February 23, 2014


Last Tuesday, at 5:30 am, I woke and dressed myself, fixed my hair and my face. I skipped breakfast. I kissed my sleeping little ones and thanked my Mom for staying to get them off to daycare and school. Then my Dad and I got in my car in the still darkness and drove to the International Heart Institute at St. Patrick Hospital. 
My attempt to dispel my own fear through fashion and humor. 

It wasn't a question, anymore, of whether the procedure was the right choice for me. I've lived with Long QT Syndrome all my life without knowing it; the Junctional Bradycardia came later, but two types of heart disease working in tandem was finally becoming more than my brave little ticker coud take. I was out of breath and having flutters all the time. My hands constantly shook, my feet and ankles swelled, my heart rate was far too low, my blood pressure was far too low and bottomed out when I exercised.  I waited for what one doctor told me was my "inevitable" cardiac arrest. It was time. 

And I was/am grateful. Despite my nervousness for the surgery, I can't deny my wonder and awe of the technology. After two hours of prep, question-answer sessions, including holding a model of the soon-to-be-in-my-body device in hand, and convincing my very good-natured doctor to make the necessary scar shaped like a lightning bolt- I even brought him the template I'd made Monday night-and easing into the conscious sedation, I was in the operating room. 

I tried to get the whole surgical team to squish in for a picture before they took my phone away, but I felt very disconnected from both my brain and my thumbs at that point. I remember blaming my inability to take the shot on the lead walls of the room, which, I'm fairly certain, is not true. There was an enormous computer screen, and. I vaguely recall Bearded Surgical Man pointing to some charts and stats on the screen and saying, "that's you." This thrilled me to no end. So much so, that, after transferring myself (I'm sure I had help) from the cath lab bed to the operating table and complaining that the bed had been more comfortable, I fell sound asleep. 

I'm certain, in the course of the next two to three hours, many medically miraculous things happened. I had a blue sheet over my face. I remember, at one point, trying to sit up so that I could make sure Riley had gotten on the school bus, and the nurse reassured me that my Mom was taking care of my kids. I remember thinking, repeatedly and very intently, that I wanted to look at what was happening, but I'm not sure if I actually said it out loud. The moment when they took the blue sheet down and I saw only bandaging on my chest was a disappointment, as if I had missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because I hadn't made myself heard. 

They let me keep my earrings in. Just tucked them in the hair net. 

Wheeling out of the OR and into recovery, the nurse, Theresa, must have given me my phone back because I made a ten-second video of nothing and immediately started taking pictures. 

I know my parents took turns sitting with me in recovery...some fuzzy remnant memory of my Mom spoon-feeding me cream of wheat (heehee: Warm Bodies ), and me telling her how I'd organized the lumber mill, exists but that is all. Then suddenly, and I honestly don't remember the changing of the guard, but she was gone, and my bestie Sandi was there. 

I know I was happy to see her, but as far as my own memory goes, I have no idea what we talked about or anything that happened in those hours. Sandi tells me I insisted on getting up to go to the bathroom by myself and nearly fainted, imitated the accent of my Bulgarian nurse, Seva, and ate a chicken chef salad and a strawberry milkshake. I got nothin. 

Some love from my kiddos once I got to a private room...

...one rough, painful, emotional night in the hospital...

...and suddenly I was home. Transformation to bionic woman complete. 

I know I needed to do this. I know that, in time, this device will simply become a part of me and I won't notice it working the way I do now. I won't even think about it. And, even if I do, the thoughts will be of gratitude that I don't have to worry, like I used to, about my heart stopping at any moment of any day. The pacing function of my device corrects the Bradycardia and can, if necessary, attempt to even out arrhythmias. And the defibrillator function will save my life if/when that day comes. 

This Tuesday, I will visit the heart institute again to have my device tested and my lightning bolt scar unveiled. Of course I'll post pictures and an update. Until then, rest. Reflection. Gratitude for my family and friends who are helping me through, gratitude that my daughter does not have to go through this yet, but if that changes, her life can be protected and preserved through technology as well, and gratitude for every beat of my heart. 

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful story. This should be required reading for anyone who needs this procedure. Thank you for sharing. And BTW, nice selfie sketch, too!