For me, the answer by the end of the month of March 2013 was yes, I had some idea of what it feels like. Now that over 3 years have passed, I am definitely an experienced Energizer Bunny. But on the morning of March 21, 2013, the bunny had not yet arrived, and I needed all the energy I could beg, borrow or steal. Thank God my sister was there with power to spare, common sense and a calm demeanor.
Of course, the morning started with a Murphy’s Law moment, meaning that anything that could go wrong would. We arrived at the apartment lobby to find that the cab to go to the hospital was not in sight. Some of our usual suspects were in the lobby, including the security guard who rescued me during my second blackout, as well as the resident exerciser who advocated that I consider switching to yoga. The security guard handed me the phone and suggested that I call the cab company again. In the meantime, folks in the building were just content to hang out and wish me good luck for my visit to the hospital.
My sister assured me that we had plenty of time, and indeed once the cab arrived, we were made it to the hospital a little bit early. (My sister has functioned throughout my heart saga as my voice of reason. And let me make this clear. The most important thing to have with you when you go to the hospital, other than your insurance card and identification, is a voice of reason. You’ll find that you will likely leave that behind when you put on the hospital gown. The doctor and his team will be too busy to allay your concerns, so God knows someone in the vicinity needs to be able to walk you off the ledge!).
Once they process you in at the admission's desk, you are taken back to the hospital area and are asked to put on one of those lovely gowns that looks like it has a lot of material but never seems to cover much of anything. At some point, they begin to give you drugs to sedate you, which is a good thing for people who worry (like me). They wheeled me back to the operating room.
As promised, once I was out cold the first thing the doctor did was to perform a test to determine if I needed a defibrillator in addition to a pacemaker. At this time, the test showed that all I needed was a pacemaker. The doctor implanted the pacemaker and shortly thereafter I woke up in the recovery room. I was eventually assigned to a patient room and my sister was allowed to come in and stay with me. As the grogginess wore off, I began to feel hungry and they let me order lunch. It was probably around 2:00 or so in the afternoon. I ordered a chicken wrap.
Just about the time that lunch was delivered my minister came to check on me. I soon realized what a chore it was going to be to eat lunch. This was because I was still a little out of it, and due to the recent procedure, I had limited if any mobility on my left side. My sister cut the sandwich wrap up into little bites as I tried to carry on a conversation with my minister. It was strange but even though I kept eating little bites, the sandwich appeared to grow and eating had become almost too much of a bother. I guess the AA batteries had not yet began to kick the Energizer part of this bunny into gear.
As I slowly ate my lunch, my minister and sister and I began a conversation about just about anything and everything: my procedure, his family, things going on in the church, how to get a pullover shirt on when you can't raise you arms, traveling on the Amtrak Auto train, just a lot of everyday life type of things. It is odd how comforting it can be to talk about normal life when you have just had an abnormal procedure to add an artificial body boost. Plus, I had a high regard for my minister. I was probably at least 25 years older than my minister, but I swear he was 25 years wiser and calmer. I respected his insights tremendously. The best thing he did before he left was to pray with us for my recovery. When you have a device inside you controlling the beating of your heart, that can be a scary experience. But the prayer made me feel at peace.
Before I was released, I was provided with dos and don’ts, which included “don’t’ shower for a week” mainly because the wound should not get any water on it. OMG – they couldn’t be serious, could they? I think they had learned over time that almost no patient would go without a shower for a week. After giving me the don't shower advice, they also told me to just be careful. We were not only careful, but creative. My sister helped me devise a saran wrap/bandage solution that kept the wound free from water while I showered. I did not help that the second time I showered, the electricity briefly went off and I was in the dark. But somehow I managed to get the job done. Where there is a will, you figure out how to muddle through.
I had been given strict instructions that for the next month, I would not be able to raise my arms above shoulder level. This is because there is a concern that by raising the arms, you might pull some stitches loose and dislodge the pacemaker. As I had discussed with my minister and my sister, this made the concept of getting dressed very interesting, especially since I had a number of pullover tops in my wardrobe. But beside the inconveniences that this presented, the concept of not raising my arms for a month terrified me. I am an expressive person. I raised my arms and moved them around often in normal life. What was to stop me from raising my arms without even thinking (other than the fact that I was a little sore and had a little sling to wear)? I remembered lying awake the first night home with irrational thoughts like: “I might as well just raise the arms up now, dislodge the pacemaker and get it over with, because it is bound to happen at some point during this next month!”
I can attest that by the end of the second day after the implantation process, the heart was starting to beat normally and I started to feel like I had more energy. So the batteries had caused the Energizer Bunny’s body to begin a renewal process. Just like that bunny, my batteries were recharging and I was beginning to beat the drum consistently. I just hadn’t figured out how to get the batteries to stop fueling the anxiety-ridden brain of the Energizer Bunny!
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.