Bionic Woman

October 25, 2015

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So last time we talked, I was psyching myself up for a heart function test that would decide if my heart was pumping efficiently enough to get me out of the “severely depressed function” category of  cardiac patients. If not, I would need an implanted defibrillator. Statistically, people in my boat are significantly more likely to have their hearts (spontaneously?!) stop pumping. Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of natural death in the U. S. So, this test…um…Sorry I didn’t update sooner. A bunch of kind folks have been asking me how it went, or saying they assumed no news was good news.

Yeah, about that…


My EKG (electrocardiogram, measures electrical impulses within the heart and its patter of beating) “looked good”. Not having had one that “looked good” yet, this was hopeful.  My echocardiogram said that structurally, there is some improvement in the shape and size of my heart, too – in the hospital my left ventricle was dilated and weaker. It looks closer to normal than it did 8 months ago.

But (You knew there was a “but”. And also, ha, I said “butt”):

My heart function, how well it was actually doing its pumping job, was exactly the same. EX. ACT. LY. the same as in April. So now, I get one of these exciting new accessories.

My thoughts on this situation include but are not limited to:

  • G**D*** it, REALLY?
  • I want a re-do.
  • This machine runs on batteries. I do not have a good track record with batteries. Ask my phone.
  • What if it doesn’t work? What if it zaps me when it’s not supposed to? The stupid vest thingy used to turn on alarms and arm itself to zap me like every other day, for no reason. It scared the crap out of me, my family, and my students.
  • In addition to my other issues with being in a bathing suit, I could (depending on which model I get) have a slightly-smaller-than-a-stopwatch thingy tucked under my skin on the left side of my chest, like a creepy-ass Borg implant? Lovely. #startrekreference
  • Immediately after getting it, I am not supposed to use my left arm or lift it for 4 weeks. Suuuuuuuure. (Holiday concerts, conducting, horn playing, all kinds of things are left-arm dependent. This is not going to be easy.)
  • Scars. And every 7-10 years having to have the “procedure” (if they put you under and cut you open it’s not called “surgery”?) again and again, so they can change the battery – and therefore, MORE scars.
Thank you, Wesley. Do I need to stop making breast jokes related to this implant now?

They are careful to point out that the ICD won’t improve heart function. Mine is still wussy,  D***it, and now that we’ve seen what it can do on meds, it’s likely that it’ll stay where it is; in wuss-land.

Here is what Mayoclinic.Org had to say about the main type of implanted defibrillator:

“Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). After your condition stabilizes, your doctor is likely to recommend implantation of an ICD. An ICD is a battery-powered unit that’s implanted near your left collarbone. One or more electrode-tipped wires from the ICD run through veins to your heart. The ICD constantly monitors your heart rhythm. If it detects a rhythm that’s too slow, it paces your heart as a pacemaker would. If it detects a dangerous heart rhythm change, it sends out low- or high-energy shocks to reset your heart to a normal rhythm. An ICD may be more effective than preventive drug treatment at reducing your chance of having a fatal arrhythmia.”

Addition by one of my doctors: “This thing is 99.99% effective – almost perfect – at reviving you if your heart stops. Yes, you are much more likely to go into cardiac arrest, but with this you very likely won’t die from it.” Gotta say, I like that last part a whole lot! Duh.

The ICD is basically like really great car insurance and a seatbelt. Right now, it’s like I’m driving around in a car that doesn’t work as well it should and I’m much  more likely to get in an accident than the average person… and I have no insurance, seat belts, side-curtain airbag, etc.

So, I get to have another round of tests done to see which of those lovely electrical do-dads is best for me. Then we put it in as soon as possible. If I sound kind of matter-of-fact about this, it’s because I’m trying to pretend to approach this situation as an adult, who has family to think of. In reality, I’m pretty damn pissed at the universe that this whole Cardio-Crappile isn’t resolving by now. I’m also scared of the implanting procedure  – they intentionally put you in cardiac arrest after it’s in, so they can test the machine’s function. This does not sound fun. I think I should get a T-shirt that says “I survived medically-induced cardiac arrest!”. I don’t feel like fitting more hospital stay crap and a recovery month into my life right now, either. Wah. 

But I’m also grateful – so grateful –  that this technology exists. I am still lucky. I’ve been driving around without a seat belt, or whatever, for a while now. While I don’t particularly feel like being the Bionic Woman, this totally beats any possible alternatives.

So that’s my update. I get to be Meg 2.0, with new hardware.

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