OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Heart rhythm devices have saved countless lives – including the life of one of the men who helped develop the technology.
“I was the recipient of the pacemaker that I had developed more than 50 years before,” Dr. Benjamin Scherlag, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, told Nexstar’s KFOR.
After being drafted and serving our country, he began working in a field close to his own heart – literally.
“At the time, it wasn’t called electrophysiology, they were just cardiac physiology,” Scherlag recounted. In the 1960s, he worked to further that technology at Columbia University and hospitals in New York.
“What we did was we developed a catheter technique,” Scherlag said. “Within two years there were 720 citations of that work where usually there would be about 14 or 20 citations, so it became a part of … what we called the cornerstone of the clinical electrophysiology.”
His work resulted in the pacemaker.
Little did he know, it would save his own life years later during an episode of atrial fibrillation.
“I was getting up from sleep and I couldn’t get out of bed,” Scherlag recalled. “I kept falling back and my wife immediately called 911.”
He was rushed to the Oklahoma Heart Hospital where it was his turn to be helped by a pacemaker.
“That pacemaker was the one that actually I had pioneered back in the 1960s,” Scherlag said.
Scherlag is in his 90s, but not ready to slow down.
In fact, he spends much of his time at the heart hospital, continuing his research with his son who works there and tries to keep up with dad.
“I have four children and eight grandchildren, and they’ve all been very supportive,” said Scherlag. “My wife Ellie, has always been at my side for 63 years.”
Scherlag also credits those he researched with over the years, as well as the staff at the Heart Hospital for him still being alive today.