Bob Jones was a lifelong runner who exercised six days a week. “I was perfectly healthy; the only problem I had was afib,” says Jones, a 56-year-old insurance agent and volunteer fireman who lives on Buggs Island Lake with his wife, Robin.
Atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia, is characterized by a rapid heartbeat caused by faulty electrical signals. Afib patients can have an increased risk of stroke.
Under the direction of a cardiologist, Jones tried medication and wore monitors, but the problem of his erratic heartbeat kept flaring up—sometimes when exercising, sometimes not. “It would come on at random times. I had no control over it,” he says.
The final straw came on the day of the wedding of his oldest daughter, Jade (a graduate of the VCU School of Medicine who is now in her dermatology residency at University of Virginia), in May 2013. He was driving with a friend to South Hill, to pick up some items for the wedding, when his afib struck. “I actually pulled over and asked him to drive. It had become so bad,” he recalls. Jones had to go to a friend’s house and lie down on a bed. “It was two or three hours before the wedding; the worst bout I ever had. So after that happened, I decided to do something about it.”
He called an attorney that he knew who’d had a successful ablation—a catheter-based procedure that involves identifying the tissue area where the erratic signals originate, then burning them with a burst of radiofrequency energy. The attorney referred him to his physician, VCU electrophysiologist Kenneth Ellenbogen, M.D., who “was considered sort of the dean of the procedure in Richmond,” recalls Jones.
Upon meeting Ellenbogen, he says, “I had tremendous confidence in his ability; he just came across as so authoritative in his occupation. Anything he said I took to the bank.”
His healthy lifestyle made him an ideal candidate for the ablation, which was led by Ellenbogen on December 27, 2013. He was out of the hospital within 24 hours, and “I haven’t had afib since,” he says. “It was an answered prayer in my life.”
Since his ablation, Jones—a lifelong regular churchgoer—tries to stop by a place of worship daily, even when he is on vacation. “I vowed to try to be thankful every day,” says Jones, who encourages others facing trials to put their faith in prayer.
In May 2014, he attended the wedding of his youngest daughter, Juli (a pharmacist who graduated from the VCU School of Pharmacy in May 2015)—this time, with no problems.
Additionally, “he is now off all of his medicines and running again,” says Ellenbogen. “It’s a return to a wonderful lifestyle.”
TOP: BOB RELAXES ON BUGGS ISLAND LAKE WITH SKIPPER, HIS NEW BRITISH GOLDEN RETRIEVER.