Heart disease difficult to diagnose & hard to treat

Knoxville (WVLT) -- With the passing of Tim Russert, many of us are becoming more aware of heart attacks and how quickly they can take ones life.

One particular form of heart disease that you may not be as familiar with is called Pericarditis.

We are introducing you to a 26-year-old that suffered from this disease that is difficult to diagnose and often hard to treat.

Attorney David Geller lost months of his life because of a disease called pericarditis.

"I really spent a year just sitting in my house being sick."

His first symptoms mimicked those of a heart attack.

Geller says, "Horrible pain in my chest and my neck."

But tests showed that the lining of his heart, called the pericardium, was inflamed.

The inflammation, often caused by a common virus such as a cold or the flu, can be debilitating, but ti's usually not lethal.

In fact most cases resolve with prescription anti-inflammatory medication.

But the treatment David got at first, steroids, made symptoms much worse.

Geller says, "I just kept getting sicker."

Dr. Farouk Mookadam says this situation is not uncommon, "The average patient we see with pericarditis is about 18 months after initial insult."

Pericarditis usually strikes people under the age of 50 and it is not very common.

So some doctors are not used to dealing with it, and making a diagnosis may require a battery of tests such as blood work, x-rays, ecg's, ct scans, mri's and echo cardiograms.

Dr. Mookadam says, "Difficult for the patient and difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat."

Dr. Mookadam got David on the right treatment plan but by that time his pericardium was damaged beyond repair and needed surgery to remove it.

Now he is working to let others know about this disease so they wont suffer as he did.

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