Weighing more than three hundred pounds, Steve Hargis’ formerly active life was only a memory. He was into running and cycling as a young man, but most strenuous activity was now impossible. Working on his horse farm was becoming more and more difficult. His work life was slowing down. He was having trouble keeping up with his co-workers, and early retirement was becoming a strong possibility.
At the center of Steve’s health problems was his atrial fibrillation, or a-fib. When he had an a-fib episode, his heart would flutter, his breathing would become labored, and he would have to wait for his heart to regain its regular rhythm before getting back to what he was doing. In addition to a-fib and obesity, Steve had high blood pressure and diabetes, conditions that only made his situation worse.
Thankfully, Steve had the desire and will to improve his life and his health. He researched a-fib treatment options and felt he was a candidate for a catheter ablation procedure. He reached out to Phillip Cuculich, MD, a Washington University electrophysiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Steve was so determined that, when he learned Dr. Cuculich had an open appointment at a clinic in Farmington, Missouri, he drove from his home in Rolla, Missouri, to meet with him.
“I had a heart-to-heart with Steve,” says Cuculich. “I told him, ‘We need to really get a handle on all of these other issues. We need to get a handle on your diabetes, on your high blood pressure and your weight."
And that’s exactly what Steve did. Within six months he had lost fifty pounds and had his diabetes and high blood pressure under control. His a-fib episodes went from being constant to intermittent. Steve had transformed himself into an excellent candidate for the catheter ablation procedure.
Now, five years after his procedure, Steve is once again enjoying an active lifestyle. He is an avid cyclist and schedules an annual Katy Trail trip. He plans his day around getting in a mid-day workout at his local recreation center and is able to help his wife around their horse farm. And he hasn’t had an a-fib episode since his treatment.
“I’m having a lot of fun, and I enjoy working,” Steve says. "I don’t even think about retirement anymore.”