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Where Tom got the best heart care

Tom flew to St. Mark's in order to access world-class cardiovascular care – becoming the 150th ablation patient during the hospital's 150th anniversary.

November 11, 2022
Tom Dokken on his hospital bed, wearing a St. Mark’s Hospitals 150th ablation t-shirt, giving a thumbs up with Dr. Day standing beside him.

Take me to St. Mark’s Hospital: For the best heart care by the best people

Tom Dokken of Minnesota had dealt with the dangerous cycle for an entire decade. First, Tom would feel his heart accelerate to racing speeds, run out of breath and lose energy. Next, he’d get himself to a hospital. Lastly, medical professionals would send electric shocks through paddles placed on Tom’s chest to restore a normal heart rate; that is, until the cycle began again.

Doctors diagnosed Tom with atrial fibrillation (A-fib), a type of irregular and rapid heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in the heart. Episodes of A-fib can come and go, or they may obstinately persistent. While some people with A-fib don’t notice any symptoms, others do.

“For me, it felt like a fish flopping around inside my chest. If I got up to move around, I would black out. Over time, the episodes became more intense and more frequent until I couldn’t handle it anymore,” Tom said.

During one episode, Tom’s heart raced at 300 beats per minute (bpm) for more than 6 hours. Local medical professionals administered medications, but nothing seemed to bring his heart back into a regular rhythm except another electric shock of cardioversion.

“I felt terrible, and I was exhausted of the cycle. There had to be a better way,” Tom said.

Willing to go anywhere, Tom found world-class cardiovascular care at St. Mark’s Hospital

Tom started researching online and reading social media forums. That’s how he learned about Dr. John Day, electrophysiologist and A-fib specialist at The Heart Center at St. Mark’s. Dr. Day’s focus on lifestyle changes and treatment recommendations immediately caught Tom’s attention.

“Dr. Day taught that A-fib is a warning that your body is aging too quickly — I had never heard that before. Finally, after 10 years of dealing with this, someone was explaining A-fib in a way that I could understand it. That sealed the deal for me. I’d travel anywhere to receive care from Dr. Day,” Tom said.

Based on Dr. Day’s teachings, Tom committed to major lifestyle changes. He stopped eating processed foods, began a strict plant-based diet, lost a few extra pounds and went 4 months without an A-fib episode. Then, when the A-fib cycle persisted, Tom flew to Salt Lake City and met Dr. Day in person. After the initial meeting, Tom scheduled a common procedure to treat A-fib called an ablation.

During an ablation, electrophysiologists create scar tissue on the inside of the heart to discontinue electrical signals that cause irregular heartbeats, thus helping the heart maintain a normal rhythm.

Heart-healing care by a heartwarming team

On the day of Tom’s ablation procedure, Tom walked into St. Mark’s Hospital and met Sherry Fisher, A-fib coordinator. According to Tom, Sherry’s knowledge and kindness immediately put him at ease.

“Not only having Dr. Day but having Sherry was a godsend. When she explained why she was there, my jaw nearly hit the floor. She told me I had access to her before, during and after my procedure, seven days a week. She gave me her personal number and email. She sat and answered all my questions. She was there to help me every step of the way. I wondered how it was even possible. Then she told me her position was carefully designed by Dr. Day,” Tom said. “Sherry has a background in nursing, and she’s also had an ablation herself — she knows what she’s talking about! Plus, she truly cares about each patient.”

St. Mark’s celebrates 150 years with the 150th ablation

Tom happened to be St. Mark’s Hospitals 150th ablation patient in 2022 – the year St. Mark’s Hospital is celebrating its 150th anniversary. In honor of the milestone, Tom received a special 150th t-shirt and shared this message on St. Mark’s social media page:

“I’ve struggled with A-fib for a long time. I found Dr. Day’s book, scheduled an appointment in December and now I’m here! Faith and Jesus Christ got me to where I am today and I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

Sharing the good news of a steady rhythm after ablation

Tom’s ablation went smoothly. After 10 years of suffering, Dr. Day performed the 2-hour procedure that vastly improved Tom’s life. Now Tom desires to share what he’s learned from the experience.

“It’s amazing. Without my faith in Christ and faith in Dr. Day, I’d still be suffering with this awful disease. I went to St. Mark’s and had the best care I’ve ever received, while receiving it from the best people. I was surprised and relieved beyond believe that this level of compassionate, high-quality care even exists,” Tom said. “Now I’m the person on the social media forums giving others hope and pointing them to Dr. Day and St. Mark’s.”

For one day access to world-class cardiovascular care, call the Heart Center at St. Mark’s at (801) 266-3418.

November 11, 2022
St. Mark's Hospital

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