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'Future of pacemakers' | Houston firefighter says next-generation pacemaker allowed him to get back to work

Jason Belin became a candidate for a leadless pacemaker after his heart nearly stopped while on the job.

HOUSTON, Texas — World Heart Day is just a few days away, and in honor of that, one Houston firefighter is sharing his story of how his own fellow first responders came to his rescue when his heart nearly stopped.

Being a firefighter is not an easy job. But for Engineer Operator Jason Belin, it’s a job he loves but nearly had to quit after he got quite the scare back in June. 

“The personnel that I was working with that day said that I passed out for a minute or so," Belin said. 

Jason was in training with other first responders when his heart rate dropped. He was only 46 years old and had no history of heart problems. 

“At that time, they noticed that my heart rate had dropped from 80 beats per minute to 20 beats per minute," Belin said.

His fellow firefighters rushed to his side, helping to get him awake and to the ambulance immediately.  

“You don’t ever think that you’re going to get your own guys to come to your aid, but when you do, you need them," Belin said. 

Doctors told Jason his heartbeat had stopped in the lower chamber, and that he was a great candidate for one of the newest types of pacemaker — called a leadless pacemaker.

“This is the future of pacemakers," Dr. Khashayar Hematpour with UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann said. “There are no loose components.”

Dr. Khash said a leadless pacemaker is different than a traditional one. It has no wires and no limitations.

“At some point, the sheer, just the mechanical stress on the wires will make them fracture or become defective," Dr. Khash said. 

Researchers have mastered the use of a leadless pacemaker in one chamber of the heart but are still working on developing its use in multiple chambers, which is why not everyone is a candidate.

But for Belin, it’s got his life — and heart rate — back on track. 

“Everyday activities that I did before this is the same. Nothing has changed at all, which is good," Belin said. 

Click here to learn more about the leadless pacemakers.

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