Atrial Fibrillation Surgery at Bumrungrad International: Actor & Producer Gary Wood shares his story

February 28, 2020 0 By Peter Engel


I am Gary Wood. So as it happens it was my 73rd birthday. Some friends were going to take my wife and I to dinner. And while I was sitting and waiting for her to get ready, my heart rate was climbing, and as a bonus for my 73rd birthday, I now had hypertension too. Because my blood pressure was now rising, rising, rising. So I said honey, we’re not going to dinner. I’ve got to go to the hospital and find out what’s going on with me. So we went to a local hospital, we live at the beach about 2 hours from Bangkok, and I saw a cardiologist there. They in fact confirmed my heart rate was high my blood pressure was very high. And she said, maybe this is probably just a one-off thing, that you were dehydrated and over-caffeinated, because I did have quite a lot of ice tea that day. I had no idea what AFib was. I really didn’t pay attention, too, because that was not for me. These are things that happen to other people. I swim 1500 meters every day and go to the gym 4 days a week, so I just didn’t think that was anything for me. I was checking my watch over the next few days very often and two or three days later, it happened again. So I got to Bumrungrad, went through a battery of tests and the cardiologist confirmed that I, in fact, did have atrial fibrillation. I’m not exactly sure about what was said after that, because I think I heard about every third word. This landed on me like a truckload of bricks. It was like I was underwater. I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that this had happened to me because, as I’ve shared with you, because of the way I exercise, because of the way I take care of myself. Then she started to talk about the fact that I might need some medication that I have to take the rest of my life. I said there has to be something else. There has to be. Then she told me about Dr Koonlawee, who is one of a handful experts in the world in dealing with this. She told me that he’d be at the hospital in a couple of weeks, and I said please arrange for me to see him. That’s what we did. Atrial Fibrillation is the most common rhythm disorder that is characterized by fast heartbeat, irregular, very chaotic, in the top chamber of the heart called atrium. Usually it’s on the top chamber, which would go very fast, over 400–500 beats per minute, very chaotic. But now you probably could detect it early because people wear these smartwatches, and some of the smartphones have an app that you can record the tracing or check your heartbeat. So, the patient would notice that they have unusual fast heartbeats and irregular heartbeat; because of that, they will seek medical advice. Gary has a condition called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, meaning that his atrial fibrillation comes and goes. Today we identified the abnormal area that triggers his fibrillation and the area that perpetuates it and sustains it. How do we do that? We create a map of the top chamber, both right and left. Gary is affected mostly on the left side, which is typical for patients with atrial fibrillation. When we’re building the heart anatomy, we also record electrical signals and because of that, we have the virtual heart of Gary in three dimensions, color coded, and highlighted abnormal areas that guide us to precisely work on the abnormal area. And we did that. After we cauterized the targeted areas, his atrial fibrillation terminated. That’s a very good end point. I’m alive. The last couple of days have been quite something. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, I could not draw a deep breath then feel good. Today, I can draw a deep breath again. This is really like Star Wars. A month ago, I felt like I had been given a death sentence, and today I feel like I’ve been renewed, like I’ve been given myself back. I expected, because this is Bumrungrad, that I would be in a great hospital. And I expected, because I know Dr Koonlawee and I had researched him, he was going to be at the very top of his game, and he was. Absolutely everybody involved in the team here at Bumrungrad has shown me so much empathy and compassion. From signing in until today, I really don’t have words to describe it, I’ve never experienced anything like this. It’s quite amazing, it’s quite amazing, and I’m profoundly grateful and appreciative. So, a little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with AFib. It was like a black cloud had come over my life, as I shared with you. Today, I have no AFib, I’m off all medication, I’m back in the gym, I’m back in the pool, I feel great. I feel as if my life was returned to me. I do not have the words to properly express my gratitude to Dr Koonlawee and the entire team here at Bumrungrad. There is no question that I could not have been better cared for, in any way, anywhere else in the world.