It’s been like day and night. That is the comparison between my first operation for my pacemaker going in and this last one Friday week ago. From beforehand meeting with nurses and my cardiologist, to walking into theatre, to waking up, to sleeping at night – each moment so much better than the last. But the main difference would have to be waking up and finding out that the procedure had worked! They managed to replace the third left lead into my heart with a new one and get it into a great position. Success! No more jolting! Can you believe it?!
I had reached the point of knowing that it was the right thing to do, to try and stop the phrenic nerve stimulation I’d been experiencing. But going back in, to face another general anaesthetic, another op and another recovery again, was not something I’d been looking forward to. Especially without the certainty that it would work. I was incredibly blessed to have my friend there who works in Cardiology, chatting to us beforehand and then walking with me into theatre. She literally held my hand as I was poked with needles and as I went under. She was there in recovery (although I don’t remember any of that) and visited me later that day in my room. To have someone you know with you who understands what is happening, is amazing. She smiled through it all and was such a reassuring presence.
Afterwards, I repeatedly asked my husband and staff “has it worked?” The thought of being able to lie on my side or stomach, or bend over and laugh… and not be jolted was incredible! I think I’m still in shock that it’s worked and am so very grateful to my amazing cardiologist and the team. From the moment I woke up I felt better than last time, having gone into it healthier and having my pacemaker on helped. Going home, I walked out to the car (last time I was in a wheelchair) and a week later I managed a walk around the block!
After the op I was a lot more swollen and bruised than last time, due to the fact they had to cut through scar tissue and make the incision a bit bigger (to get the pacemaker in and out). However things haven’t been as sore in other ways… last time whenever I sat up it felt like a big heavy weight in my chest pushing forward. This time that only lasted a day – I guess my body is used to my device being there now. My shoulder isn’t in as much pain as last time and they were really careful this time to not cause any more damage. I’m still managing my pain a bit with meds to keep on top of it, but I have energy and feel so much more like me.
So, I’m extremely grateful and aware that I live in an incredible day and age. Two days ago, Earl E. Bakken, the man who invented the first wearable, battery-powered pacemaker, died at the age of 94. He and his brother in law founded Medtronic (the worlds largest medical device company) in 1949, as a 25 year old electrical engineering student. At the age of 8, he had become fascinated with electricity after seeing the 1931 movie “Frankenstein”, how incredible that a movie like that sparked a curiosity within this young boys mind. In 1957 after a patient died in hospital during a blackout, he was asked to come up with a solution, as people in those days with pacemakers were reliant on being plugged into the wall with vacuum tubes. Thankfully after discounting the idea of using a car battery (I don’t fancy carrying one of those around with me!) he came up with a 4 inch box which would be taped to a patients chest. It’s obviously improved incredibly over the years, to the intricate internal boxes we have today. Funnily enough, he later went on to need two pacemakers himself. “So I’m glad I invented the company, or I wouldn’t be sitting here” he said in 2010.
As I read about this amazing man, who started off tinkering with electronics in a garage, I felt a sense of huge gratitude for people like him who stepped out and tried something that had never done before. The CRT pacemaker device I have, was only invented in more recent years and wasn’t around when I was younger… I’m glad for the timing of this invention.
So today I sit here recovering, blanket on knee, cat curled up beside me and cup of tea at hand. I now get the benefit of my pacemaker working with no side effects and once I’ve recovered from surgery I will be up and out doing things! I am in awe and grateful. I’m thankful too for every single prayer prayed, every thoughtful message, card, flowers, gifts, gentle hug, meals… and for my incredible family and friends who just kept on encouraging me and loving on me through the tougher moments. It’s strange to look forward without a sense of something hanging over me, but instead to feel free to dream, believe and know I could do things I couldn’t 6 months ago! Health is a gift. A God given one. One I will never take for granted.
Don’t ever underestimate that thought. That dream. That idea. That crazy out there concept that you’re not sure will work. Give it a go. It might just save lives one day… maybe even your own!