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Heart Healthy Defibrillator Helps Save Lives

MIAMI (CBS4) -- On this Valentine's Day, there are thousands of people who will be grateful for their beating hearts. That's because they are survivors of sudden cardiac arrest and there's one device credited with keeping many of these people alive.

One of those people is 76-year-old Armand Thibodau. He and his twin brother Andre share a lot as twins often do but one this they could do without is their shared heart problems.

"Just walking anywhere, going to the beach, I was puffing getting back and forth from the water," explained Armand. "And the problem became increasingly more pronounced."

Thibodau's heart was operating at just 30-percent.

Cardiologist Rishi Anand with Holy Cross Hospital says that could certainly lead to sudden cardiac death, which is different from dying of a heart attack.

"A heart attack can cause someone to drop dead suddenly," said Dr. Anand. "But sudden cardiac death can also be caused by other things."

Thibodau learned he had a weak and irregular heart beat. He tried medication to fix the rapid heartbeat and when that didn't work, Dr. Anand suggested something else.

"We found that the heart's pumping function really was not improving so at that point we decided to implant a bio ventricular ICD or defibrillator," explained Dr. Anand.

The defibrillator, which works and looks like a pacemaker, corrects his heart rate using an electrical current. Dr. Anand says since Thibodau had the device implanted, it has already been a life saver.

"Several months after the device was implanted he actually got a shock by the defibrillator. He had ventricular fibrillation come about for no apparent reason. The device appropriately detected it, charged itself up and shocked his heart out of it. It saved his life," said Dr. Anand.

Dr. Anand warns if you have heart problems or a family history and you suddenly become lightheaded or get heart palpitations, those are distinct warning signs that must not be ignored and you should seek medical attention immediately.

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