Utah’s Star Lotulelei sidelined by heart condition at NFL combine

By Chuck Schilken
LA Times: 10:19 AM PST, February 25, 2013
Lotulelei, Utah v UCLA
Lotulelei, Utah v UCLA. Utah defensive end Star Lotulelei hopes to work out for NFL teams at the Utes’ pro day after a heart condition caused league officials to ask him not to work out at the scouting combine. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images / October 13, 2012)

Utah defensive end Star Lotulelei has been told by the NFL he can’t participate in Monday’s workouts at the scouting combine due to a heart condition that requires further attention, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen first reported.

Lotulelei, a first-team All American projected by many to be a top 10 pick in April’s draft, will undergo further testing back in Salt Lake City later this week after an echocardiogram discovered an abnormality during a physical at the combine.

According to Mortensen, Lotulelei has a low Ejection Fraction, with the left ventricle of his heart pumping at 44% efficiency. A normal range is considered 55% to 70%.

Not allowed to take part in workouts before consulting with a specialist, Lotulelei still plans to interview with teams at the combine and then participate in a full workout at Utah’s pro day next month.

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Santa Rosa High School grieves sudden death of science teacher

Vince Whitcomb died at home Tuesday night

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT: Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The Santa Rosa High School community is grieving the sudden death of a respected science teacher who seemed always in a positive mood and enjoyed mingling with students.

Vince Whitcomb had taught in Santa Rosa City Schools since 2000, including stints at Cook Middle School, and had been at the district’s largest high school since 2005. He taught physics, physical science and ArtQuest science.

The 68-year-old was found at home Tuesday night by his wife, Heidi Pelot, who is a counselor at Santa Rosa High.

Whitcomb had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for Wednesday after he began experiencing shortness of breath and minor chest pains. Otherwise, he seemed to be in excellent health, said his daughter Willow Pelot-Whitcomb of Los Angeles.

She described her father as a creative and spiritual man who loved writing poetry and playing blues on the harmonica. Born in Brooklyn, Whitcomb was an oceanographer, carpenter and marriage and family therapist prior to embarking on a new career as a teacher.

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TEEN ESSAY: A near-fatal wakeup call about food allergies

Published in Press Democrat: Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 2:58 p.m.

It was a normal summer afternoon about eight years ago. I was just a small fourth-grader when my sister came home with a container full of cashews. Since I always enjoyed snacks containing peanut butter and tree nuts, I was eager to taste them, not knowing what was ahead of me.

Malcolm PinsonI grabbed a handful and quickly ate the cashews. About 10 minutes later, I started feeling funny. My throat began to close up and it became harder for me to breathe, I felt sick and dashed toward the bathroom and started vomiting. While all of this was happening, my sister called my dad and asked him what to do. After hearing his advice, she told me that I should lie down and rest.

Half an hour later, my dad arrived home and rushed upstairs to see how I was. When he saw me, he was surprised to see how bad I looked. I was physically weak, my eyes were almost swollen shut and my cheeks were inflated like a balloon. “We’re going to the hospital right now!” he said.

He drove me to the hospital in record time. As we got there, the nurse sent me to the emergency room. While in the ER, the nurse laid me down on the bed and gave me a shot of Bena-dryl. About two hours later, I was able to return home.

The nurse told me that I had experienced an extreme allergic reaction to tree nuts called anaphylaxis. Having an anaphylaxis allergy means I cannot consume tree nuts or else my throat closes up, and there is a possibility of me dying. The medicine worked tremendously and I started feeling better within minutes.

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Vital Signs: A Twitch of the Heart

When a cardiac nurse collapses during a stress test, her physicians must track down a rare heart condition before it kills her.

By H. Lee Kagan|Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Human HeartI was checking on my patients in the cardiac monitoring unit at the hospital where I am on staff, when Denise, a 31-year-old nurse on the unit, stopped me to ask about chest pains she was having.

“I think I need to come see you,” she said. Denise had been my patient for several years. “I’ve been having these pains off and on. It’s been more than a month, and they’re not going away.”

Denise was clenching her fist over her mid-chest—a signal that, despite her relatively young age, she might be experiencing cardiac pain. Patients describing angina, the major symptom of a heart starved for oxygen because of narrowed coronary arteries, often clench their fist against their chest to illustrate what they’re feeling. Typical angina is a pressure-like pain felt in the middle of the chest that is brought on by physical exertion. It fades away with rest. The ache may radiate into the neck or jaw or down an arm.

But Denise’s chest pain was not typical of angina. Her pains were occurring at random times, unprovoked by anything she could identify. And the discomfort went away spontaneously after several minutes, whether she stopped what she was doing or not. Exercise didn’t bother her at all, she said. As I eyed her overweight frame, however—she was an even five feet tall and weighed 150 pounds—it struck me that serious exercise was something she probably thought about more than she actually did.

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Freezing heart tissue halts atrial fibrillation better than drugs, study says

Los Angeles Times
March 16, 2010 |  4:28 pm

An experimental device that uses a catheter-based probe to freeze a tiny area of the heart that causes erratic electrical impulses is much better than drugs at curing atrial fibrillation, researchers reported Monday at the Atlanta meeting of the American College of Cardiology. The device is expected to provide an alternative to current non-invasive techniques that use radio frequency energy to burn away the tissue.

Atrial fibrillation, which affects an estimated 2.7 million Americans and as many as 10 million people worldwide, is the result of aberrant electrical signals that cause the heart to quiver rather than beat strongly. That allows blood to pool in the heart, where it can form clots that cause strokes and heart problems. Patients also suffer chronic fatigue, difficulty breathing and heart failure.

About half of all patients fail drug treatment and require more aggressive approaches. Surgeons used to perform open-chest surgery to access the heart and cauterize the electrically irritable tissue. About a year ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first catheter-based system to perform the procedure, Johnson & Johnson’s ThermoCool system, which burns away the undesirable tissue with radio frequency (Rf) energy. In this approach, a catheter is threaded through a blood vessel in the groin to the heart, where the tip is used to ablate the tissue. The new instrument, called the Arctic Front Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter System, uses the same approach but employs a balloon that fills with liquid nitrogen to freeze the tissue.

In the new study, called Stop-AF, Dr. Kevin Wheelan of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital in Dallas and his colleagues at 26 U.S. and Canadian centers studied 245 patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, in which the episodes occur intermittently. Two-thirds of the patients were randomized to receive the treatment and the rest received drug therapy. The Johnson & Johnson device had not been approved by the FDA when they began the study, so they had to compare it to the best available approved treatment.

Dr. Douglas Packer of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said at the meeting that 69.9% of the patients receiving cryoablation were free of atrial fibrillation a year after the procedure, compared with 7.3% on drug therapy. About 3% of patients who underwent ablation suffered heart attacks, strokes or other major cardiovascular events, compared with 8.5% of those on drug therapy. The most serious side effect of the procedure was phrenic nerve palsy — an interference with the electrical pacing of the diaphragm — in 11.2% of the procedures. The problem resolved within a year in all but four patients.

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