Defibrillator for life: Mike Roorda's heart story

3:16 PM, Feb 8, 2011   |    comments
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Video: Interview with Mike Roorda

Mike Roorda

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - We've been following WZZM 13 Multi-Media Journalist Mike Roorda though a year-long journey.

In January of 2010, Mike learned that he may have a fatal heart condition called Burgada's Syndrome - also known as sudden cardiac death syndrome. Only working part-time at the time, he had to wait 10 months before being tested because of a lack of health insurance.

In November of 2010, Mike went through a series of tests which diagnosed him with an 80% chance of having Brugada's Syndrome. Because Mike's father also has the condition and an extensive family history, cardiologist Dr. Matthew Sevensma recommended the implantation of a defibrillator, the only known treatment for the condition.

Mike's mom and dad made the trip from Rochester, New York to be there for their son during his procedure. It's a routine surgery but one that is usually performed on someone over the age of 50. Mike is just 28 years old and that's what makes this hard on Mike's mom. "I think part of my struggle with Michael is that he's so young and the thought of him having a defibrillator for the rest of his life, that just bothers me."

It's a fate that Mike has accepted with his usual sense of humor, and admits he's ready to move on with his life.  "It's an unknown for me and at this point I just kind of want it to be over, so I can be on the other side and start dealing with that."

Dr. Sevensma stops in for a pre-surgery talk and gives Mike a good look at the defibrillator that will soon be attached to his heart helping to keep him alive. For much of the procedure, Mike will be awake in a groggy twilight state while his muscle is pulled way from his chest wall to make room for the defibrillator, and give Dr. Sevensma access the vein he needs to use to insert the wires into Mike's heart.

Once the wires are in place, it's time to test the device. That means stopping Mike's heart in anticipation that the defibrillator will send a shock forcing it to beat again. For this part of the procedure Mike is put completely to sleep. Under the anesthetic, Mike will not be able to feel the jolt of electricity that will shock him and force his heart to beat again.

After two test runs, Dr. Sevensma is confident the defibrillator will work during a real event. "The device works great and he has excellent defibrillation thresholds."

The entire procedure took just over an hour. A month later, Mike is back for a routine check up. The incision where the pacemaker was inserted is healing well and he's getting used to his new piece of jewelry, a medical alert bracelet.

Dr. Sevensma believes Mike can live a long healthy life. "He is unique in the fact that he and his father both have a rare form of the disorder. Neither of them have the genetic markers that Brugada has and we're hoping that moving forward and doing genetic testing on Mike and his dad that we can identify a new genetic marker to try and find people at risk for this disorder earlier."

It seems Mike has more than a healthy heart.  He has the potential to help make medical history.  

By Valerie Lego

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