Dr. Lester shows respect for his patients and really considers their needs, it’s not just about medical heroism.”

Upon arriving at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, David recalls his initial impression, “the place is incredible, all medical testing was completed in one to two days and everything for the surgery was organized so quickly.” He attributes his experience to the “totally seamless” communication between Dr. Lester in Arizona and Rochester cardiologists, William Freeman, M.D., David Holmes, M.D., and cardiovascular surgeon, Hartzell Schaff, M.D.

David underwent a heart catheterization prior to surgery. Findings from the test showed that David had a latent hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and would indeed need a septal myectomy to repair his heart and improve his cardiac function. David recalls feeling apprehensive before his open heart surgery, but explains how “the communication between the surgical staff and my wife was exceptional and unique. The staff worked together as a professional team, not only by being efficient, but also by caring about me as a patient.”

Today, just three months after open heart surgery, David is walking two miles a day, feels well, and has no fatigue. He has seen Dr. Lester for follow up and has reduced the number of medications that he takes. David shares that not all people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy become symptomatic although tragically sudden death is a real potential. Genetic predisposition means that this disorder can run in families. He feels lucky, “I stumbled into Mayo Clinic by good fortune,” and now encourages those whose family members have been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to get genetic testing.

Dr. Steven Lester describes in greater detail the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy:

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