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One overnight hospital stay relieves heart issue for retiree

January 29, 2019

Barry Carlson

Barry Carlson spent six decades of his life without any hint of heart trouble. But stress played a role in heart symptoms that surfaced around the time of his daughter’s wedding three and a half years ago. At that same time, he was about to retire from a high-pressure sales job. 

“There was a lot happening to me,” says the 68-year-old Schaumburg resident. “I was making some important business decisions and planning the wedding. It was all rolled into one.”

Barry also was scheduled for standard cataract removal. The day prior to surgery, he went for a basic physical. His ophthalmologist discovered that his heart rate was dangerously high.

“They wanted me to go right to the emergency room,” Barry recalls. “I was definitely worried and I knew I had to do something.”

After consulting with NCH Medical Group Cardiologist Paul Ruzumna, M.D., he was referred to NCH Medical Group Electrophysiologist John Onufer, M.D., named one of Chicago Magazine’s 2019 Top Doctors. Barry was diagnosed with a severe case of AFib, (atrial fibrillation) a disorder of the heart that causes it to beat erratically or irregularly. Typical symptoms can include general fatigue, fluttering or thumping in the chest, dizziness, shortness of breath and anxiety, sweating, chest pain or pressure.

“I remember him saying how weak my heart was,” Barry says. “I thought it was a death sentence, in the sense of having to be on medication forever.”

Dr. Onufer then explained a minimally invasive procedure called atrial fibrillation ablation. He told Barry that it could restore a normal heart rhythm by terminating the faulty electrical pathways in his heart.

“In patients with heart failure, this improves heart function and survival,” Dr. Onufer says. “In Barry’s case, his heart had significant impairment which completely resolved once his rhythm returned to normal.”

Barry recalls the procedure was quick and painless, and it was a bonus to receive excellent cardiovascular care so close to home.

“Dr. Onufer was very confident and I knew he had done a lot of these procedures,” Barry says. “It was one night in the hospital. I went home and relaxed for a few days. It worked for me.”

Within about a week, Barry was back to eating well, exercising and feeling great.

Barry says, “The follow-up was great. There were phone calls to see how I was doing, and I was impressed that NCH cared and checked on me. I give everybody there an A+.”

At a checkup in the fall of 2018, Barry discussed his desire to stop taking an anticoagulant, due to bleeding gums.

“In Barry’s case, he was able to stop taking his blood thinners,” Dr. Onufer says, adding that they can be stopped in certain cases, but not as a rule.

Dr. Onufer takes Barry’s pulse, which is normal after catheter ablation.

“My EKG was great and we both agreed that there was no reason to stay on the medication,” Barry says. “I’ve been off of it since October and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. I’m a success story.”

Today, Barry is keeping his heart healthy by eating a diet of fiber, protein, lots of fish, fruits and vegetables. He also walks up to two and a half miles daily. He remains thankful to Dr. Onufer and the expert care he received at NCH’s Heart and Vascular Center, noting he had done his research before choosing the hospital.

“They’re known for great cardiac care,” Barry says. “If you have a heart issue, you want to be at NCH.”

No case is the same; results may vary.

John Onufer, M.D., FACC, FHRS, Board-Certified Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiologist, practices at 880 West Central Road, Suite 7100 in Arlington Heights. To schedule an appointment, call 847-618-AFIB. 

Learn more about leading-edge heart and vascular care at NCH at

Expert care. Right here.

NCH has physicians who are board-certified in clinical cardiac electrophysiology procedures, including ablations and device implants for heart rhythm irregularities. Our AFib clinic provides quick access to care in an outpatient setting.

Nationally recognized for cardiac care, NCH received the 2018-2019 America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Cardiac Care™ Award from Healthgrades™, ranking in the top five percent nationwide for cardiovascular services. NCH also was named a 2018-2019 High Performing Hospital for Heart Failure by U.S. News & World Report.

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