Wearable defibrillator jolts Dade City man back to life seven times

Robert Messer of Dade City has a story to share that he knows will save lives.

It begins this past December, just weeks after he married his high school girlfriend whom he had reconnected with after more than 40 years.

Robert and Carlene Messer at their Nov. 26, 2013 wedding.

Robert and Carlene Messer at their Nov. 26, 2013 wedding.

Not long after the wedding Robert started having chest pains, but wasn’t overly concerned because he had no history of heart disease and otherwise felt great.

His new wife, Carlene, however, wasn’t so sure and after the holidays insisted her husband see his doctor, Dr. Paul Hughes at Florida Medical Clinic in Zephyrhills. Dr. Hughes has been Robert’s family doctor since 1995.

Dr. Hughes discovered that Robert had indeed suffered a heart attack and referred him immediately to Dr. Nadim Khan, a Florida Medical Clinic cardiologist.

Dr. Khan checked Robert into the Heart Institute at Florida Hospital Zephyrhills and another FMC cardiologist, Vladimir Curkovic, M.D, did a procedure to place a stent in Robert’s heart to open a clogged artery.

Before sending him home, Drs. Khan and Curkovic prescribed the LifeVest – a wearable defibrillator Robert was to wear that would monitor his heart 24 hours a day for three months.

Even with the new stent in place, Robert’s heart attack had weakened his heart muscle and put him at an increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest. If Robert were to go into cardiac arrest after he was discharged, his doctors knew the LifeVest could save his life because 95% of cardiac arrest victims die before emergency medical assistance arrives.

“I really wasn’t too crazy about wearing a vest 24/7 for three months,” said Robert. “But Carlene insisted, and it was a good thing she did.”

LifeVest is an FDA-approved medical device that has been prescribed to more than 100,000 patients and is covered by most insurance companies. It acts as a defibrillator and automatically shocks the heart if it gets out of rhythm or stops beating.

And that’s what happened to Robert.

Just two days after getting home from the hospital, Robert and Carlene were watching TV and dozed off during a movie.

As they slept, Robert’s heart stopped beating in sudden cardiac arrest. Instantly, his LifeVest detected the emergency and delivered multiple shocks to his heart to restore a normal heart rhythm.

When the LifeVest went into action, Carlene woke in panic to the vest’s loud alarms and immediately called 911. Thankfully, Robert regained consciousness by the time paramedics arrived and an ambulance raced the couple to Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, with Robert still wearing his LifeVest.

At the hospital, Robert had another cardiac arrest and was again saved by his LifeVest.

“The LifeVest saved my life seven times that night,” said Robert. “There’s no doubt I would have died if Dr. Khan had not prescribed it, and if my wife had not insisted that I wear it.”

At the hospital, Robert continued to wear his LifeVest until his condition stabilized and a permanent pacemaker/defibrillator was implanted beneath the skin on his chest. Robert went home after eight days, but this time without a LifeVest because the implant now gives him long-term protection from sudden cardiac death.

Roberts tells the story how LifeVest saved his life to anyone who will listen.

“I want people to know how important it is to listen to your doctor and do what they say, even if they want you to do something that at first may seem uncomfortable,” said Robert.

“Every day I count my blessings and thank Dr. Khan and the cardiac team at Florida Medical Clinic. They saved my life by prescribing LifeVest and by giving me the best possible care.”

Robert and Carlene are once again looking forward to their marriage and new life together.

“Not a lot of people get second chances,” said Robert. “I am blessed that LifeVest gave me a second chance at life, and that Carlene gave me a second chance at love.”

Florida Medical Clinic
(813) 788-5575
Nadim Khan, MD, FACC
38135 Market Square, Zephyrhills

This is a feature of the advertising department.

Originally published March 5, 2014.

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