Penn Heart and Vascular

Jeanine's Heart Block and Pacemaker Story

"I'm a distance runner and lifelong heart patient. I needed a team that would go the distance with me."

—Jeanine Baron

"It started when I was 24. I was home with my husband, when out of the blue I began having grand mal seizures. I was living in a small city at the time and the doctors at the local hospital were able to stop the seizures with Dilantin. Then, after some tests and no real diagnosis, they sent me home. When more seizures landed me right back there, an EKG finally revealed I was going into heart block and needed a pacemaker. The hospital was so small, they had to fly in a doctor to give me the implant. That was 1984.

They told me that implant wasn't going to last and I would need maintenance and ultimately lead revision surgery – basically I'd be a heart patient for life. But I was also a young person who lived a big life. Eventually, as our family moved around the mid-Atlantic, it became clear to me that most of the doctors I was seeing just didn't seem comfortable treating someone as young and active as I was. That changed when we moved to Philadelphia.

By then, I had done a lot of research and read the medical journals. A Penn cardiologist, Dr. David Callans, kept coming up in the journals as this guru of electrophysiology. I chose Penn not just because of Dr. Callans's reputation, but also because he totally got me. Unlike any other doctor I had seen at other hospitals, he understood that I wasn't just another pacemaker patient. He could see that maintaining my full and active lifestyle was important to me. He's a runner like I am as well…there was just a connection that let me know I was in the right place. Plus, I thought that, overall, Penn had the best science minds to deal with my situation long-term.

So to make a long story short, I had major surgery at Penn in 2009 where I had not just lead revision but leads extracted and new leads put in. I also had a brachial implant and a submuscular generator implant. This required a total team of Penn physicians, working together, to put the whole care plan together. It was phenomenal--the confidence, collaboration and the compassion from the moment I walked in the door. It was something I'll never forget. Today, the only limitation I have as a pacemaker patient is a hassle when I go to airports. But I am so fortunate to have the amazing relationship I have with my team at Penn. It's truly personalized medicine."