Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Very Long Pacemaker Appointment

Earlier this week I had my annual appointment with my pacemaker doctor who comes to Bismarck from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It is a huge blessing that I don't have to travel to Rochester, which is about 600 miles from Bismarck.

I really truly thought I would be in and out - a quick ekg, a quick pacemaker check, a quick chat with the doctor and I would be done. I scheduled the appointment at 8:00 a.m. thinking I would make it to work just in time for my 9:00 shift. Boy was I wrong!

I got up to the pediatric floor at about 7:50 a.m. Yes, the pediatric floor because the doctors who come from Mayo specialize in pediatric cardiology so they are mainly there to see the kids. But since more and more kids have been surviving heart defects and growing into adults, some of these pediatric cardiologists specialize in adults with congenital heart conditions.  Anyway, so there I was on the same floor with all the kids - the same floor I take Faith to when we see her pediatrician - and I hear my name being called.

pic of a pacemaker
I first meet with a cardiologist who is doing his residency at the Mayo Clinic and has come along to Bismarck with my pacemaker doctor. He has a lot of questions about my meds, about my health, about past surgeries and about me being able to have a baby.

I patiently answer all of his questions, confirming several times that I have not had any major issues or hospitalizations since having Faith. I then hop obediently up onto the exam table where he starts checking my pulse - not just in my wrist, but my feet and my inner thigh. He tries a few times to get a pulse in my left wrist which, by the way, is nonexistent. He finally gives up and gets out his stethoscope and I began obediently breathing in and out as he listens to my heart.

Finally, I go in to the next room for them to check my pacemaker. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed I didn't get to sit in the big, soft, cushy chair like I usually did. They hook me up with electrodes then place the magnet on my chest over my pacemaker and turn on the computer. It was only moments later that the report came back - my pacemaker was pacing 100% and had two years of battery life left.

I was disappointed to hear this because I had just gotten my last battery in November 2011 and it was already on its way to expiring which meant I would have to get a new one sooner rather than later. I was also bummed to hear I was pacing 100% of the time because to me that meant my heart depended on my pacemaker all day every day which negated the hope that God was healing my heart.

It was around 8:45 at this time and I was supposed to begetting to work. Instead, I was going upstairs to the cardiology floor to have an electrocardiogram. It was the complete opposite from being on the pediatric floor, as on this floor were the older folks who had typical heart disease. I waited about ten minutes before getting in for my ekg, which only took about two minutes, I was then sent back downstairs where I was told they had to do my pacemaker check again.

My doctor explained they needed to know what was going to happen to me if my single atrial lead stopped functioning or my battery died. In other words, they needed to stop my pacemaker from pacing. This is when they explained the real reason for soft, cushy chairs - in case someone passed out when they slowed down or stopped someone's pacemaker. But I didn't have the nice chair to sit in, just a normal exam table with a pillow behind my head.

I could tell when they began to slow down the pacemaker -  I could feel my heart beating very slowly. I could really feel it when they turned the pacemaker completely off. And guess what - I didn't pass out! My doctor explained to me this meant my heart was not pacemaker dependent.

"But what about my pacemaker pacing 100% of the time", I asked him.

He said because my atrial lead was not placed as well as they would have liked (it took three hours for them to get my pacemaker implanted as opposed to the one hour it normally takes) it is safer for my pacemaker to be running 100% of the time instead of relying on my single atrial lead to tell my pacemaker to pick up my heart rate. (This is why my battery life is much shorter than other people who have pacemakers). 

Still, I wasn't done with my appointment. I had to go back upstairs to get hooked up to a 24-hour holter monitor which meant I was going to have to wear it to work. I was not prepared for this at all and I was kicking myself for not having grabbed my zip-up sweatshirt to hide my clumpy-looking chest. After getting hooked up, I was finally out the door and didn't get to work until 10:15
This is what a holter monitor looks like. Thank goodness they are much more compact than they used to be and I was able tuck it into my bra for safe-keeping. No one at work seemed to notice I was even wearing it.
I will be seeing my pacemaker doctor again in a year and in the interim, will be hooking my pacemaker up at home to test my battery function via telephone wire to the clinic each quarter. In another year I might be at the Mayo clinic for a battery, possibly even a lead change. Though I don't look forward to this, I am happy and at peace right now because my heart is not pacemaker dependent! Upon hearing this news, a friend of mine said, "Not pacemaker dependent? Wow! That must mean that your heart is dependent on our Healer!" I LOVE That!

I am so thankful to God that I am doing so well despite what I have gone through with all of my heart issues. He is truly the Healer and no matter how many world-renown cardiologists I have seen or surgeons who have operated on my heart, He always has been and always will be my Great Physician - the One in whom I can truly put my trust.

I am currently working on a book called, Having Faith, that discusses being born with a congenital heart defect then going on to having a baby with special needs of her own. Feel free to check out my website at and also my blog, Having Faith.

1 comment:

  1. Cari, I'm sorry the results weren't as good as you hoped. That must be a little scary and disappointing. Many blessings to you on your journey!