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An Interview with Cardiology Nurse Practitioner Marcie Smigorowsky

EDMONTON – There were some days when Lanny Magnussen’s heart would beat so fast, he felt like he had just been sprinting and was about to throw up.

“It would go from some bumping, where I’d be fine and I’d continue working, to where it was quite violent and I couldn’t move,” the 63-year-old said.

Magnussen has atrial fibrillation, a chronic disease that has no cure and causes a rapid, irregular heartbeat of more than 150 beats per minute. When the condition was at its worst, it forced him to go to the emergency room every six to eight weeks, he said.

But since he joined the atrial fibrillation program, Magnusson hasn’t returned to the emergency room because of his condition.

The specialized program, which launched more than a year ago as a pilot project, is now a permanent fixture of the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute. The program aims to provide patients with the condition with proper education, advice, and personalized medical treatment. Family members are welcome to join patients at each of the appointments.

“Really, the ultimate goal of the atrial fibrillation program is to increase quality of life,” said Marcie Smigorowsky, the nurse practitioner who helps run the clinic. The condition affects about 350,000 Canadians, she said, and while it is not life-threatening itself, it can lead to strokes and heart failure.

“We need to treat this quite quickly and appropriately so having the clinic, where we can bring everybody together under the one roof, only helps to improve services for patients,” Smigorowsky said.

Magnussen is just one of about 400 patients in the program. These days, he comes into the clinic about once every three months but calls Smigorowsky any time he feels something change.

“The thing that’s absolutely wonderful about this clinic is my ability to phone and get through to Marcie,” Magnussen said. “My wife and I say Marcie is our angel.”

Throughout this process, Magnussen hasn’t lost his sense of humour, jokingly blaming his medical condition on the Edmonton Oilers.

“They would be playing bad, I’d go into AF, and you’d have to take me to the emergency room.”

All kidding aside, he said the program has profoundly changed his life.

“My quality of life I believe is much better than it would be if I wasn’t involved in this clinic,” Magnussen said. “This is only going one way. There is no cure. There isn’t a get better magic pill. It’s management for the best quality of life possible.”