Getting Back into Rhythm

Each September two observances coincide – Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Awareness Month and National Yoga Month. Recently, Oklahoma Heart Institute has recognized these opportunities with events to educate the public on the most common heart arrhythmia in the United States and the benefits yoga can have for those who suffer from AFib. Last September, as dozens gathered at Guthrie Green in Tulsa and rolled out their red yoga mats, Rex Wilson, 53, eagerly waited to learn more from Oklahoma Heart Institute cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. David Sandler. “My heart was not in constant rhythm,” Rex recalls. “It was just offbeat. It was not the way I envisioned my life to be when I was 53 years old.”

The three-time marathoner began to notice something was off two years earlier after realizing his running stamina and endurance was waning. “I was in really good shape – just enjoying life,” he says. “Then I noticed I was getting more tired. I couldn’t figure out why.” At his annual physical, an EKG revealed Rex’s heart rhythm was abnormal. “My doctor announced that something was wrong with my heart. It kind of shocked me.”

Unaware of AFib, Rex began to do research and as he was looking for more information on the condition that appeared to strike out of nowhere, he noticed an advertisement for the yoga event hosted by Oklahoma Heart Institute at Guthrie Green last fall. “I did get a chance to talk to Dr. Sandler,” he says. “He suggested that I schedule an appointment.”

Rex says Dr. Sandler discussed treatment options for AFib at that first appointment and they decided to begin with medication therapy. However, blood thinners ultimately did not work for Rex and Dr. Sandler discussed the next option – catheter ablation. “I was really impressed with Dr. Sandler. He had a game plan and he knew exactly what to do. I wasn’t anxious. I felt I was in good hands.”

February 27, 2015 Rex had the ablation procedure at Oklahoma Heart Institute. Within three weeks he says his heart rhythm consistently stayed in rhythm. Rex says this experience has been a lesson to him to listen to his body. “You need to take action and have things checked out,” he adds. “For me it was a distinct change. My endurance wasn’t the same.”

Today, Rex and his wife, Lori, enjoy their own yoga practice at home, classical stretch, focusing on stretching and relaxation. “It gets my mind off other things like work and reduces my stress,” he says. “As we start to age, mobility, I’m learning, is a big deal.”

Please join us Saturday, September 19 at Whiteside Park (4009 S. Pittsburg Ave.) in Tulsa from 9 to 11 a.m. for a free yoga session to celebrate World AFib Awareness Day. The first 50 attendees will receive a free yoga mat.