Thursday, February 23, 2023

Even cyborgs need periodic battery replacements

I’ve been recovering from heart surgery since Feb. 16. It was Valentine’s Day Week and it seemed like a good time for it. Heart surgery has an ominous sound. Thoughts go to quadruple bypasses and aortic valve replacement. I just needed a replacement generator in my chest to stop any signs of ventricular fibrillation which can lead to death. The gadget is filled with microchips and wires that connect to leads that snake down into my heart. I got my first one ten years ago after a widowmaker heart attack that almost did me in. Because it took too long to get help for my stopped-up heart, it sustained some muscle damage which in turn made my heart less effective. Up until January 2013, my heart had been very good to me. In high school, it pumped like a champ as I ran down the basketball court or when a girl looked at me in a certain way. Got me through my adult years until I hit 62 then BAM! Damn…

So the first one wore out and I needed a new one. I am on Medicare and have secondary insurance that pay for the $23,000 gizmo and attendant expenses such as doctor’s fees, OR fees, nursing services, etc. I am lucky to have health care insurance that keeps me ticking. Health insurance is a right and should not be optional. I see that our esteemed GOP state legislators have once again torpedoed Medicaid expansion that would insure thousands of Wyomingites. A widowmaker strikes and you need help? Tough luck, buddy. For the GOP it’s all about the cruelty. They didn’t used to announce their cruelties for all the world to see and hear. Now they shout it from the rooftops.

Back to my trip to the operating room. It’s called the CRMC Cath Lab and it’s where the electrophysiologists work their magic. I was under conscious sedation, like the kind you get for your colonoscopy. In this case, the surgeon applied a topical anesthesia and then pumped me with Fentanyl but not too much. He then cut into my chest, removed the old battery and in with the new. Then he sealed me back up. Before you know what’s going on, I'm being whisked off to recovery.

So how does my electrophysiologist keep track of the signals beamed from my Abbott Laboratories ICD? I used to have a Merlin Home Transmitter the size of the big black phones you used to see in 1940s movies. It sat by the side of my bed and beamed my readings to the CRMC Device Clinic. My new monitor is a Samsung device, smaller than a smart phone, that I can take anywhere. Pretty slick.

My new machine should last 5-7 years, according to the pamphlet that accompanied it. I plan on lasting at least that long. Seven days post-op and I’m doing fine.

Thank you, modern technology and surgical expertise. 

Two years ago I reviewed a nonfiction book about ICDs on WyoFile. It's "Lightning Flowers" and written by Wyoming author Katherine E. Standefer. She needed a device while still in her 20s and then set out to find the its origins. A great tale, whether you're a cyborg or not. 

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