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Doc Zaps Self With Defibrillator to Slow Racing Heart

March 2, 1995

BOSTON (AP) _ A doctor who felt his heart racing dangerously zapped himself with his office defibrillator to jolt it back to normal.

As any viewer of TV hospital dramas knows, the defibrillator is one of the most impressive tools available to medicine. It uses a powerful burst of electricity to restore the heart to a normal beat after cardiac arrest or other rhythm abnormalities.

The machines were hardly designed for self-use. But according to a brief write-up in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, one worried doctor did exactly that.

The 45-year-old plastic surgeon, Dr. Jean Cukier, accidentally shocked himself while trying to fix a lamp in his office. He grew dizzy and felt his heart beat rapidly. So, with the help of an assistant, he went into his operating room and hooked himself up to a heart monitor.

There he discovered his heart was racing at 160 beats per minute. Worried he was about to pass out, he smeared himself with conducting jelly, placed the defibrillator paddles on his chest and turned the thing on.

The first jolt threw him off the table but failed to fix his heart. He climbed back and tried it again. This time it worked.

Cukier said his self-diagnosis was atrial fibrillation, which he called a ``potentially life-threatening″ condition that may not have responded well to medication.

``Treating it conservatively ... it’s taking a chance,″ Cukier said Wednesday, because ``your heart can clot, when it’s irregular, then the clots shoot up into your brain.″

Dr. Amin H. Karim of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who eventually treated the doctor, said he probably would have been better off dialing 911 for an ambulance.

``It was very daring,″ Karim said. ``What if he passed out? He could have put himself into a more dangerous rhythm. If that happened, it would have meant cardiac arrest.″

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