An Uncapped Pen

October 14, 2009

Six Weeks and Counting

Filed under: About Me,Health — cindylv @ 5:31 am
Tags: , ,

Six weeks into this whole electronic monitoring deal, and I’m still getting used to the idea of remembering my “leash” or portable digital monitor. I confess it took me four weeks to re-read the booklet I received with the device. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to read such an important document without mind-altering drugs in my system!

I’ve pushed the green button on two occasions; I’ve set off a theft control device at the used record store; and had one significant “event” reported to the doctor’s office.

The first time I pressed the green button was when my husband called me from the next room. I got up off the couch and walked into the kitchen to see what he wanted. I made it to the stove and the world went gray. My legs folded beneath me and I wound up on the floor, unable to open my eyes without spiraling out of consciousness. I waited a a few minutes and recovered nicely.

The other time was when I was in Prescott, Arizona at the County Records office. I walked up to the counter and said, “Hello.” Then I got dizzy and grabbed the counter. I pressed the button and willed myself to keep upright while the clerk ran to get me a paper cup of water. I managed to stay upright and conscious.

The theft control device at Zia’s Used Record store must be more sensitive than the ones at Walmart or Albertson’s. I brought a box of used records to trade last month and set off the device as I entered the store. The clerk didn’t want to be bothered with looking at my fancy new ID card that describes my implanted medical device. Imagine that!

The significant cardiac event occured last night when I remembered to keep the portable monitor within arm’s reach, instead of across the room. I felt a little flutter as I was drifting off to sleep. I didn’t press the button because I didn’t want to wake up enough to reach for the device. At 8:01 this morning, my cardiologist’s office called. The doctor was notified of an “event” last night, and he needed to see me as soon as possible. It turns out that “as soon as possible” means next Tuesday at 9:45. So it must not be a serious event!


September 3, 2009

Implantable Loop Recorder

Filed under: About Me,Health — cindylv @ 7:19 pm
Tags: , , ,


Ventricular Tachycardia: (V-tach or VT) is a tachycardia, or fast heart rhythm, that originates in one of the ventricles of the heart. This is a potentially life-threatening arrhythmia because it may lead to ventricular fibrillation and sudden death.

Syncope: Partial or complete loss of consciousness with interruption of awareness of oneself and ones surroundings. When the loss of consciousness is temporary and there is spontaneous recovery, it is referred to as syncope or, in nonmedical quarters, fainting.

Syncope is due to a temporary reduction in blood flow and therefore a shortage of oxygen to the brain. This leads to lightheadedness or a “black out” episode, a loss of consciousness. Temporary impairment of the blood supply to the brain can be caused by heart conditions and by conditions that do not directly involve the heart.

Implantable Loop Recorder: A device that is inserted under the skin below the collar bone (usually on the patients left side). The procedure to implant the device is simple. Local anesthetic is injected into the area. A small incision is made and device is inserted. The skin is then sutured closed. The device continuously records heart activity similar to an ECG for up to 2 years. If the patient experiences an episode of fainting the device is activated to save the recording before, during, and after the episode. The recordings can then be evaluated by a physician to help determine the cause of fainting.


There’s no warning. One second I’m standing up or walking or whatever, and the next second, I’m on the ground looking up, wondering what happened. It doesn’t happen often, but really, one time is too often. The doctor’s office received approval from my insurance company and scheduled my procedure for last Thursday morning. My pre-op instructions included fasting on Tuesday evening for blood work during my pre-admissions appointment on Wednesday. And again on Wednesday evening before my procedure.

We arrived at the hospital on Thursday morning at 0730 and signed in. I was anxious, sleepy, hungry and caffeine deprived. We were escorted to the outpatient waiting room for 45 minutes of fidgeting. The nurse called me in, telling my husband to wait while she got me prepped — 20 minutes, she promised. I was given a gown made out of thick, soft paper-like fabric that was two sizes too big. While I changed (minor victory: I got to keep my underpants on!), she asked me the standard screening questions, When did I last eat, etc.

Then a gentle giant arrived, who introduced himself only as “John”. He held my hand while the nurse blew one IV attempt in my right arm, and talked her through another attempt in my left. When he was satisfied, he wheeled me down the hall to the operating room. I never did get to see my husband before they started.

The operating room was freezing cold. The operating table was no wider than 15 inches or so. The nurses and John scooted me from the bed to the table and ensured I was centered and settled. As they tied the “soft restraints” securing my arms to the table, a representative from the company who manufactures the devices breezed in and briefed me on the charactistics and procedures of the device. She was too blonde, too bubbly, and too sparkly for that situation. And why was she wearing scrubs and diamond earrings in the operating room?

John and I negotiated the musical selection. They were fresh out of Metallica, so we settled on Mozart. I think the surgeon was relieved. After a few moments of forced levity with the technicians (Why yes, we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.), John inserted the oxygen tubes into my nostrils and draped a “tent” over my face to keep me from watching. The doctor ordered the nurse to begin sedation and I gulped oxygen while I waited for it to start. I tasted the cold metal in the back of my throat, so I assumed it was working.

Then I heard my doctor say, “OK, Cynthia. We start now. Stinging and burning, just like at the dentist office, now. Stinging and burning.” And I felt the stinging and the burning and it was nothing like the dentist’s office. I would have bitten someone, anyone who strayed near my teeth.

I struggled to remember any of the prayers I recently learned, but the only words I could string together were “Oh” and “God.” And I think I remember a “Please” or two. More stinging and burning. Some pressure on my chest. A little tugging. More gulping oxygen. More “Oh Gods.” I felt something laid across my legs and wondered what that was.

I heard John’s voice, “Cynthia? You doing okay?” I mumbled something like, “It hurts.” Then I heard, “More Versed.” I figured my insurance was paying for it, I might as well enjoy it, right?

Then I heard tape stretching sounds and felt more pressure on my chest, and they were done. I was untented, untied and scooted back to my bed and rolled to the recovery section. I met Anna – an absolute angel of a nurse. I saw my husband and got a quick kiss. I thought it was incredibly important for him to give me the book I’d brought to read while waiting. I held it while I slept off the sedation for three hours.

All I remember of that time was that the nurses called each other “Sister” and I remember telling Anna that I wanted to be a sister, too. My husband tells me that I asked the nurse for some milk to drink. I haven’t drunk milk in twenty or thirty years. I don’t like milk. But I asked for it, and I drank it.

Anna helped me dress and wheeled me out to the parking lot and put me in the truck. My husband brought me home and put me to bed with some pain medicine. I woke up on Friday morning, took more pain medicine and eased through the rest of the day. By Saturday, I’d given up on pain medicine. It makes me loopy, itchy, and agitated. I switched over to advil without any problems.

The only problem I’ve had is skin irritation from the surgical tape. I ripped off the bandage and put some neosporin on it. The actual incision is approximately two inches long, covered by a couple pieces of tape. I put a waterproof bandage over it, to keep it clean and dry. Although I was told not to shower for two weeks (ha, ha), I made it until Friday night before showering. I have an appointment to return to the doctor next week to have my staples removed.

I have a portable monitor, about the size of a cellphone, that I’m supposed to carry with me when I leave the house. If I experience dizziness, pain, palpitations or syncope, I’m to press the green button on the monitor to record the “event.” When I get back home, the portable monitor reports to the base station on the table in the den. That unit reports to the doctor’s office through the ether somehow. I’m still getting used to the electronics management side of it. According to the booklet I was given, I could set off theft control devices in retail stores, or metal detectors at the airport. I know it all causes interference with my new whizbang cellphone and the cordless home phone. I’m a walking jammer. I can imagine all the garage doors in my neighborhood opening and closing when I walk past with Bailey. :^D Or all the calls to tech support at the cable company wondering why their reception is suddenly fuzzy.

I’ve got some questions to discuss with my doctor about that next week. All in all, it went quite smoothly.

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