For nearly 10 years, professional mountain bike racer Alexis Skarda struggled with supraventricular tachycardia, an irregularly rapid heartbeat that develops when the heart’s normal electrical impulses are disrupted.
“It wasn’t a life-threatening condition,” Alexis said. “But it was a big challenge to deal with as an athlete. It really affected the way I trained and raced. When my heart would go off during a race, the only thing I could do was pull over and wait for it to settle down. I was losing time and losing races because of my condition, and it was frustrating.”
In her frustration, Alexis began talking about her condition on social media. One of her followers was a physician who recommended that she see Dr. Trey Moore, a cardiac electrophysiologist at St. Mary’s Medical Center.
“Reaching an accurate diagnosis in these heart rhythm issues can be tricky,” said Dr. Moore. “We initially used a standard EKG test to try to figure out the most likely diagnosis, but to really get to the root of what was causing Alexis’s fast rhythms, we did an electrophysiology study. This involved putting tiny wires inside her heart so we could build a 3D map of her heart firing systems, revealing short circuits and irritated areas.”
It turned out that Alexis had two different heart rhythm problems. One she was born with: atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia, which is a short circuit inside her heart. The second—atrial tachycardia—was likely related to how athletic she was and how hard she pushed herself. Dr. Moore recommended ablation therapy, which uses radiofrequencies to cook tiny parts of the heart areas and destroy the short circuits that are causing problems.
“Dr. Moore gave me so much confidence that he knew what he was doing and had my best interests in mind,” said Alexis. “He was great at explaining the procedure, the possible risks, and how he was going to do it safely. I had waited 10 years to have the procedure and was excited and relieved at the prospect of not having to worry about my heart going off during a race.”
“Taking care of people like Alexis and helping them solve their problem is a tremendous gift for me,” said Dr. Moore. “I got to help someone who’s functioning at a super high-level reach that extra step, and it’s been extremely rewarding to work with her. It really takes an advanced medical center like St. Mary’s to pull together the resources to provide these types of healthcare services. We have very highly skilled physicians, technicians, nurses and anesthesiologists who are integral in providing top-level care for our patients.”
“The recovery was super-fast,” said Alexis. “I was ready to get back on my bike only a week after having the procedure. I haven’t had any issues since, and I’ve been able to ride my bike without my heart rate going up. Getting the ablation therapy has allowed me to race and train as I need to. Knowing that I don’t have to worry about my heart rate going up just getting off the couch is a comforting feeling. As a professional athlete, I need to be able to depend on my heart to allow me to do what I love. Thanks to Dr. Moore and the team at St. Mary’s, I have a future now.”
Learn more about how St. Mary’s is providing the best heart care in Western Colorado at stmarygj.org/heart.