For Doug Bartow, a father and grandfather, research gave UW Hospital physicians the tools to identify his potentially life-threatening genetic heart-condition – and take steps to ensure the safety of his children and grandchildren. Dr. Lee Eckhardt, a UW-Madison cardiologist, runs a clinic for the inherited disease, where the Bartow family’s was changed. She looks to private funding to reach and follow affected families.
This is just one example of what we can do together.
Here are their stories.
My girls have lived years with this heart syndrome, not knowing they had it. We’ve been very, very lucky. To be able to protect my kids and my grandkids, especially my grandkids: It’s wonderful.
Chris Bartow, wife, mother and grandmother
An unexpected illness left Doug Bartow waiting for a life-saving liver transplant; that’s when UW Hospital physicians also discovered he had a serious heart condition that could result in sudden death.
The diagnosis of inherited arrhythmia helped Bartow understand the long-ago deaths of his 14-year-old sister and 5-year-old brother. It also led to testing that showed his two daughters and three grandchildren carry the gene. “The worst part of this disease is that so many people don’t know about it,” Bartow says.
The treatment saves lives: An implantable pacemaker for Bartow, beta blockers for his daughters and grandchildren, and special training for community EMTs and educators will help the family avoid more sudden deaths.
The outcome protects a family: Bartow has returned to his two loves: volunteer firefighting and spending time with his family. The family works with physicians and a genetic counselor to be able to live life to the fullest and protect the children at risk of sudden death.
Dr. Lee Eckhardt
Cardiologist, Co-director UW Inherited Arrhythmia Clinic
Prevention of sudden cardiac death is my main gig. Patients with abnormal heart rhythms are otherwise healthy people who deserve a normal life span and quality of life.
Dr. Lee Eckhardt
Abnormal heart rhythms are the most frequent cause of sudden cardiac death, yet little is known about what causes them. UW-Madison physicians and scientists study the electrical activity of the heart to understand at a molecular level what can go wrong. Our goal is to develop more effective interventions and provide state-of-the-art clinical care.
Faculty and staff in the Inherited Arrhythmias Clinic evaluate the causes of sudden death, study families’ medical histories and perform genetics screens to identify family members at risk. The work is difficult as physicians talk to teen-agers about life- and death-issues.
“In this disease, you must see the entire family or you end up with young people who die when it could’ve been prevented,” Eckhardt says.
American Family Insurance is among the friends who helped the clinic expand services to families. Even small gifts help families afford life-saving genetic testing.