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Patient Stories

Keeping Pace With a Busy Life
By Healthy Life 2006 Spring/Summer

Racing from his job as a bar manager at Salem AOH to manage his son's Babe Ruth baseball team, then back home to spend time with his wife and three children, Tom Tardiff, a 48-year old Peabody (and former Salem) resident leads a very full life. But three years ago, while giving a presentation at work, he felt lightheaded and dizzy, his color paled and he needed to sit down. 

Tardiff immediately went to his NSMC primary care physician, Marvin Clopper, M.D., who ordered an electrocardiogram (EKG)—a test that evaluates the rhythm and electrical activity of the heart. Dr. Clopper suspected a problem, so he referred Tardiff to Michael Katcher, M.D., a cardiologist and specialist in electrophysiology (heart rhythm) at NSMC and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Dr. Katcher had Tardiff wear a Holter monitor for a week, which recorded his heart rhythm and electrical impulses, and an event recorder that he activated when he experienced dizziness or other symptoms. After additional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) testing at MGH, Tardiff was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD)—a disease in which part of the right ventricle is replaced by abnormal tissue that can cause life threatening arrhythmias or cardiac arrest. Tardiff decided not to take any chances. He elected to receive minimally invasive surgery to have a small device placed into his chest. The device is both an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) and pacemaker. The pacemaker helps maintain a normal heartbeat and the ICD jump-starts the heart if it stops beating altogether. The NSMC Heart Center offers the only comprehensive electrophysiology program on the North Shore.  NSMC cardiologists implant more than 120 pacemakers and 60 ICDs every year. Fortunately, Tardiff 's ICD has never had to restart his heart. "But if my heart needs it, the ICD will save my life," he says. "It's the best insurance policy I could get, so I can protect my family and be around to watch my kids grow up."