After ablation, longtime runner makes speedy return to fitness
W. Daniel Waldron’s active lifestyle skidded to a halt in January 2000 when he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. But after undergoing ablation treatment at Cleveland Clinic the following year, he was able to return to running right away and even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2005.
He has completed three marathons and finished numerous half-marathons. He lived on a sailboat in the Bahamas and the Florida Keys for a year and a half, from October 2004 to early 2006. “If I had needed medical care, I couldn’t have done that,” says Mr. Waldron, who retired in 2003 as President and CEO of Buckeye Bank Shares.
His association with Cleveland Clinic began in the mid-1980s. At the time, he was the Cleveland regional president for FirstMerit Bank, which had enrolled its senior officers in a preventive health program. The physician in charge was Richard Lang, MD, MPH, who heads the Section of Preventive Medicine at Cleveland Clinic.
W. Daniel Waldron at Mount Kilimanjaro, 2005
Mr. Waldron continued to get physicals from Dr. Lang every other year. Everything was fine until the diagnosis in 2000. He had no symptoms. “I’d had an EKG in October and my heart was fine,” he says. “In January, I had a pretty serious problem. According to my family doctor, these things can come along almost instantly.”
The first cardiologist he consulted wanted to put in a pacemaker right away. When Mr. Waldron said he wanted a second opinion, the doctor recommended that he see Mina Chung, MD, Staff Cardiologist in the Section of Pacing and Electrophysiology at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Lang also recommended Dr. Chung. “She confirmed that I did have a-fib, but her approach was different,” Mr. Waldron says. Dr. Chung’s plan was to put him on medication and monitor his condition for about a year, and then do radiofrequency focal ablation. “I think we can repair your heart,” she told him.
In August 2001, he had the ablation treatment and has been off and running ever since. In the next couple of months alone, he’ll be doing a marathon, a half-marathon and two duathlons (in which participants run 5K, cycle for 12 to 18 miles, and then run another 5K).
“Had it not been for Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Lang and Dr. Chung’s expertise, I would have a pacemaker, I’d be on medication, and probably would not be doing those things,” Mr. Waldron says. “My life would be far different at 68 years old.”
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