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Israeli man with ‘completely reversed’ heart receives correction by cardiologists

‘We had to think of everything as if looking into a mirror’ – Carmel Medical Center physician

Illustrative image (Photo: Shutterstock)

An Arab-Israeli man, born with his heart on the wrong side of his chest, is in recovery following corrective surgery at the Carmel Medical Center in Haifa. 

Saeed Shakker, a 34-year-old bus driver, said his heart condition was discovered when he was 7 years old, but he was not compelled to address the rare condition until 2018. 

While driving a forklift at the Haifa port, “I suddenly felt my heart beating, hearing it through my head and ears,” he said.

An examination revealed Shakker’s heart was beating at 200 beats per minute, compared to a normal pulse range of 60-100 bpm. A paramedic who treated him at the scene was reportedly surprised that Shakker was able to remain conscious during the episode.

While Shakker suffers from asthma, for which he takes medication, Dr. Asaf Dannon, director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology laboratory at the Carmel Medical Center, said Shakker “managed to have a proper quality of life until he turned 30.”

“Saeed always had issues with asthma, and medication for it has stopped working for him in recent years,” Dannon told Israel’s Ynet news. “He would come into the hospital often, where he would undergo a cardioversion. It would help him for a time, but his heart issues kept coming back. When he came to the Carmel Medical Center, we knew he had to undergo cardiac catheterization to fix his condition.”

Without treatment, he said, Shakker “would have likely kept feeling chest pains, elevated heartbeat and difficulties breathing.”

Shakker’s dextrocardia is a rare condition that, on its own, usually does not cause problems, but “tends to occur with other conditions that can have serious effects on the heart, lungs and other vital organs,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Saeed would have needed to take medication to lower the palpitations. He could have reached a dangerous state of heart failure,” Dannon said. Shakker’s physician, Dr. Nissan Ben-Dov, said that the fact that Shakker’s heart anatomy was entirely reversed posed an even more difficult challenge.

“We had to think of everything as if looking into a mirror and make opposite hand movements,” said Dr. Jorge Schliamser, head of the Electrophysiology Department at the Carmel Medical Center.

Following the procedure, Shakker confirmed that he felt an improvement in his health.

“Now I’m feeling better, thank God, and would like to return home to my wife and child.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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