Carol's Story: Pacemaker Gives Fond du Lac Resident a New Step

Dale Michels Center for Heart Care
Carol Merrill atrial fibrillation

Like many of us, Carol Merrill has a case of cabin fever. It’s not just because of the Wisconsin winter, but a string of health concerns has put gardening, traveling and enjoying her five-acre country property just east of Fond du Lac on the back burner.

In 2009, she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and had a single-chamber permanent pacemaker implanted at a healthcare facility outside of the Fond du Lac community. Issues persisted, and Carol had heard many great things about Agnesian HealthCare’s Dale Michels Center for Heart Care so she made an appointment with Juan Diaz, MD, an interventional cardiologist. Dr. Diaz continued to monitor her heart over the next few years.

“But then it all changed in 2014,” she says. In April, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and lost some of her eyesight. When doing tests at St. Agnes Hospital to prepare for the mastectomy, they found out that her heart was out of rhythm. During this time, her care was followed closely by Juan Vasquez, MD, her primary care provider and internal medicine physician. Post-surgery, she began to see Dr. Diaz frequently. “He would encourage me during our appointments that someday I would feel great again,” Carol says.

This January, Agnesian HealthCare’s Pacemaker Clinic found that a wire in the lead of her existing pacemaker was fractured. She saw Dr. Diaz immediately and he scheduled a surgery to get a two-chamber pacemaker.

Dr. Diaz explained to her how the upper and lower parts of her heart were not working together. “While we had discussed this for a long time, we had to wait due to other health concerns,” Carol explains. 

“Now, I have this machine by my bedside that takes a reading of my heart between midnight and 4 a.m. every day and the report is automatically sent to the pacemaker clinic. Unbelievable!”

Feeling better than she has in over a year, Carol can’t wait to get her flowers into the ground and plan a road trip to see her son in Minnesota.

“When patients present with an acute heart attack, the cardiac team is mobilized immediately in order to open the blocked artery causing the heart attack and thus preserving heart muscle. We usually do this in less than 60 minutes when the national standard is 90 minutes.” - Dr. Juan Diaz

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