Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Change of Heart


I’ve had a change of heart.
The beating of my heart had become more and more erratic.
Now, I have a 
pacemaker
 to keep things a bit more 
steady.

I’m learning to align
my mind and emotions 
with my body 
while it acclimates to a new and different heart rhythm pattern,
one more orderly,
one not yet understood.

The medical notes from the recent X-ray read:
A left subclavian transvenous bipolar pacemaker has been inserted. 
Leads project over the region of the right atrium and right ventricle.
 The notes go on to say I have a new bipolar pacemaker.

It all seems a bit surreal.
I wonder at times how those notations became a part of my medical record.

The time had come when I knew things had to change.
I simply could not go on the way things were.

Some hearts found in my study:
A pink heart from blogging friends Sandi & Deb, A big heart from Vashon Island, A colorful heart made by my granddaughter Hannah,  a heart from Deb from Catbirdscout, a found heart.

On March 24, after years of irregular heart beats that never seemed to get better, a loop recorder was implanted in a very simple procedure performed by my cardiologist.  Just before the procedure, I was told that this device gave the doctors very good results very quickly.  Basically, the tiny little device, implanted just under the skin over the heart, is set to record those irregular heart beats that occur throughout the day in my heart.  Every night, at midnight, the day’s recording was wirelessly sent from the implanted device to a receiver that situated near my bed.  I felt nothing.  I did nothing.  The device in my body just talked to the device by my bedside.  Amazing.

At 8:00 the next morning, these reports were read by my doctor’s office.  If there were any events that were life threatening, I would be notified.  Of course, if I felt any of these events, I would have notified them!

For some reason, from the end of March until Easter Sunday, my symptoms just kept getting worse and worse.  I had two reactions to allergy shots that caused my heart to go a bit crazy.  In the evening of the day day of the second allergic reaction, thinking I was going to black out, I took my blood pressure.  My heart rate was listed as 48 beats a minute.  “Surely, this is a mistake,” I thought.  I am the girl with the overly fast beating heart.  I don’t have slow beats.  As the night wore one, I became more and more faint and had readings of beats in the 30’s.  My husband insisted I get to the doctor the next day.

On Good Friday, I saw my doctor.  He said the reports were showing that I was having a lot of events, “a lot” he emphasized.  “You have beats in the 30’s,” he said.  Thats a relief, thought I.  I was just sure that suddenly my blood pressure machine was not working, or I was crazy.  “You are showing us that you now have Tachy-brady syndrome.  How do you feel?”    “I feel terrible,” was my response.  I can’t function. I feel faint. I am exhausted.  I’m afraid to drive.”  

He thought we should treat the symptoms systemically for a little while to see if we got positive results.  If not, I was told I’d need a pacemaker.   I was on the low-normal range on potassium.  Knowing the potassium might help sounded reasonable.  I’d try that.  I’m not one to jump to surgery, but to be honest, I’ve heard the pacemaker suggested for too many years, and I was beginning to think it was time.

On Easter Sunday, after going to church, and then to a lovely brunch with my dear husband at the fanciest place in town, The Broadmoor Hotel, I again was faint and nearly blacked out.  My blood pressure was very low.  The exertion of the day had done me in.  At 7:00 that evening, at the insistence of my doctor’s office, I was in the emergency room.  I had a total melt down.  Sobbing to the nurse, I said, “I can’t do this anymore.  I am done.  This has to stop.”  She then told me I must calm down because in that one minute my heart had skipped 30 beats!  I calmed down. I also made a decision.  I decided that I was having surgery for a pacemaker as soon as it could be scheduled.

On Friday, April 10, my good Dr. L., my cardiologist for the past ten years, the one to whom I trust the intricacies of my heart, implanted a pacemaker.  The procedure went well.  It seemed to go quickly.  I awoke to find my kind and supportive husband by my side.  I sent him to eat breakfast while I rested.   Soon, my dear high school girlfriend, KM, was holding my hand and kissing my check while she spoke encouraging words to my heart and prayed for me.  

I came home from the hospital the next day.  I thought I would walk into the hospital, get the pacemaker, walk out, and go on with life without a bit of interruption.  It hasn’t been quite that easy.  True to form, I overdid yesterday.  I attended a tension filled meeting for my HOA.  I’m the secretary.  I thought I HAD to be there.  Wrong.  I then visited for two hours at a friend’s house.  By the time I was home my anxiety levels and stress levels were off the charts.  

The nurse calls everyday.  She says the first week is a rough one for many.  Yesterday, she said a meeting might be good.  It would keep my mind occupied.  The meeting was too stressful.  I should have stayed home.  I’m not handling stress well right now.

I go to get a device check tomorrow.  I took today off.  I have done nothing all day.  I will do the same until I am feeling stronger.

Reflections

The heart is a sensitive organ, and mine appears to be especially sensitive.
Both doctors who have done invasive procedures have said my heart was particularly sensitive to the medical instruments used, more so than the normal patient.

I wonder if the doctors saw the broken part of my heart?
The part that keeps on beating through all the sorrow.
Does a broken heart become more sensitive?

Did they see my strong heart?
The part that is resilient, full of hope, that looks forward to the future.
Did they see that I have a survivor’s heart, one that wants to overcome the hurts of the past while remembering and holding on to the love that remains for the one who is no longer here?

Did they see my loving heart?
The one that is full of so much love for my husband and my children and grandchildren.
The one that is so full of love that I want it to beat strongly so I can fill my days with their joys and sorrows and accomplishments and laughter.
The one that wants to live as fully as possible.

Modern medicine is a miracle.
I now have a computer inside my body that regulates the beats of my heart.
I hope this does not make my heart mechanical.
I’m sure that will never happen.
That little computer will just help smooth things out for me and my heart.

It is hard to wrap one’s head around it all.

I still feel the skipped beats, and the new rhythm pattern is one I don’t quite understand.
Sometimes that makes me very anxious.

I must learn to trust
the device within my heart.
I must learn to trust more fully
 the One who made my heart.
Ultimately, He controls the span of my days.  
Each day I learn anew that I must trust.

Living life fully makes trust easier to come by.

My heart has been subject to an invasive procedure.
I know from experience that this means that I will suffer some emotional side effects.
My husband, my children, my friends have been so supportive as I have prepared for and gone through this procedure that I honestly don’t know what I would do with out them.

Healing is not a liner process.
Some days are better than others.
One must learn to listen the rhythms of the body and the heart and let them work together.
Healing takes time.


I am reminded of the lesson I learned with a head injury in 2012.
Adopt the pace of nature:
Her secret is patience.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A rose from my rose garden:  Pope John Paul II

A lesson from Proverbs:
A joyful heart is good medicine…
Proverbs 17:22

A life verse written out that has been on my reading table for many years:
Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
Psalm 31:24

I borrow a line from a poem by Emily Jane Bronte,
not because I feel that sadness of the poem, but because I think her advice speaks wisdom to me:

Me thinks this heart should rest awhile…

I will not push through life as I am prone to do.
I will give myself time to heal.
Soon,
I’ll be walking much faster and farther,
Soon,
I’ll be able to go over 8,000 feet in elevation again.
Soon,
I will be feeling better than I have for years.

I’ve needed a change of heart.
I think this this change will be wonderful.

I never was good at keeping a beat.
My rhythm has always been a bit off.
That has been changed.

The beat goes on.




17 comments:

Olga Hebert said...

Your final lessons are so appropriate. Use them when you are feeling stressed.

Jeanie said...

Sally, over the course of time, your heart has been sorely tested. I didn't realize your symptoms were so severe but I am glad you have taken the aggressive action to move to the next and very positive step. I think as your body adjusts to the new pacemaker, you will adjust as well.

And I hope you will look carefully at the role of stress. I speak of this from great personal experience (though not heart-oriented) and know that ill health and stress are tied together like a tight know and if you can release the knot, you will heal more effectively. In other words, reconsider your secretary duties, at least a leave of absence!

Your reflections are beautiful and heartfelt (no pun intended). I don't know if the doctors see that part of the heart but we do -- and cherish it.

Lin Floyd said...

patience is so difficult to learn and retain. continue to heal...best wishes...

Gwen said...

new follower here...and I'm so sorry for the struggle you have been and are going through now. I hope each day helps you improve a little. You write beautifully though...I feel I know you pretty well from just this one post. Maybe peace and improved health be just around the corner for you. :)

Arkansas Patti said...

Stress has such power over our well being. I am glad you have gotten the help you need via the pacemaker and hope the adjusting to it goes more smoothly.
Your quotes are so positive as you must be.

Linda Myers said...

That little device wired to your heart will become your best friend. Rejoice.

Anonymous said...

Your heart let you know it was not working, how wonderful you got it taken care of..I walk each day with a fellow well into his 90's his wife had a sudden heart attack that took her life, he is brave, kind and smart, he lets everyone know to take care of their heart in memory of his late wife, I am walking more and taking good care of my heart..Good for you that you are getting so healthy to climb, walk and hike, god's blessings daily..ciao!!

#1Nana said...

Good to know that you are on the road to recovery. We want you at the next gathering in Vashon!

Jean said...

Your heart has been through a lot, especially emotionally. I'm glad you've had the pacemaker procedure and hope things settle down for you soon. Keep on keeping on!

troutbirder said...

Fortunately my ablation continues to keep me very steady. And several friends with pacemakers, one over 20 years, continue to say it has been a "miracle fix." You will do well, Sally....:)

DJan said...

What Nana said, doubled. I know by October you will be in great shape, and that your heart will be adjusted to the new helper. Sometimes we all need help, and this sound just perfect for you. Sending you lots and lots of love and virtual hugs, and looking at my own Vashon heart. :-)

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Beautiful piece. I hope that in its writing you were able to calm yourself. It certainly would seem so as your ending brought the worry of reading your trials to a much slower pace by post's end. Calm. Sounds like you are ready for a little.

I wish you a steady and relaxed recovery.

Betsy Adams said...

Hi Girlie, Glad you got the pacemaker---but don't 'over-do' for awhile..... G's brother has one --and has no problems with his. He says that it saved his life...

Love your Pope John Paul II Rose.. We have that one in our garden --so I can't wait to see it when it blooms...

Hugs,
Betsy

Perpetua said...

I'm so glad you finally got your pacemaker fitted, Sally. Now is the time to be kind to yourself, let yourself heal and adapt and get ready to enjoy life as the new you. :-) A lovely post.

Barb said...

Your heart has been through so much, good and bad, but it (and you) have always shown resilience. Try, try, try to take it easy for a bit. It's so frightening to have heart procedures - even recovering from the emotional stress of the procedure takes time, let alone your body's need to heal. Hugs to you as you continue the journey.

Friko said...

Sally, Sally, slow down, give yourself time. Already you are thinking what you will do - and soon. Take time to heal, sit back and forget about what you feel who you ‘ought’ to do. You ‘ought’ to do nothing, it’s all voluntary.

Heal your poor broken heart, or let it heal itself. Give it all the help and patience you can, don’t force it to do your will before it is ready.

Even if it never can do everything it used to do, why does that matter?

it has seen you you through so much, be grateful and take care of it.

Maggie May said...

You've been through a lot, you can't deny that. I think our emotions are linked up with our hearts.
I'm having raised blood pressure, which isn't surprising given my circumstances. (being monitored for now.)
Hope you feel really well once your body gets used to the new rhythm. Marvellous invention!
Maggie x