In my last post, I was in the hospital to have my pacemaker upgraded to a device that included a defibrillator function. Prior to the procedure, the doctor said they would have to do a test with dye to see if the pacemaker had been absorbed into my body. If this was the case, they would have to “lase out” the device and they could not do this at the hospital I was currently in. Instead, I would have to go to another facility on another day for a procedure that would require a bit more work.
You may have wondered why no one advised me of this before the day of the procedure. Knowing that I was at risk for cardiac arrest, I made it a priority to schedule the first appointment I could. The scheduler said the electrophysiologist was willing to meet with me to discuss the procedure. I guess in my mind I assumed this procedure would be similar to the 2013 pacemaker implantation and I just wanted to get it done. It never occurred to me it was possible the procedure could end up being more complex than just switching out devices. So I have learned that I should never assume anything!
As the last post ended, I went under the anesthesia and was out like a light when they started to do the dye test. I don’t remember much from when I came to immediately after the procedure. But from what I was told, as I was rolled down the hallway to the recovery room, I asked each and every person I encountered whether I had a defibrillator. The answer was always yes, but I continued to ask. I do not know if I did not believe my good fortune, or whether the residual anesthesia in my system just made me extremely forgetful!
When the anesthesia began to wear off, I realized I indeed did have an upgraded heart device inside me. I don’t know what heart functions it was performing, but it certainly seemed to have loosened my tongue and sense of humor. I just talked and talked and joked and laughed with the nurses in the recovery room. I suspect that I was relieved that I now had something in me that lessened the risk of cardiac arrest.
It eventually dawned on me that we were now in the evening hours and that my sister was sitting around the hospital waiting for me to be admitted to a patient room. She was sending text and e-mail messages to all of my friends to let them know that I had made it through the procedure with no issues. I appreciated her efforts on my part so much. But I also had the benefit of being out of it for a good portion of the day, while she had to sit in a room and just wait and look at an iPhone screen.
I knew that it would ease my mind to know that she was back in my apartment and resting after what was a long day for both of us. So what I really needed was to talk to her, thank her for all the support, and tell her to take my car and go home. Equally important, I needed to get my cellphone back so I could call her and confirm that she was home and was eating dinner and relaxing.
Unfortunately, I think when nurse went out to find my sister, my concern was translated into: “Your sister is awake and recovering and wants her cellphone back.” Yikes – how grateful and concerned did that sound?!? But as I recall, I was finally able to see her and tell her that truly, I was concerned that she go to my place and get some rest. All was well and I had plenty of people around to take care of me in the unlikely event that something went awry. So she did leave for the evening, and soon I was able to confirm that she was back in my place and was getting something to eat.
Now that I have established my concern for my sister, I will be honest and admit that after she left, I did I start to send messages with my cellphone. While talking with the nurses was fun, let’s face it, they had work to do. Once I was in a patient room, I was pretty isolated. So I was texting and e-mailing people like there was no tomorrow!
After my pacemaker procedure in March 2013, I had a really hard time getting to sleep that night even with sleeping pills. So I guess I just anticipated a restless night. At least that was the excuse I used to justify my e-mail and texting frenzy into the early hours of the morning. Of course, I conveniently ignored the fact that looking at a small but still brightly lit screen and creating e-mails wasn’t doing a lot to get me into a state of relaxation where I would soon welcome sleep.
I was so engrossed in getting in touch with the world through cyber space that I even e-mailed my cardiologist – at about 1:00 a.m. I told him that as before, the electrophysiologist was awesome and the surgery went well. I reported that even though I could not sleep, I felt better and more at ease knowing the defibrillator was in place. I thanked him for the great care I got from my cardiac team. Of course, my cardiologist, thankfully, wasn’t focusing on his e-mails at 1:00 a.m. But when he saw it the next day, I hope he did not roll his eyes and say – this woman is a hopeless Type A. He replied that he had looked in on the procedure a few times and knew it went smoothly. He then encouraged me to go home and get some sleep. This is why I love my cardiac team. Each member can imagine what it is to be a patient and say just the right thing at just the right time.
The next morning I woke up and after the nurse came in to check my vital signs, I had a nice breakfast. I knew it would be a while for the doctor or one of his associates to check me out and release me. There was no need for my sister to be here before I received some indication as to when my check out time would be. I couldn’t seem to get interested in anything on television, and most of the people I would text or e-mail were at work, so they would not have time to be chatting with me in online. I was beyond bored.
As I recall, I sat on the sofa in the hospital room facing the door, just looking out the door and thinking about nothing in particular. A man walked by and looked in at me, and started to walk by. Then he turned around and came back in. He told me that he was the hospital chaplain and asked me if I was concerned about being in the hospital and needed to chat. I told him that this was actually my second time for a heart device implantation procedure, it had gone very well, and I was relieved. So we just sat and chatted for a while about faith and religion. Later that morning my own minister came by to chat and to pray with me. On this particular morning, I definitely felt I had received grace from above.
My sister came and we waited for the check-out procedure to begin, which I seem to recall was in the early afternoon. As before someone from the medical device company came by with a computer to run some diagnostic tests on my new device. I remembered the story my former colleague had related that the only way to test an implanted defibrillator was to actually activate it. Happily I now had first hand proof that this was not true. Everything checked out just fine on the new device.
Someone came by from my doctor’s office and looked at the incision to make sure everything was healing okay. I received the same discharge instructions as before, including the no showers for a week. But now that I knew the drill, I had stocked up on saran wrap and bandages to cover the wound so that I could keep it free from water while I showered.
So I went home with the new heart device. Similar to cars, there is a recommendation for maintenance on you and your device. As was the case with the pacemaker, my bedside monitor would periodically transmit information on the device to medical professionals, and I would have a device check in person once a year. I was also told that I would have to come back in about 7 or 8 years to change out the battery. This time, I hoped that the device was in me long enough to actually have just a battery change. I did not want to have to switch out to a new device again!
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.