Mother and Daughter Undergo Same Procedure for Rare Condition; Wellmont CVA Heart Institute Electrophysiologist Praised for His Performance

Mar. 30, 2017 | KINGSPORT, Tenn.

Bonds between a parent and child are often strong and continue to build as they share common experiences and support each other through challenging times.

Erica Morelock, a 35-year-old Kingsport resident, and her daughter, Elizabeth, a 14-year-old freshman at Dobyns-Bennett High School, recently developed a deeper connection when the teenager underwent a special procedure at Holston Valley Medical Center to correct a heart condition that had caused several side effects. Those included a heart rate that would periodically exceed 200 beats a minute, dizziness and trouble with her vision.

Interestingly, Mrs. Morelock underwent the same procedure nearly 10 months earlier at Holston Valley after months of similar symptoms that never resolved. To have two blood-related family members in the same medical situation is unusual because the condition diagnosed in both is relatively rare and not classified as hereditary.

Both females were diagnosed with having an additional electrical pathway between the heart’s upper and lower chambers, which causes a rapid heartbeat. To correct that, Keith Kyker, M.D., an electrophysiologist with the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute, inserted a catheter to locate the extra connection. Dr. Kyker used radiofrequency waves to heat that connection, a process called ablation, which enabled the heart’s electrical system to return to normal.

“What Erica and Elizabeth have is a very rare condition that developed before they were born,” Dr. Kyker said. “Its symptoms can become apparent to someone at a young age, such as Elizabeth, or it can become known at Erica’s age. I’ve even seen some patients where the symptoms have not presented until the person is older.”

He also noted it is sometimes easy for patients and physicians not to recognize this condition, believing instead a person is having an asthma or anxiety attack.

Mrs. Morelock and Elizabeth are sharing their story to help others who might experience the same symptoms. They also want to alert people that difficulties with one’s heart can start at any age and women are just as prone as men to be afflicted. Dr. Kyker said these cases are a good reminder of the importance of women and girls taking care of their health and paying attention to warning signs.

“Women tend to focus their attention on other people, believing those needs are more important than their own,” he said. “The reality is women have as great a risk for heart disease and other cardiovascular health issues as men, and they need to seek medical attention when they do not feel right rather than ignoring these symptoms. Erica and Elizabeth took appropriate steps when the warning signs developed for them, and I encourage all women to be vigilant about their health.”

Mrs. Morelock had a healthy early life, but in her late 20s, she said she gained weight and felt sluggish. Early tests revealed only that she had a Vitamin D deficiency. The situation became more serious when she turned 30 and began experiencing heart palpitations, which included shortness of breath and fluttering, as well as dizziness and migraines. A heart monitor did not detect any condition.

Then in December 2015, she experienced her worst episode, an incident at a stoplight when she lost her peripheral vision and felt a warm body sensation and an extremely fast heartbeat. She went to Holston Valley’s emergency department and had the same episode, which included a heart rate of 228. The diagnosis from emergency department physicians was supraventricular tachycardia.

Mrs. Morelock was referred to the heart institute, where she began to see Dr. Kyker. She tried beta blockers for the next five months but continued to have the same symptoms and felt fatigued. Based on a conversation with Dr. Kyker, she decided to forego the option of increasing the level of beta blockers and instead have the ablation procedure.

She had the procedure at Holston Valley in June and enjoyed a major turnaround in her health and well-being. She no longer experiences the symptoms that plagued her and has been released from her physician’s care.

“Almost a week later, I was vacuuming the car and was able to complete that task without any need to stop and rest,” Mrs. Morelock said. “That’s when I realized how much my energy had been sapped in recent years because of my condition. I have not stopped since and continue to feel great.”

Coincidentally, when Mrs. Morelock was at Holston Valley, her daughter was trying out for the girls’ soccer team at Dobyns-Bennett. As Elizabeth was running, she had trouble breathing, became dizzier and had darker vision. She had had asthma throughout her life but usually rebounded and resumed her activities fairly quickly. This time, though, it was different. Elizabeth recalled all of her energy seemingly disappeared.

About three months later, she had another episode while she was in gym class, and when she went to see a school nurse afterward, a heart monitor showed her rate was well above normal. Her father, Roy, came to the school and took her to Holston Valley’s emergency department. When she arrived, she had trouble walking and breathing in the parking lot.

Inside, medical personnel again checked her heart rate and discovered it was higher than 200. During the course of her treatment at Holston Valley, physicians diagnosed her with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which causes supraventricular tachycardia.

Like her mother, Elizabeth became a patient of Dr. Kyker. In subsequent months, Elizabeth was under observation to measure her progress but sustained a few more instances similar to what happened at the soccer tryout and in the gym. Beta blockers were not an option for her because of her age, and when she had another episode at school, Elizabeth told her parents she wanted to have the ablation procedure. Dr. Kyker performed the case Monday, March 27, at Holston Valley.

“It’s tiring to have this condition,” she said afterward from her bed in the pediatrics unit. “I’m glad I had the procedure. The area around my heart feels lighter, and I feel like I have more energy.”

When Elizabeth started to have the same issues and decided she wanted to have the procedure, her parents quickly decided who was going to perform it – Dr. Kyker. Mrs. Morelock said she and her husband were thrilled with the care she had received from Dr. Kyker in the office and at Holston Valley. She highlighted his demeanor, the manner in which he explained her condition and the way he did not rush her appointments.

“Because I had the same issue, I wanted my daughter to see Dr. Kyker,” Mrs. Morelock said. “He’s amazing and did a really good job with me. My husband does not like to see a physician, but he was really impressed with Dr. Kyker and agreed he was the best choice for our daughter. I would not have allowed her to do this until she was older if it weren’t for Dr. Kyker.”

No father or mother wants his or her child to be sick or have a procedure, but Mrs. Morelock said God helped her handle Elizabeth’s case by being diagnosed first.

“My faith has been stronger than my fear because God walked me through it first,” Mrs. Morelock said. “He knew my daughter would need this procedure, so to make it less stressful, he put me in that position before that. I would have been a nervous wreck otherwise, but I was at peace because I had the procedure earlier.”