I usually don’t post something quite as personal as what I am about to post, yet I thought it was important to share as it may be instructive.
On July 6, 2015, I went to see my doctor. I had been feeling a bit dizzy and had a lower than normal heart rate. Though he was out, his extraordinary Physicians Assistant was in the office and saw me right away. After her initial evaluation, she had me take an EKG to better see what was going on with my heart, and as soon as she looked at the results, she had me taken to the ER. Upon my arrival (it was just downstairs and on the other side of the hospital and medical center at Methodist Hospital in Indianpolis), I was swarmed by about five nurses, techs, and doctors.
Within short order, the head of cardiology came over and told me I was experiencing third degree heart block and I would need a pacemaker. Within an hour or so, I was admitted to the Cardiac ICU, and that afternoon, I was taken down the the Cardiac Cath Lab (OR) and was implanted with a pacemaker. I kept telling everyone I was too young for a pacemaker, which landed on what seemed to be deaf ears, though was also met with smiles. Smiles turned to shared laughter when I told the head cardiologist that I had done my high intensity training a few days earlier
Everything apparently went well, and I was released the next day, Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, I woke feeling okay, but within just a few minutes of being up, I began to feel flushed and dizzy, and I noticed my heart rate was erratic. I called the cardiology office and was told to go the ER or, if I could get a ride, to come to their office for evaluation and interrogation of the pacemaker. My daughter (who has been more than wonderful, beyond words), left her work and took me to see the cardiologist. Soon after the evaluation and interrogation of the pacemaker, I was readmitted and wheeled over to the Advanced Heart Care unit at Methodist where I would be operated on to reposition the bottom lead to the pacemaker which had apparently dislodged from the proper placement in my heart. Experiencing a series of other symptoms, I was also diagnosed with a pneumothorax (collapsed lung). Before long, they were inserting a tube between my ribs to relieve the air in my chest cavity to allow the left lung to fully expand. I was under full bed-rest orders until further notice.
The next morning, Thursday, July 9, I was wheeled down to the Cardiac Cath Lab (a painful ride) where a new lead was placed in my heart and attached to the pacemaker. I remained on full bed-rest until the next day but was still not allowed to get up without assistance (they turned on the bed alarm). I wasn’t going anywhere but I guess it was policy to turn on the alarm, especially at night. Friday passed with a series of X-rays to see how my lung was doing, and I was given an incentive spirometer to get me to exercise my lungs and improve my breathing, which was quite shallow and painful.
The tube was removed on Saturday (what a relief that was), and I was fitted (finally) with a wireless monitor so I could get up and move around. I was able to get up and walk (accompanied by a nurse), and I seemed to do pretty well. Though lacking in strength and stamina, I was able to walk with a good degree of stability. The doctors said, as long as the X-rays showed no deterioration of the pneumothorax, they would likely release me on Sunday. That day could not come fast enough (as I also had been thinking that every day was just piling up the medical bills). My daughter took me home late Sunday afternoon.
The following Wednesday (yesterday as I write this), I went back to the cardiologist who performed the implant for a follow up and interrogation of the pacemaker, and everything looked great. For the next few weeks, I am still not allowed to lift anything more than a few pounds, can’t move my left arm (particularly my left elbow) above my shoulder, and must have no sudden movements, though I am able to drive and am encouraged to walk and move.
To say the least, this has been quite a shock to not only me, but also to my family and loved ones. I know it has been especially hard on those who are far away and who were not able to be present during all of this. I am grateful for all the love and support everyone has shown me during this time. I am fortunate to have such gracious and unconditional support.
This ordeal scared me, and through the shock of it, I know I will be okay. I am still too young to have a pacemaker, but I have one, so that is my new normal. I have read a great deal about living with a pacemaker, and it should be minimally restrictive. I will not allow it to be more restrictive than absolutely necessary, because I have way too much life to live, and way to much more to accomplish and to contribute to the world.
This has given me pause and reason to look at my life and life, generally, through a slightly different lens. I have been fairly good at living one moment at a time, in being flexible and open, in looking at the deeper meaning and the good in all that I experience, and in being grateful for all that comes my way. I am now even more grateful for every day, because I know that there is no such thing as “fourth degree heart block.” As well as I have taken care of myself, with exercise, eating well, and getting regular chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture treatments, and more, I also know I haven’t always done a great job of expressing my emotions and protecting my heart. I don’t know yet what all that means for me, but I do know I will be more aware and protective of things in my life that cause me stress. I have dealt with quite a bit of stress and sorrow in my life, admittedly some being self inflicted, and I will guard that more fully and carefully from now on.
So what can you learn from my experience? You will already have thoughts running through your minds, with more to come, so listen to them. I also encourage you to tell those you love how much you love them, every day. I encourage you to rid yourselves of negativity, wherever that may be. I encourage you to be happy, to find joy, to do at least one thing every single day that brings a smile to your face. A belly laugh is even better. Find the good in things and others. When you notice negative thoughts or feelings creeping in, acknowledge them, let them pass, and replace them with positive thoughts and feelings. Be grateful every day, every moment, for the people, experiences, and even things in your life that contribute to your joy. The greatest joy comes from within, so be sure to treat yourself well. And allow your smile to shine a light on the world. We are all in this together, and together we can make this world a better place for all.
Thank you for taking time to read this. Thank you for your contribution to making this world a better place. Isn’t it wonderful how even from such a dismal experience, we can find good? How cool is that?