Artisan Back on Track After
Triple-Bypass Surgery, Catheter Ablation

Boris Popovic cuts stones
and creates jewelry in his
home workshop.

Boris Popovic, 56, thought he had indigestion from cabbage he ate on Veterans Day in 2008 - his stomach hurt and he was having difficulty breathing. He went to work anyway.

Two days later, still feeling ill, he checked in at Saint Joseph Hospital's E.R. with his heart racing at 200 beats per minute. The E.R. staff could not bring his heart rate down.

The Lincoln Park resident had an angiogram, a procedure placing a catheter and dye into the artery, and using X-ray, helps a cardiologist see how blood flows through the heart and identify blockages.

Popovic learned that his arteries were clogged and he needed coronary artery bypass surgery. He most likely suffered a minor heart attack years ago, as detected by scarring of his arteries. He also had a potentially life-threatening rapid heartbeat (arrhythmia).

Always Been Healthy

"I had been kind of tired the last couple months," said Popovic, who said he's always been healthy. "I never went to the doctor."

Within days of the angiogram, he had triple-bypass surgery, a procedure that involved using blood vessels from his arm and chest wall to bypass blocked arteries and restore adequate blood flow to the heart muscle. William Bradshaw, M.D., cardiovascular thoracic surgeon, and Robert Breyer, M.D., section chief, cardiac surgery, performed the surgery.

"My surgeons did a great job," said Popovic, a jewelry maker and craft instructor with the Chicago Park District for 23 years. "Everyone was so nice to me at Saint Joseph Hospital. I have no complaints."

Popovic said the staff got him up on his feet soon after surgery. "Right after surgery, I could breathe better," he said.

The next step was to get his rapid heartbeat under control. Within a week of surgery, Popovic was taken to the electrophysiology lab at Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago. He had an electrophysiology test that maps the heart's electrical system and pinpoints problems.

Rapid Heartbeat Cured

As a result, he underwent a catheter ablation, a non-surgical outpatient procedure used to cure abnormally fast heartbeats. His electrophysiologist, Erica Engelstein, M.D., positioned special electrode catheters near the abnormal electrical pathway and used heat energy to destroy the pathway. The procedure cured the problem.

An electrophysiologist is a cardiologist who specializes in the treatment of abnormal heart rhythms. Dr. Engelstein is director of electrophysiology at Resurrection Medical Center and Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center in Chicago. She is on staff at Saint Joseph Hospital.

Popovic participated in cardiac rehabilitation at Saint Joseph Hospital.

He knows he's lucky his cardiac problems were diagnosed quickly, and he's able to go back to what he loves most - teaching people how to cut stones and make jewelry.

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