His Heart Sings Again

After serving as a firefighter in Florida for 22 years, Robert* retired in 1996 and shifted his attention full time to music. He’s had a passion for the latter since he first heard someone strum a guitar.

“When I was 8, I went to a rodeo where they had live music,” Robert recalls. “There were two brothers playing instruments, and one was a guitar. I fell in love with the sound and thought, I want to do that someday.

“Now, I play guitar, banjo and mandolin. I started playing guitar when I was 12, so I’ve been playing that for 58 years. I’ve been playing the banjo for about 20 years, and I’ve played the mandolin
for three.

“I play music mostly for myself, but I also jam with friends. Playing the instruments didn’t come naturally to me. I had to work very hard to learn them. It’s difficult to say which instrument is my favorite; it’s either the guitar or banjo, but I love all of them.”

In addition to music, Robert concentrates on staying healthy and enjoying life. But those aims have become more difficult to achieve. For the past 15 years, Robert has struggled with a heart condition.

“I’ve always had a problem with the circulation in my heart,” Robert shares. “I experience hills and valleys as far as my energy and discomfort, including chest pain and tightness. I’ll be all right for a couple of weeks, and then the symptoms will come back and slow me down.

“When I get too slow, I know that the arteries in my heart are blocked. Typically, the only treatment options are stents or open heart surgery. But there’s also a therapy called EECP that I learned about and have taken advantage of.”

Enhanced external counterpulsation, or EECP, is a safe, noninvasive, circulation-boosting technique for easing uncomfortable cardiac symptoms. Robert underwent EECP for the first time in 2006 and again seven years later. He experienced significant benefits from the procedures, but a year ago, Robert’s symptoms returned.

“I was feeling very sluggish, very tired all the time,” Robert describes. “I was also experiencing minor pain and tightness in my chest, as well as shortness of breath. I had to do something.

“My doctor placed three stents in my coronary arteries, but I felt that wasn’t enough. I wanted to be healthier and more active. I already had EECP twice at Citrus Memorial Hospital and decided to have the treatment a third time.”

Citrus Memorial had discontinued the treatment, so Robert searched the internet for providers offering EECP. He discovered L. Amarchand, MD, a cardiologist and internist in Brooksville.

Dr. Amarchand uses EECP to treat patients with heart disorders such as congestive heart failure, blocked coronary arteries and angina pain. Using EECP, Dr. Amarchand has a record of success in maintaining his cardiac patients’ heart health and independence.

Collateral Enhancement

Robert’s problems, Dr. Amarchand knew, were the result of a lack of oxygenated blood flowing through his heart. That can cause symptoms such as a loss of energy, shortness of breath, a tightening or pressure in the chest and weakness.

“It is not unusual for people to restrict their activities to reduce their discomfort as these symptoms get progressively worse,” Dr. Amarchand maintains. “As a result, their quality of life quickly diminishes. EECP can reverse these symptoms by working like a natural bypass procedure.

“Through the use of EECP, more than 12 million Americans have found relief from their symptoms, had their energy restored and received other benefits.”

EECP is delivered through a series of 35 hour-long sessions over seven weeks. During an EECP session, the patient reclines, fully clothed, on a cushioned table while listening to music or watching a movie.

Compression cuffs are wrapped around the patient’s calves, thighs and buttocks to apply pressure in rhythms carefully timed to the patient’s heartbeat.

“The pressure propels more blood upward and into the coronary arteries, enlarging the arteries and improving collateral circulation,”  Dr. Amarchand explains. “It helps the patient’s circulatory system bypass coronary artery blockages and opens up the underused collateral blood vessels.”

EECP is the perfect option for individuals who want to try a noninvasive procedure before resorting to heart surgery, Dr. Amarchand contends. It’s also good for those who have not achieved relief with prior procedures such as bypass and angioplasty, and for patients who aren’t candidates for surgery.

“According to studies, 85 percent of patients completing EECP treatments obtain substantial and sometimes dramatic relief from their heart-related symptoms,” Dr. Amarchand discloses. “The same percentage realizes increased exercise tolerance, mental alertness and reduced need for nitroglycerin to relieve angina pain.”

“If I start to feel pressure in my chest, I take nitroglycerin, and that kicks it,” Robert reports. “But my chest pain is minimal now, so I don’t take nitro that often, just once in a great while. Before EECP, I was taking it three or four times a week.”

Because it’s noninvasive, EECP can be repeated as often as needed, Dr. Amarchand says of the treatment that is FDA-approved and Medicare-reimbursed. But its beneficial effects can last from three to five years, the doctor stresses.

“It Rejuvenates Me”

Dr. Amarchand explained how EECP refreshes the heart with new blood flow from its collateral blood vessels. Robert just knows that it helps him.

“It rejuvenates me,” he enthuses. “After my first EECP, I felt like I was 20 years younger. I completed my third treatment a year ago, and I’ve been doing pretty well ever since.

“Now, I go to the gym three times a week and walk three-quarters of a mile around my neighborhood twice a day. I still get a little tired, but I think that has to do with my age as much as my heart. I’m feeling pretty good now and I’m happy about that.”

Robert is pleased with the providers he encountered at the Brooksville practice as well.

“Dr. Amarchand is very nice and quite knowledgeable,” the musician describes. “He explained everything and answered all my questions. My main contact was Dr. Tong Guo, who actually performed the treatments.

Dr. Guo is a very smart guy. He’s worked with EECP for years and helped start an EECP program in another state. I highly recommend them.

“EECP is wonderful. If you don’t want open heart surgery, and who does, you ought to try EECP because it’s fantastic therapy. I tell everyone with heart problems to try it because it’s noninvasive and it works.

“It takes a while to complete the EECP treatments. It takes five days a week for seven weeks; that’s 35 trips from my house in Homosassa to Brooksville. But we’re talking about your life. We’re talking about better heart health. It’s definitely worth it.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. js
*Patient’s name changed at his request.
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    • L. Amarchand, MD, FACP

      L. Amarchand, MD, FACP, is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He completed a residency in internal medicine and a two-year fellowship in cardiology and cardiac nuclear imaging at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingsto... Read More

    • L. Amarchand, MD, FACP

      L. Amarchand, MD, FACP, is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He completed a residency in internal medicine and a two-year fellowship in cardiology and cardiac nuclear imaging at St. Barnabas Medical Center, Li... Read More