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Thursday, March 10, 2011 - Son’s Courage Gives Woman Push She Needs to Have Heart Procedure

Fifty-four-year-old Pam Reedy has seen the inside of emergency rooms from Oak Ridge to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and beyond. She has been taken by ambulance to Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge so many times in the last few years that she has a favorite paramedic.


“That’s pretty sad,” she said with a wry laugh.


The Oak Ridge dance studio owner was diagnosed in 2003 with “supraventricular tachycardia,” which is an irregular heartbeat. Over the next six years, she had 11-12 episodes in which her heart raced at more than 200 beats per minute. Each episode required a trip to an emergency room, where she received medication to stabilize her rhythm.


During this period, traveling was a major concern because Pam never knew when she would have an episode. It could happen while she was exercising, sleeping, meeting with the teaching staff at her dance studio, or visiting Disney World.


“By the time the paramedics treated me at Disney World, I’d already had eight episodes so I wasn’t as anxious and scared as the first few times,” Pam said.


She had seen several doctors and knew she needed to undergo an electrophysiology procedure – but she always found an excuse to postpone it until her son, 24-year-old Austin Keathley, also of Oak Ridge, was diagnosed with the same heart problem.                          


“I was scheduled to have a procedure at another hospital in July 2009, but I put off having it because there was something about the doctor that I didn’t like,” Pam said. “Austin’s courage prompted me.”


Austin, who is a full-time firefighter as well as a full-time paramedic, had one episode at work. “I had shortness of breath, and my chest hurt. It felt like you do in the winter when you’re breathing in the cold air,” he said. When he hooked himself up to a heart

For Pam Reedy and Austin Keathley, cardiac problems became a family affair when this mother and son were both diagnosed with the same heart abnormality.  Now, after successful EP treatments at Methodist Medical Center both have resumed their active lifestyles.  "It's great now because I have the confidence that I can go somewhere and not need an ambulance," said Pam, shown above with Dr. Greg Olsovsky and son Austin.

monitor, he saw that his heart rate was 250 beats per minute. Ninety or below is normal.

 “A guy who was with me got the captain. I knew what was happening and ended up converting myself with vagal maneuvers, which means you stimulate the vagus nerve to stop the rapid beating. I could feel the instant my heart rate went from 250 to 100,” Austin recalled.


“My captain told one of the firefighters to take me home. I called my wife, who’s also a paramedic. She wasn’t too happy about me going home and told me that I was going to the ER.”


At Methodist Medical Center, Austin underwent a number of tests and was told that the episode could be one-time event or it could happen again. Unlike his mother, he was anxious to see a specialist and undergo treatment as soon as possible.

“One of the doctors I respect the most recommended Dr. Greg Olsovsky to me,” Austin said. “I called his office and saw Dr. O. the next day.” Dr.Olsovsky is board-certified in electrophysiology, cardiovascular medicine and internal medicine and has completed two fellowships, one in cardiovascular disease and one is clinical cardiac electrophysiology.

He uses sophisticated new EP technology at Methodist to cause irregular heartbeats to occur during a test. With the information he obtains, he can not only diagnose the source of the irregular rhythm, but also determine the effectiveness of certain medications for a particular patient, predict a patient’s risk for sudden cardiac death, and decide whether a patient needs a pacemaker or other device implanted near the heart. In some cases, the doctor also can treat the underlying condition.

In contrast, traditional tests record only the irregular heartbeats that occur spontaneously during testing. Doctors may not obtain
the detailed data they need to find and treat the exact source of the problem.

In July of 2009, Austin underwent the EP procedure at Methodist as outpatient surgery with a 23-hour observation period.  “Surgery went perfectly, and I haven’t had any problems since then,” he said. “No one said anything to me at work, but being a fireman, we have to be able to count on the person who is behind us. I could see where it would make some guys nervous with me having a medical problem.”

Pam talked to Dr. Olsovsky about her condition when Austin had his procedure. “Dr. O didn’t pressure me, although he did grimace when he heard how many episodes I had had. He said I should see him or someone else when I was ready,” she recalled.

Based on her son’s experience and the recommendations of several nurses she knew, Pam finally contacted Dr. Olsovsky and underwent the EP procedure at Methodist in October of 2009

“They went through veins in both legs,” she said. “The incisions were very small, and all I had was a little bruising. It’s great now because I have the confidence that I can go somewhere and not need an ambulance.”

She added that her experience with EP was very positive from beginning to end. “Dr. O is very down to earth. He’s very methodical in explaining exactly what he’s going to do and exactly what he did. His staff’s also great. I would recommend Dr. O to anyone.”

Pam’s story was recently featured during Methodist Medical Center’s Know Your Six campaign.  She and her son Austin were interviewed by WATE Channel 6 news anchor Lori Tucker.