I have a pacemaker now. I keep saying it to myself waiting for it to sink in. To get some kind of reaction. Something significant. Something momentous. I’ve got a little computer in my shoulder that controls my heart via three wires.
A technician can pull out a large briefcase-sized unit, press a couple of keys and say “Your heartrate is 80. ”
“Now it’s 70.”
And all I can think of is how cool it is. There’s a box about the size of a set-top cable box plugged in next to my bed that downloads data from the pacemaker and transmits it to my Arrhythmia Guy’s office every night. If they see something funky, I’ll get a phone call the next morning. Having a pacemaker means never being alone.
I didn’t know I was getting a pacemaker Wednesday when I got up buttcrack early to go to St. Elizabeth’s. I knew I was getting one someday, but that was some other time that wasn’t now. Wednesday was supposed to be an ablation. It’s the same procedure I had two-and-a-half years ago. I’d been in A-Fib since May. I’d been progressively feeling worse and worse. I ‘d cooked at the Porkopolis Eggfest over the weekend and it just about did me in. I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without having to rest. It’s been hard to stand for any length of time for quite a while. I don’t even want to talk about the depression. It’s not been a period I plan to look back on with nostalgia.
A-Fib isn’t what got me the pacemaker. Not directly, anyway. What got me the pacemaker is something called a Left Bundle Branch Block. That had first been diagnosed back in 2004 or 2005. When it was first discovered a cardiologist told me that someday I’d have a pacemaker.
My heart apparently decided someday was Wednesday. According to my surgeon, they had run the first lead up my leg to start the ablation procedure when the left side of my heart decided it wasn’t going to talk to the right side anymore. Maybe they talked politics. Could have been Russia. Might have been a Bernie/Hillary conversation. I don’t know. Whatever it was they had to go track down Carla to get permission to change directions. Apparently one of the leads was tough to get in. Took three or four tries. They did a cardioversion and called it a day. The nurse anesthesiologist’s first words to me (that I remember, anyway) were “We’re done and we had to put in a pacemaker.”
I feel OK. I can already tell that I can stand and walk better than I could Monday. Some things are awkward because I have to limit my range of motion with my left arm for the next six weeks. It’s going to take a while for the leads to get really secure in my heart muscle, so I have to be careful about pulling them out. That means I can’t reach backwards with my left arm or go above my shoulder with my left hand. I can’t lift a weight more than 10 pounds or so with my left arm. It’s going to be difficult. Not impossible, just difficult. Pain in the ass more than anything else.
There are still adjustments to be made. One side effect is that one of the leads stimulates the left side of my diaphragm. Imagine having the hiccups on one side and not the other. It’s as pleasant as it sounds. It was bad the first night, but a rep from the pacemaker manufacturer came out and made some initial adjustments. I still get them, but not very bad. It has a lot to do what position I’m in. It’s extremely mild (or can be if I shift around) so I’m inclined to let it ride until my next follow-up in a bit over a week. I figure there’s a lot of adjusting to be done.
When I had the ablation done in 2015 I didn’t say much about it. This time I decided to be a bit more open about what was going on. I’m glad I did. I’ve gotten wonderful support from so many people. I’m grateful for all of you. I still feel a bit shakey. Anesthesia has always kicked my butt and this time is no different.
So I have a pacemaker. That’s not a surprise. Apparently I also have a future I don’t have to dread. That’s what’s different.