My first ICD shock

It was May 3, 2012, it had been mere weeks since my release from the hospital. Douglas, my husband couldn’t sleep, he got up a couple of hours prior to me, early in the morning while I stayed in bed to sleep. At some point, he came in the bedroom to check on me and found me sitting up, confused and disoriented, I just didn’t feel right. He sat on the bed and talked as we wondered what had happened. I decided to get up and while I was putting on my clothes, the alarm on the device went off, it was a European ambulance sound coming from my chest. We just looked at each other frozen, wondering what to do next. I began to panic and started to cry, I was sure I was about to die (again). We gathered ourselves, Douglas calmed me down and we decided we should head to the hospital because we had no idea what the alarm meant. I had read so much information about the ICD (Implantable Cardioverter-defibrillator) in those first weeks that I was afraid that the lead to my heart had broken off or had somehow been pulled out of place.

Since I was feeling OK, we took a shower and called a cab to take us to Emergency at the same hospital I had been recently treated. As soon as I told the nurse what had happened, I was quickly moved on to the next step where my blood pressure and temperature were taken, shortly afterwards, I was whisked away to a bed in Emerg where a flurry of activity started to take place. I was immediately given a hospital gown and hooked up to the heart monitors, blood was taken, an IV line was started, a chest x-ray was done and while this was all going on, I was being questioned by the Emergency Doctor in charge. He assured us that someone from the Cardiology team would be around to speak with me, now it was just a waiting game. All kinds of interesting stuff was going on around us, the walls are only curtains so nothing is really private. The other patients were all ages, sizes, nationalities with every kind of problem you could imagine, at least it gave us something to keep our minds off what was going on with me, we just sat back and watched, it was like reality TV.

Eventually, a resident from the Cardiac unit came to take my history, between Douglas and I we gave them all the information they were asking, it was now getting to be late in the afternoon and we had been there all day with nothing to eat or drink. I was starting to get a major headache and my anxiety level was quite high. Finally, my Cardiologist came by, he brought the computer he needed to interrogate my device, it would show them what the alarm was for and what was going on, I think he was a surprised as we were when results showed that I had been legitimately shocked, that my heart had gone out of rhythm again to the point that device did what it was supposed to do and it shocked me to bring the rhythm back to normal, it had happened while I was sleeping, that explained a lot.

When I left the hospital on Feb 9, I left without one prescription, we had been walking quite a bit, my fitness level was poor at best when I got home but I was definitely starting to feel better. I had some colour back and was finally starting to look healthier again. We were outside every chance we could, spring was just arriving, the rain had pretty much stopped and it was sunny quite a bit. I was on the road to recovery and as far as we knew then and there, the cardiac arrest was behind us and were getting on with our lives, looking forward to our next road trip. Now the doctor was advising medication, Bisoprolol, a beta blocker commonly used with heart patients, a small dose, but it made me really nervous, I didn’t have such a great track record with previous prescription drugs. After discussion, he left Douglas and I alone to decide what we wanted to do, after debate, we decided that I should take the drug. Bisoprolol was started, 2.5 mg once a day, the IV was removed and I was sent on my way.

I never would have imagined that such a small dose of a drug could cause such side effects. I was dizzy to the point of nearly being unable to stand up without feeling like I was going to fall down and I was tired as hell. I complained to my family doctor when I saw her the next week, she advised me to cut the dose in half to see if the symptoms eased up, I was nervous about following her instructions but did, the symptoms did fall back a bit but my stability was short lived.

Stay tuned…

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