Pauline: A Partner in Health

Pauline is no stranger to Mercy Medical Center. And her feelings toward the Downtown Baltimore hospital certainly cannot be defined by just one experience. Instead, her relationship with Mercy has been shaped over the course of nearly 20 years.

Through the many doctors, nurses and staff members who have helped make Mercy Medical Center Pauline’s health provider of choice, it is arguably her relationship with Dr. Mark Applefeld that helps tell her Mercy story.

Partners of the Heart

Pauline was first introduced to Dr. Applefeld, Director of The Heart Center and Chief of Cardiology at Mercy, in 2000. She was under the care of Dr. Neil Rosenshein, of The Gynecologic Oncology Center at Mercy, and at the time was receiving treatment for Stage 2 gynecologic cancer. Her treatment and care were progressing as expected, but when Pauline experienced an unusual moment of weakness and dizziness during a visit to the hospital, she was sent to Dr. Applefeld as a precaution.

Dr. Applefeld is a well-respected member of Mercy Medical Center. In addition to leading The Heart Center at Mercy, he is a former president of the Maryland Chapter of the American Heart Association, and has devoted his entire career to the advancement of cardiac care. While extremely modest and at times quiet, it’s his remarkable intelligence and the kindness he shows toward those he meets that truly resonates with his patients.

And for Pauline, it was no different. It was obvious from day one that Dr. Applefeld cared about his patients.

“I could tell he was very caring;” Pauline said, “very understanding.”

So with Pauline’s condition in mind, Dr. Applefeld completed a thorough evaluation of her heart and cardiovascular health. This included an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) to evaluate the structure and electrical activity of Pauline’s heart.

Both tests came back normal and there were no visible signs of cardiovascular disease. In many cases, patients with conditions like Pauline’s would simply go back to her normal lifestyle and cancer treatment. However, with early detection and prevention as the most important factors in limiting heart disease among patients, Dr. Applefeld knew that a more thorough approach would be critical to Pauline’s continued health.

His plan for Pauline would mean regular visits to his Downtown Baltimore office; careful screening for common cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attack and high blood pressure, and routine diagnostic tests to be sure they were one step ahead of any major problems.

Of course, knowing what was at stake, Pauline agreed and their partnership began.

For her, it wasn’t a bad deal. Sure, she had to make the 90-mile journey south across the Mason-Dixon Line from her home in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, several times a year, but she didn’t mind. That was a small price to pay for her health and the care she received from Dr. Applefeld.

Through the years that followed, Pauline would continue to be a regular visitor of Mercy Medical Center. She continued her treatment with Dr. Rosenshein and through it all, Dr. Applefeld was there to keep a careful eye on her overall health.

“I’m a very fortunate woman,” said Pauline. “I couldn’t ask for a better team of doctors and, of course, I always have Dr. Applefeld looking after me. I don’t have any major treatment unless he signs off on it.”   

A Shoulder to Lean On

In early 2013, with continued support from Dr. Applefeld, Pauline was being treated for a hiatal hernia by Dr. Lawrence Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Mercy. The hernia surgery was a success and everything had gone as planned, but Pauline was struggling through her recovery. She had trouble eating regularly, and perhaps even more concerning, she began fainting on more than one occasion.

“There were times that I had dizzy spells,” said Pauline, “and they would be so bad that I would pass out, so they immediately admitted me back into the hospital.”

Already familiar with Pauline’s medical history and health conditions, Dr. Applefeld quickly took the lead in evaluating and diagnosing her condition. As part of his evaluation process, Dr. Applefeld fit her with a Holter monitor, a portable EKG device that can be worn for up to 48 hours, and in some cases, weeks. It creates a continuous record of heart activity during a patient’s everyday activities and is designed to accurately diagnose abnormal changes in heartbeats, known as arrhythmias.

The Holter monitor eventually revealed that Pauline’s heart was stopping for up to six seconds at a time. The irregular heartbeat and blood flow was subsequently causing her to get dizzy, and in some cases, pass out.

Dr. Applefeld diagnosed Pauline with atrial fibrillation; a type of irregular heartbeat and a form of heart disease that can often lead to a more serious and life threatening medical condition, such as a stroke. She was prescribed a pacemaker; a device that sends electrical impulses to the chambers of the heart, replacing the heart’s own rhythm with a correct beat.

The pacemaker was implanted that same month and any related symptoms quickly disappeared.

Pauline, having now made a full recovery, is back to making her regular one and a half hour drive to Dr. Applefeld’s office for routine check-ups and evaluation. But she still doesn’t seem to mind. She’s thankful to have had someone looking after her all these years. And through all her medical hurdles and challenges, and regardless of what she’s faced, she’s thankful to have always relied on his caring smile and his shoulder to lean on.

“When I was in the hospital,” Pauline said, “he came in every morning to check on me. He’s very protective and he’s a wonderful doctor. I can only say the best.”

Pauline's Treatment Team