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Heart Problems Don't Always Come With Clear Warning Signs

Tom Kubacki went to urgent care for a sore throat. Then an EKG revealed an irregular heart beat. Thanks to Baystate Wing Emergency Department, he's home safe.

Thomas Kubacki360360Thomas Kubacki woke up at 4:00 am with a terrible sore throat.

Later in the morning during breakfast even after his wife Jane made him a warm drink with honey to soothe his throat Tom didn’t feel any better, if fact he began feeling much worse. Tom decided to visit Urgent Care in Belchertown where they live.

“The nurse at urgent care checked my vitals and took a throat culture,” said Tom. “She mentioned that my heart was beating fast but I didn’t think much of it, I just thought I had a very bad cold.”

“While examining me, the nurse practitioner, Barbara Henrichon, told me in addition to the throat culture, she was going to have an EKG (a recording of the heart's electrical activity) done to check my heart, because it was beating fast and because I have a heart condition,” said Tom. 

The sore throat, which had brought Tom to urgent care to be checked out, ended up being positive for strep and the EKG revealed that Tom had an irregular heart beat called Atrial Fibrillation, and it was putting stress on his heart. Dr. Bart Soar, Tom’s primary care provider stepped in to meet with him and told him that he needed to go to the Emergency Department where they could safely stabilize his heart rate. 

The Belchertown Ambulance was called to bring Tom quickly to the Baystate Wing Hospital Emergency Department and he was monitored by the paramedics on the way. 

“The EMTs were great and when I got to the emergency department the doctor and nurses were waiting to take care of me,” said Tom. “It was very scary but they explained what they were doing, why they needed to do it, and I knew I was in good hands.” 

“Not all heart problems come with clear warning signs,” said Dr. Robert Spence, chief of Emergency Medicine for Baystate Wing Hospital and Baystate Mary Lane Outpatient Center. "Our community members throughout the region can expect our emergency department team will provide them with the same outstanding acute care that Tom received." 

The care team in the emergency department also consulted Tom’s cardiologist, Dr. Brian Laliberte, chief of cardiology at Baystate Wing Hospital while IV medication was given to him to slow his rapid heart rate. 

“In atrial fibrillation the two upper chambers of the heart, the atria, start quivering instead of pumping efficiently and regularly,” said Dr. Laliberte. “Because of this the heart beat often becomes irregular and faster. Some people find this arrhythmia frightening and distressing; others do not feel it at all. Either way, untreated atrial fibrillation is a major risk factor for stroke.” 

Tom was admitted to the ICU at Baystate Wing Hospital and was cared for by the inpatient team and followed by Dr. Laliberte. “The care I received was great, everyone treated me like I was a VIP, but I have to admit I was happy when they told me I could go home.” 

Tom was discharged home and sees Dr. Laliberte as an outpatient in the Baystate Cardiology - Palmer medical practice. He continues to recuperate under the loving care of his wife Jane and a medication called Coumadin, an anticoagulant to prevent Tom’s risk of stroke caused by the atrial fibrillation. 

“I’m still feeling a little tired,” said Tom. “But I am much better than I was and I’m happy to feel up to doing little odds and ends around the house like washing the dishes with Jane. What I’m really looking forward to is spring and spending time outside around my yard on my new John Deere lawn tractor,” he said with a smile. 

Dr. Brian Laliberte, Dr. Zachry Zichittella, and nurse practitioner Gina Zichittella provide comprehensive heart and vascular care at Baystate Cardiology. The team is currently accepting new patients.