Heart Month 2018: Derek Bernardi

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Derek Bernardi

Derek was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare and complex congenital heart disease. He underwent corrective surgery, yet 10 years later he had a ventricular tachycardia (V-tach) episode—a sudden cardiac event in which abnormal electrical signals in the ventricles cause the heart to beat faster than normal, in Derek’s case a nearly fatal 235 beats per minute (a normal pulse is considered 60-100 bpm). After being rushed to a local hospital, he was given a pacemaker defibrillator, but a year later he was physically so weak that he could not even walk out to his mailbox. Within six months, he saw four different cardiologists before stepping into Dr. Beth Brickner's office at UT Southwestern. "No one knew what it was until I got to UT Southwestern,” Derek recalls. Within 30 minutes of his arrival, Dr. Brickner knew exactly what the problem was and immediately went into action. "It took the nurses, the doctors, all the specialists... everybody had to come together for me to make it out of there alive,” he says.

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