A timely email and a pacemaker save Mary Louise Francis’ life
Mary Louise Francis, of Dartmouth, snapped to attention last September when in her inbox she saw the subject line, “Does your heart march to the beat of a different drum?”
It was an email from Southcoast Health announcing a webinar on cardiac arrhythmias, and she had been feeling strange lately – experiencing occasional lightheadedness and having recently passed out. An emergency medicine doctor diagnosed her with vertigo, but she now wondered if the arrhythmia she suffered in the 1990s had returned.
“All of a sudden, I wondered if this could be what’s going on with me,” she says. “I had this sense of urgency.”
The retired educator, wife, and mother of two immediately signed up for the webinar and made an appointment with the physician leading the session, Dr. Ramin Davoudi, Medical Director of Electrophysiology for Southcoast Health.
Mary Lou, as she is known, left Dr. Davoudi’s office wearing a heart monitor that enabled doctors to track her cardiac activity in real time. It was when she passed out while talking to her daughter on the phone that she received an emergent call telling her to get a ride to the hospital immediately, preferably by ambulance.
At the Heart and Vascular Center at Charlton Memorial Hospital, she learned that her heart had stopped for 22 seconds, a duration patients rarely survive.
Mary Lou was suffering from a rare condition called sick sinus syndrome, which inhibits the heart’s ability to regulate its heartbeat, causing it to slow, pause, and beat irregularly. She was immediately admitted to the hospital, and by 7:30 the next morning, was being prepped for surgery to implant a pacemaker.
Dr. Nitesh Sood, the Cardiac Electrophysiologist who performed the surgery, repeatedly told Mary Lou that Dr. Davoudi had saved her life by giving her the monitor. And nearly a year after surgery, she has resumed her busy life without another fainting spell or period of light headedness.
Today, she is president of the Bristol County Retired Teachers Association, among many other involvements. She remains dedicated to educators after a career as a teacher, counselor, and administrator in the New Bedford Public Schools. She also taught a course on brain-based teaching and learning at Fitchburg State College and served on the Acushnet School Committee.
Understandably, Mary Lou says it took her awhile to get used to the pacemaker. She often feels it kick in to maintain her heartbeat, and is careful to take the steps to ensure it is working well.
“It’s something you accommodate for, but it’s a small, small, small price to pay for saving my life,” she says. “I owe my life to the notice of that information session, and to the doctors at Charlton Memorial.”