Mike McCarthy, Mill Valley
When Mike McCarthy - a former Olympics competitor and world champion cyclist - needed heart surgery, he was willing to search the country to find the best possible care. As it turned out, the Mill Valley resident found top-notch heart care in his own backyard - at Sutter-affiliated California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC).
"After searching high and low, I was fortunate enough to find Dr. Steven Hao, who is the head of electro cardiology at CPMC," McCarthy says. "Dr. Hao is actually a bike rider himself, so he had a tremendous amount of compassion for my lifestyle - and I think he was pretty eager to fix me."
The problem that needed fixing was atrial fibrillation - a disruption in the heart's electrical system that affects blood flow and causes dangerously rapid heart rates. In Mike's case, his heart rate had suddenly spiked to about 280 beats per minute during a routine training run - something the fit, seasoned athlete had never experienced before. "I got real lightheaded and I couldn't catch my breath," he remembers. "It felt like all the blood was draining out of my legs and body."
It took two days before his heart rate normalized. The frightening event left Mike living with the dread of a repeat episode. "I was worried about passing out, I was worried about having a stroke, and I was worried about driving my car off the road when I was taking my kids to school," he recalls.
It took a five-and-a-half-hour corrective heart surgery, performed by Dr. Hao, to repair the problem. "The difference was night and day," Mike asserts.
"It's pretty amazing to be able to go out now, ride my bike and play with my kids again without any kind of issue. I'm back to being nationally competitive on my bike and being the gung-ho dad I want to be," he says. "Now it's like I have a ticket to do anything I want to do."
"I'm Mike McCarthy, and that's my story."