Procedure helps boy with rare condition regain active lifestyle

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Luke Hellman seems like any other 10-year-old boy. He’s an active fourth grader who loves baseball. This summer, however, life threw him a major curveball.

He was at home playing video games with his brother when his heart started racing. He passed out.

His mother, Peggy, remembers the chaotic scene.

“I was in complete, complete shock. I thought my son was going to die in my arms,” she recalled.

Luke was diagnosed with a rare condition called WPW (Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome). It’s found in less than a half-percent of the general population.

WPW is caused by the presence of an abnormal electrical pathway in the heart. This abnormal pathway can create a scenario in which the heart contracts too often and too quickly, leading to supraventricular tachycardia.

As dangerous as the abnormal pathway can be, it is also very treatable.

“We put catheters, or long, skinny tubes up the veins in the leg to the heart,” said Dr. Leonard Steinberg with Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent. “We find the electrical short circuit that causes the heart to beat erratically and we eliminate it by hitting it with energy and destroying that tiny part of the heart.”

Now, just months after the procedure, Luke is back to his active self.

“We’re very grateful for the people that surrounded us, from the paramedics to Peyton Manning hospital to Dr. Steinberg. It was great,” said Luke’s father Jeff.

As for Dr. Steinberg, he is pleased to think about Luke’s future.

“Luke’s a great kid and I’m glad he’s cured and back to living a normal life.”

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