“The whole procedure will take only about 2 hours, but you’ll need to stay in the hospital overnight so we can make sure everything is working as it should.” Two hours? Really? That fast?
Two Friday’s ago, Mr. Muse and I met with my cardiologist, her nurse, and the genetic counselor to go over the results of my latest cardiac MRI. I’d read the initial results at home on MyChart and immediately started crying. They did not sound good. I was scared and my anxiety crept up and reared its ugly head. At the appointment, having the whole team come into the room to talk about the results had me finishing off what was left in the box of tissues. My cardiologist asked me what was wrong and I blurted out between sobs, “I feel like you’re going to tell me horrible news!” Mr. Muse gave my hand a squeeze, and together we absorbed the information.
Unofficially, I’ve been a cardiac patient for 26 years. I was 14 years old when I started to tell my Mom that I thought something was wrong with my heart. She took me to the family doctor who proceeded to tell us that my concerns were “all in [my] head.” That I was involved in too many extracurricular activities, drinking too much soda, and that I should sit on my ass for the rest of my life other than school and, in the future, work.
After all of those years of persistence, it was finally at age 24 when one of my arrhythmia episodes set off, and it was caught on an EKG because I INSISTED that a technician hook me up immediately before it stopped. From then on, I was an OFFICIAL cardiac patient, vindicated in my knowledge that for the previous ten years, I KNEW something was wrong with my heart, and I was right.
I learned that there are different kinds of cardiologists, and to simplify – they fall into two categories, plumbers or electricians. My pipes were clear – and still are, so I didn’t need a plumber – I needed an electrician.
Over the years, I’ve had two ablations, four cardiac MRIs, one CT scan, many ECGs, EKGs, echocardiograms, stints with Holter monitors, and finally genetic testing. Then, two Friday’s ago I was being told that it was recommended that I have a defibrillator implanted. This wasn’t bad news, they said, this was a really difficult recommendation to make because I’m not a traditional cardiac patient, but we now have more information. This was my “insurance plan”.
I was told that due to some travel plans I had coming up shortly, once I made the decision (I could have said “No”) to go ahead with it, it should happen quickly – because why wait? And it did happen quickly – last week Friday. I checked into UW Hospital at 6:30 AM and by 11:30 AM, I was out of surgery and cracking wise with Mr. Muse in recovery.
For the last week, I’ve been doing my best not to use my left arm to pick up anything heavier than 5 pounds nor raise my elbow higher than my shoulder. For the next three months, I’ll be continuing those same things and letting my incision heal and my heart scar around the leads inserted into it. I also need help with my hair and getting dressed. FUN!
Some of you may remember that last year in July, my sister died of a massive heart attack four days after her 34th birthday. She, too, had been a cardiac patient, but we were opposites when it came to our approach to handling our diagnoses. Her loss caused her two oldest children to ask if I was taking my medication, was I taking care of myself? The answer is “Yes” – I’m very proactive when it comes to my heart.
Two Friday’s ago, as evening came on and I sat thinking about the news I’d just been given, I realized that not everyone gets the opportunities which have come my way. I’m not saying that deciding to have my genetics test was easy, but now my whole cardiac team I and have more information. My sister died too young, and I believe choices she made had led to her early death.
Having a defibrillator implanted was not a lightly made decision, either. I’m 41 years old – I’m young. But, I’ve got cardiac arrhythmia and a family history of sudden death. This decision was made in the hope that I would never need it to go off, or: better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. So, now I’m learning to live with Cordelia – the name I’ve given to my device – because she is a part of me.
Once I’m healed completely, I can go right back to doing all the things I did before. Well, just no operating a gas-powered chain saw nor an arc welder.
Much to the surprise of everyone in cardiology…. I’ve done both.
PS – Word around the water cooler at Mr. Muse’s office is that he needs to watch me for any evil tendencies or communication with the mother ship now that I’m a member of the Borg.
PSS – Sports bras, a week post-op, are NOT comfortable. Take it off! TAKE IT OFF!!! They mash Cordelia too much into the surrounding tissues and makes them unhappy.