Skater’s heart has a normal beat after treatment

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LEAWOOD, Kan.  -- Caroline Cobb is a competitive figure skater who has no trouble keeping the beat on ice.  But her heart wasn't keeping its beat.  She had PVCs or premature ventricular contractions.  There were extra beats.  Many people have them occasionally.  It's no big deal.  But in Caroline, they became constant. At age 13, she needed to get her heart fixed.

Caroline and her family went to the Big Apple a few weeks ago, and not just to see the holiday sights.

"We went for Caroline to get a new heartbeat," said her mother, Jodi Cobb.

The irregular rhythm was discovered in a routine physical three years ago, and it worsened in recent months.  A third of her beats were extra ones.

"My heart was always racing.  There would be constant pressure and I'd get dizzy sometimes," said Caroline.

That was especially bad for a competitive figure skater.  She stopped skating temporarily.  Dr. Robert Pass said there wasn't a risk that Caroline's heart would suddenly stop beating.

"But we know that patients that have this many extra beats over time will often develop significant dysfunction of the heart," said Dr. Pass.

To prevent that, Dr. Pass treated Caroline at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City.  She could have the procedure in Kansas City, but Dr. Pass was recommended by Caroline's aunt, a nurse in New York.  He went into the heart with a catheter and found where the extra beats came from in the lower chamber.

"And then we were able to deliver radio frequency energy to burn the site where it was coming from," he said.

That gave Caroline a regular heartbeat that she should have for the rest of her life.

"Right afterwards, I didn't feel my heart.  It was like I didn't have a heart 'cause I couldn't feel it," she said.

That's only because she didn't know what a normal heartbeat felt like.  Now she does.

Caroline will turn 14 on New Year's Day with her heart beating perfectly.  Her mother says she intends to return to skating soon.