Nothing Lost in Translation

Moi Luong and BIDMC NP Hieu Tieu

A special connection with a BIDMC staff member helped ease concerns about urgent pacemaker procedure.

Moi Luong knew she wasn’t the only one with a racing heart during the COVID-19 pandemic, but something wasn’t right. She was exhausted, and it felt like her heart was skipping or jumping all over the place. It was keeping her up at night.

Luong went to see her primary care physician, who sent her home with a monitor to check her heart activity for two weeks after her initial tests were inconclusive.

When cardiologist Peter Zimetbaum, MD, read the results, he saw that Luong’s heart paused abnormally during the day, sometimes for as long as seven seconds. “She was experiencing sinus node dysfunction,” explained Zimetbaum, Director of Clinical Cardiology and Electrophysiology at BIDMC. “The electrical signals in her heart were not working correctly, and it was vital to correct the condition as soon as possible.”

Zimetbaum fast-tracked her appointment and contacted Hieu Tieu, NP, Clinical Cardiology and Electrophysiology, when he saw that the Moi’s primary language was Vietnamese.

“I still haven’t found a good Vietnamese translation for ‘cardiology nurse practitioner’,” said Tieu, who’s been with the division for more than three years. She explains her role, but sometimes it’s not necessary. “When a Vietnamese patient sees someone who looks like them and who speaks their language, it establishes a baseline of trust.”

‘Meeting Hieu Enhanced the Experience’

Tieu and her parents came to the U.S. as Vietnamese refugees in 1982 and have lived in Boston ever since. She knows firsthand that language can be a barrier when seeking care. “With the Vietnamese language, there are nuances of different dialects, and it can be complex to try and explain and understand medical terms,” she says.

Tieu met with Luong and her husband the next day in the electrophysiology clinic. She explained to them in their native language what was involved in getting a pacemaker. During the conversation, Luong shared that she had been experiencing symptoms for about six months, which was very concerning. “Luong’s heart was unable to produce a fast enough heart rate for her body,” says cardiologist Jonathan Waks, MD. “To treat this condition, we surgically implanted a pacemaker, a small electronic device which helps regulate the heartbeat, the day after we saw her in clinic.”

“Everyone we encountered was terrific,” said Luong. “I’m grateful that the staff at BIDMC was able to figure out what was wrong and fix it so quickly. Meeting Hieu enhanced the experience,” she added.

Today, Luong feels better and can finally sleep. Even though there could be additional challenges in the year ahead, she now feels strong and has the energy to meet them.

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