Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pacing my way through life

Since getting the pacemaker one week ago, I have been through a lot. The experience itself was particularly traumatizing and still makes me cringe. Getting the pacemaker checked at the clinic was also horrifying and I had to barter my way to a later appointment in 8 weeks because I can't face going back there any time soon. I spent a large portion of this week spontaneously breaking into tears and getting very upset at the pacemaker.

Going through all this I have had many people ask my why I'm so upset - without the pacemaker I would be in a non-life sustaining rhythm. This is true. However, consider how this happened:

I went to emergency in atrial fibrillation which came on out of the blue. They left me with my heart beating at 170bpm for 24 hours (which, I have to say doesn't feel good). Then they took me to the CCU, sedated me to perform cardioversion. Upon waking I saw it didn't work. So, they put me on an amiodarone drip for 24 hours, which burned my veins. Then, they told me after 24 hours on this, cardioversion may work better so we would try again tomorrow. The next day I'm told I'm getting a pacemaker at 8am. WHAT?!?! No time to adjust to the idea. No discussion. People started coming to do consent, discuss what the pacemaker looks like, restrictions on my daily living. Then before I know it I'm being wheeled into a procedure room and while I'm wide awake they implant the device while I sob on the table. After returning to my room I couldn't stop crying.

I wasn't kidding...this really traumatized me! And I'm angry. Very angry. I can deal with the cardiac tumour - it happened and it is over.  However, this rhythm issue was unexpected and made me a cardiac patient for life. I'm really having a hard time adjusting to this thought. In addition, being on coumadin, I was told I can't get pregnant again, unless it is planned carefully with my cardiologist. I would have to give myself 2x daily injections of enoxaparin for the whole conception/pregnancy period (which btw, hurts like hell). Having conceived Noah in a less than romantic state with the assistance of a fertility clinic, I don't want to go through that again. Not to mention the worry about being pregnant on blood thinners and the stress on my heart. So, just like that, my dream of 3 children is shot.

This week, Keith suggested I go see a social worker to deal with some of the anger and to work out this trauma. She is a wonderful woman at the hospital and she made me feel quite a lot better in just one session: It is normal to feel as I do - I went through a lot in 3 weeks! My life was drastically altered in the span of 24 hours getting this pacemaker. So she is mostly there for me to vent to and teach me how to accept what has happened.

In the process, she discussed mindfulness with me. For those that don't know, mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and not letting your mind wander. If your mind does wander, you bring it back to the present in a non-judgmental manner. It is a very difficult, but useful skill and is the latest and greatest tool to use in primary care. During my first session, she taught me a new way to practice mindfulness that makes it easier to focus and quiet your mind (she thinks I have to much time to think and worry while I sit at home).

It is called Zen tangle or Zen doodling. I have ZERO artistic ability. The fact that my baby sister is a talented artist makes me wonder if we come from the same family. However, I find this quite soothing and quite frankly, it gives me something to do all day long (don't forget I can't move my left arm for 4 weeks until the pacemaker leads are "set" in my body, I can't lift anything heavier than a bag of milk because of my sternal incision, I can't walk farther than 5 minutes without getting breathless and I had a stroke that limits the functioning of my right hand....Life is a bit boring right now!).

So I will share my doodles with you....they are my therapy that keeps me from wondering if I will be paced forever, if I will live long enough to see my kids get married, if I will ever be off of blood thinners, and most importantly: if my body tries to die one day, will my pacemaker keep ticking thereby making me immortal?