Pam Wooddell has never been one to slow down for, well, much of anything. The 71-year-old owner of Live Oak Real Estate in Wilmington is typically full-speed ahead helping her clients buy and sell homes, plus doing volunteer work.

So when Wooddell was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm that caused bothersome symptoms seriously affecting her quality of life, she needed a medical solution that would work just the way she does: fast, effective and super-efficient.

She soon learned that Dr. Taylor Bazemore, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center, had a new, advanced solution – just approved by the FDA in December 2023 – pulsed field ablation.

In April, Wooddell became the first person in North Carolina to receive the new treatment with the Medtronic PulseSelect system. The outpatient procedure left her feeling healthier and stronger the very same day.

“It’s amazing that something that vital is also that simple and easy to recover from,” she said.

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AFib unexpectedly strikes

Out of the blue, Wooddell began to feel exhausted all the time and knew something was wrong. She was accustomed to walking her two dogs each day and suddenly could not make it more than three houses down the street before she was worn-out and had to turn back. What’s going on, she wondered.

One day while delivering meals for the Cape Fear Volunteer Center, she was sitting in her car waiting for her grandson, Wyatt, to return from dropping off a food delivery. She flipped down the visor to look in the mirror and was startled by what she saw: Her skin was eerily pulsing near her collarbone.

Wooddell scheduled an appointment with her family nurse practitioner who performed an electrocardiogram and revealed her diagnosis, commonly known as AFib. Normally the heart relaxes and contracts to a steady rhythm. AFib causes the upper chambers of the heart, known as the atria, to beat rapidly and irregularly. This causes the symptoms Wooddell was experiencing, like weakness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath and reduced ability to exercise.

It can also cause blood pooling in the atria, which may lead to dangerous clotting, increasing the risk of stroke. By the year 2030, more than 12 million people in the U.S. will be afflicted with AFib, according to projections from the American Heart Association. It’s the most common heart arrythmia in the country, affecting one in four people in their lifetime.

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