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Man Becomes First Orange County Recipient of Pill-Sized Pacemaker

Man Becomes First Orange County Recipient of Pill-Sized Pacemaker
ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) --
A new tiny pacemaker packs a lot of power and it's only about the size of a pill.

Unlike traditional pacemakers, the MICRA Transcatheter Pacing System from Medtronic is implanted inside the heart.

Billy Kimberly, 84, was the first person in Orange County to receive one.

"Looks like something from outer space," Kimberly mused about the featherweight, capsule-like device.

While no more than an inch long, the MICRA is powerful enough to speed up the beats of Kimberly's heart.

Kimberly suffers from syncopy. When his heart slows, blood can't reach his brain.

After cleaning up at a family barbecue, Kimberly became dizzy, fell and cracked his nose.

"He will pass out for several seconds to a minute," Kimberly's surgeon, electrophysiologist Dr. Brian Kim with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, explained.

After meeting him, Kim believed Kimberly was the perfect candidate for the MICRA.

"You get this pacemaker done and you usually go home about six to eight hours after the insertion," Kim stated.

Unlike the conventional pacemaker, the MICRA is inserted through a catheter and is placed on the wall between the left and right ventricle.

"Because there is no electrical wire, there is no chance for lead infection or fracture," Kim added.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the MICRA in April so Medicare is still working to get the $8,000 device covered.

The hospital was able to help Kimberly get the device.

"St. Joseph (Hospital) was generous enough to come through with the funding and we were able to apply this technology to Mr. Kimberly," Kim said.

Kim said Kimberly is guaranteed to get a heartbeat greater than 50 beats per minute and his outlook is great.

"I'm really looking forward to a good life," Kimberly said.

Kimberly's batteries are expected to last for 14 years. At that point, doctors can insert a new pacemaker. And Kimberly said he plans on being here.

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