Daniel (purplemaster) wrote,

On my way to being a Cyborg

Medtronic Gem III DR
Originally uploaded by dtaylor404
I don't wish to become one of those people who has nothing to talk about other than his own medical problems, but I thought you might like to know.

I'm scheduled to undergo the implantation of an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) at Crawford Long on Wednesday, June 27. This will (duh) cause me to miss the ARTC rehearsal that evening.

This is not expected to be eventful, as it doesn't require my chest to be opened. The device (the size of a small pager, I'm told) is implanted just under the skin below the collarbone, and two wires threaded through arteries into my heart. If the operation is completed early enough in the day, it's not unusual to treat it as an outpatient procedure. In my case, since I'm scheduled for 12:30 pm, they expect to keep me overnight for monitoring.

In broad terms, it's not unlike a pacemaker, although most of the time it will just sit there, monitoring my heartbeat, waiting for an episode to happen. Every three months or so, my doctor will wirelessly download the gadget's logs: In about five years, they'll have to go in and change the batteries. Of course, they wouldn't call it a defibrillator if all it did was keep records.

It's to address the occasional episode of arrhythmia, or atrial fibrillation, I'm experiencing. It's not painful, but it is on the upper edge of uncomfortable, and potentially life-threatening if ignored. My primary physician and my cardiologist agree that this is the logical and appropriate treatment.

The ICD is capable of delivering a series of short bursts to the heart, just as a pacemaker does, to disrupt fibrillation and re-establish a regular beat. (This, I'm told, the patient doesn't feel.) If needed, it can also deliver a single, more significant jolt. (This, I'm told, feels like being kicked in the chest. Let's hope I never find out about that.)

You may find documentation that warns patients about proximity to microwave ovens, cel phones, overhead lines, etc. This is not a problem with the particular model I'll be getting. The only thing that has been shown to affect it is high-power arc welding -- an activity I've no plans to take up.

This is the same kind of gadget that Vice President Cheney got back in 2001, so unless I start shooting my hunting companions or feel an uncontrollable urge to retreat to an unspecified location, it should make no difference in my day-to-day life.

See also Sudden Cardiac Arrest (or better yet, let's not).
Tags: medical

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