Former Marine Keeps the Beat

Hope and Robert Johnston are enjoying Mr. Johnston’s renewed health.

Sometimes, one “vitamin” does the trick. Just ask Robert Johnston about his new pacemaker, comparable to the size of a large vitamin.

When visiting friends last November, the 77-year-old grand-father felt stiffness in his left shoulder and tingling in his hand. Mr. Johnston asked his friends to bring him to “a North Shore-LIJ hospital” because his mother received treatment at LIJ Medical Center many years ago. Also, though they now live in Gilbertsville, NY (near Binghamton), Mr. Johnston and his wife, Hope, originally lived in the New York City area, so they were familiar with the reputation of North Shore University Hospital (NSUH).

The electrophysiology team at NSUH normalized Mr. Johnston’s heart rate by implanting the vitamin-sized Medtronic Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS). The unit is one-tenth the size of a conventional pacemaker. “This miniaturized device gives patients the advanced pacing technology of traditional pacemakers, but with a less invasive approach,” said Ram Jadonath, MD, director of electrophysiology at NSUH. He added that the Micra TPS does not require an incision in the chest, the creation of a “pocket” under the skin or the lead wires that conventional pacemakers use.

Dr. Jadonath implanted the Micra TPS as part of a Medtronic global clinical trial. He inserted the device via a catheter in a large vein in Mr. Johnston’s leg, threaded it up to position it inside the heart wall and attached it with tiny prongs. “I knew I had a slow heartbeat,” Mr. Johnston said. “But when I was in the hospital, the doctors noted that it dropped down while I was sleeping.”

At NSUH, Mr. Johnston met Dr. Jadonath, who explained the technology to him. “I was a major in the Marines and an administrator for the New York City Board of Education — so I have a lot of experience dealing with people,” said Mr. Johnston. “I felt a high level of confidence with Dr. Jadonath. He communicated the information well, and I felt it was the right way to go.”

It was the first time on Long Island that a patient received the world’s smallest cardiac pacemaker.

“It’s not important to me to be the first patient to get the device, but it’s important that the device is successful,” Mr. Johnston said. He added that he is upbeat and is “looking forward to enjoying life and nurturing my grandchildren.”

Big benefits in a tiny package

See the world’s smallest pacemaker, below.


Read the next article, Doctors are Patients, Too

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