Pat Gelisse has been dancing for 30 years. She even taught the Carolina shag for a while. It’s a partner dance, sometimes compared to Swing dancing to beach music.
But severe heart failure downgraded Pat’s dancing queen status for close to 10 years.
“I went from feeling happy to feeling like a nothing,” she remembered of that time in her life.
With a team of Wellstar heart specialists working together for her, Pat found hope and new life on the dance floor.
Heart failure masquerades as acid reflux
It started more than a decade ago when Pat lived in central Georgia. She scheduled a doctor’s appointment for what she thought was acid reflux. She popped in on a quick break from her marketing job, assuming it wouldn’t take long.
Blood work and an EKG got Pat a ticket straight to the hospital and a quadruple bypass.
“My heart got worse; it wasn’t pumping blood,” Pat said.
She was in acute heart failure, a life-threatening condition where the heart doesn’t pump well enough to deliver the necessary amount of oxygen to her body. Pat’s ejection fraction (EF)—the percentage measurement of the blood that leaves the heart each time it pumps—was only 10%. The normal range is 50 to 70%.
It was a scary time, and with a family history of heart problems, Pat was worried. She’d lost both parents to heart failure, as well as other family members.
“I just knew for sure I was going to be next,” said Pat.
Doctors from various academic institutions discussed serious treatments ranging from LVAD to transplant, but because the pumping performance of her heart improved, she was no longer a candidate for those procedures. Instead, Pat spent close to nine years managing her heart failure with a pacemaker and various medications—treatments that failed to get her back on the dance floor.