The month of October is Cardiac Arrest Awareness month and I thought I would share information the American Heart Association posted regarding the differences between cardiac arrest and a heart attack.
While doing some research on the Internet the other day, I came across this superb illustration set out by the American Heart Association on what is an Automated External Defibrillator and thought I would share. Click on the link for more details.
Proud of my two younger sons. . . yesterday, they were willing to give up their Saturday by attending an adult CPR/AED class taught by Medic One. We decided to make it a family affair and all four of us attended the training. Extremely proud of Joey, who struggles with ADD, he make a concentrated effort to actually listen, learn, participate, and become certified. Thank you, Medic One and Thurston County for offering free CPR/AED classes to citizens of the community.
What's that saying about three times being a charm? Well, what if it is the forth. . . actually, now that I think about it, I believe this may have been my fifth time being cardioverted; however, hopefully this time it really does work like a charm. Fingers and toes crossed.
I'm pretty sure I've already mentioned what a cardioversion is, but to remind those whom may be reading this blog; Wikipedia states, "A cardioversion is a medical procedure by which an abnormally fast heart rate (tachycardia) or cardiac arrhythmia is converted to normal rhythm using electricity or drugs."
So last week, I had an appointment with my cardiologist, and after reading my EKG, he informed me, I was back in a-fib. Ugh! Again? Really? Back in December, I had an invasive procedure know as an catheter ablation. I hope never to have to go through that procedure again. However, in April, and again just yesterday, I arrived at the hospital so doctors could "shock" my heart out of this atrial fibrillation rhythm.
A cardioversion isn't too bad of an experience. The hardest and longest part is the "hurry up and wait" portion. Starting at midnight the night before I had to stop eating. Okay. Check. Then the next day, Ed and I drove to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. We left early, because weather was just awful - a real gully-washer and heavy winds. We did not want to get stuck in traffic and for me to be late thus missing having the procedure done. We arrived at the hospital with plenty of time to spare - I was scheduled for a blood draw at 2:00 pm. Then after the blood draw, I checked in with the day surgery center, where I was asked more questions then I would have been asked if I was applying for a car loan. We were early, so we had a bit of a wait in the waiting room, but finally I was called back. I was then lead through a set of double doors, forced to step on a scale (which of course lied to me). then steered into a small room, and told to put on the ever-so-stylish hospital gown. A few minutes later, the nurse started an IV. Of course, my veins were being as stubborn as I was, so she had to use a heat pack to get them to come to the surface. It also did not help I had not eaten or drank anything in 18-hours, so I was dehydrated. After starting the IV, the nurse asked more questions and took my vitals. Fifteen to twenty minutes later, an orderly arrived to wheel me down to the procedure room. I immediately recognized the cardioversion machine (which looks very similar to a crash cart if you ever watch medical dramas) and the large drug box sitting in the corner that looks vaguely similar to a Sears Craftsman Tool box.
Once wheeled into the room, a nurse took my vitals and hooked me up to a heart monitor, followed by placing electrode pads on my chest and back. Damn, are they cold! This is where the "hurry up and wait" portion begins, as we wait for all the players to cram into a tiny 10 by 10 room. Two by two, with hands of blue, they finally arrived, all simultaneously asking me questions and telling me what their roles were. Then one of the cardiologists gave me a run-down of the risks involved. Geez Doc, trying to freak me out? I know, I know, they have to do it. Finally, one anesthesiologist put an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth telling me to take deep breaths, while another shot a sleeping agent into the IV, and within seconds, I was out for the count.
The pads on my chest and back are connected by cables to the cardioversion machine which has a combined function of an EKG display and the electrical function of a defibrillator. Then while under, a reversion shock is delivered (200 joules) and about five minutes later, the nurse is waking me up, telling me everything went well, and I was back in normal sinus rhythm. Yay!
Then I was rolled back to the surgery center, given another set of vitals, the nurse removed my IV, and I was told I could get dressed and go home. Of course, no driving or operating heavy machinery. Dang it! I was so looking forward to digging a ditch tonight. For my troubles, I received a small burn tattoo the shape of a russet potato from the heat off the electrode pad. Oh well, what I get for being fair skinned and it does fade after a couple days.
Doctors are not sure why my heart keeps going into a-fib, as I am younger then most patients they see. However, my heart does. We also made an executive decision, if this cardioversion does not take, we will no longer chase down the rhythm. I will just learn to live with it. Other then some fatigue, I usually can't tell I am in a-fib (I am asymptomatic) and obviously my heart just does not want to stay in normal sinus rhythm. I've always been told I beat the drum to my own rhythm.
I remember a particular visit I had with my cardiologist several years ago. It was one of the many times he suggested an implantable defibrillator and I was stubborn and didn't want to listen. Too many bad experiences with the first device I had implanted and I just didn't want to go through it again. He said he understood but also told me he didn't want to see some catastrophic event happen to me and be the subject of the local news. Well, thanks, Dr. Kundenchuk for that self-fulling proficiency.
Even though I was not interviewed in Seattle, I was in San Francisco. Nerves of steel, I was not, as a news reporter asked me questions about the events surrounding my cardiac arrest and how important I thought it was for by-standers to be first responders. He then asked, "How has this changed you?" Goodness. I don't know. I still sweat the small stuff. I still have a short fuse. I still am me.
Did he mean - do I believe in second chances? Or third chances as the case may be? Sure. I know Heavenly Father is not ready for me yet, but what my divine purpose in life is. . . I just don't know. I do know, I need to go out and discover it for myself. Maybe, it making people aware of sudden cardiac arrest or getting automatic external defibrillators out there. . . everywhere. And not only do I want to see AED's everyone, I want to make sure there are people properly trained how to use them and they are just not wall decorations. Maybe getting more people to think about being CPR certified. I would like to see a higher success then 8 to 12% survival rate for victims of sudden cardiac arrest. There is a plan. There is a purpose. There is a time for everything. . . A time to be born and a time to die. . .
Or to borrow a scene from the movie Footloose, Ren said; "Ecclesiastes assures us that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh. . . a time to weep. A time to mourn. . . and there is a time to dance. . . It's the way it was in the beginning. It's the way it's always been. It's the way it should be now."
A friend posted this on my Facebook wall and I had to chuckle. I think this is a fantastic and humorous video that explains several different types of heart rhythms and arrhythmias through interpretive dance. Fantastic! Cardiologists with sense of humor!
"I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much" ~ Mother Teresa
While delivering my speech last week at the American Heart Association HeartSaver Recognition Event, I spoke of three miracles, but believe I may have misspoke, as I realize there were more miracles in play then I had originally realized.
Miracle 1: My husband. Ed recognized immediately what was happening as he had seen it before. For those who may not know, this was not my first sudden cardiac arrest, but my second. He was able to stay calm and collected enough to quickly find help he knew I needed immediately.
Miracle 2: Stay in the car. We had just arrived at the parking lot for the trail head to the Point Bonita Lighthouse. Thank goodness, I never stepped out of the car (Ed had already stepped out and looked over at me and saw me slumped over) or even worst case scenario, I had been on the trail. I believe if either had been the case, the outcome would have been very different.
Miracle 3: Point Bonita YMCA. First (I only found this out the other day), the staff were all there for a weekly meeting. Second, Jesse had only recently been recertified CPR/AED qualified a couple weeks before this event. Third, Ed was observant enough to see a van had pulled into the YMCA only moments earlier, so he knew someone was there. What astounds me is that the van he witness pull into the YMCA lot belonged to Pete, one of my rescuers.
Miracle 4: Location, location, location. We actually had to push our vacation off by a day, because my aunt and uncle were not available on Saturday, so we left for California on Sunday. Originally, on Monday, we should have been someone on the road headed towards Las Vegas. We could have literary been in the middle of nowhere when this all took place.
Miracle 5: Me. I am still here, thanks to the quick action of Pete and Jesse stepping up to the plate without hesitation. Years ago, I had been told by a paramedic that the chances of surviving a first cardiac arrest were slim, the chances of surviving a second were well. . . none. Guess I am too ornery and showed him.
All these miracles crisscrossed and lead to the same exact point in time. I mean really, talk about a once-in-a- lifetime chance encounter!
On Monday, I was honored to award the two Point Bonita YMCA employees who saved my life back in June with the American Heart Association HeartSaver Hero award. I was so happy to finally meet them and they were just beyond thrilled to see me. . . alive. My good friend, Mary, had the perfect word to describe the whole affair. . . surreal. Oh my goodness, was it ever surreal. Here everyone from the YMCA staff to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Rangers who assisted in saving my life talking about events of that day and I knew they were talking about me, but it didn't feel like it was me. Like I was there, but I wasn't there. If that makes any sense.
I have to admit, I was super nervous about getting up there and reliving my story, especially since much of it I do not remember. It was a good and well attended event and it was a huge honor to present these men with their awards. Then following the presentation, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association asked if I would repeat my tale in Seattle - date and time to be determined. Egads!
I am so thankful to still be here, and incredibly grateful to Ed, who recognized the signs of me going into cardiac arrest. Then to Pete and Jesse who stepped up and did what they had to do to keep me alive. They did not know me, but that did not matter to them. I feel I will have a special bond with them for the rest of my life. They truly are my #YHeroes. Then to the rest of the YMCA staff who assisted in many ways and made Ed and I feel at home, and to Mary Perkins, who reached out to us, letting us know about this event. Again, just so glad I was able to witness the recognition they so rightfully deserved. Also incredibly thankful to the Ranger Eddy and Ranger Gibbs who also performed CPR on me and got me breathing on my own even before paramedics arrived. And of course, to Marin County Fire Department and Southern Marin County Fire Department and the doctors and staff at Marin County Hospital.
Not very many people can say they have survived a cardiac arrest and without the quick action of Pete and Jesse, I would have never survived my second attack. Thanks for being there guys! And I can't stress enough those who are reading this, if you have not learned CPR, do it! Seconds really do count.
Interview on channel 7 (ABC) - San Francisco: Cardiac Arrest Victims Thank Rescuers For Saving Them With CPR
October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Month. More than 350,000 deaths are attributed to SCA every year in the United States and the survival rate is less than 10% unless CPR and defibrillation are utilized quickly by bystanders. I am a firm believer in everyone learning CPR, especially since the method of performing CPR has changed to a "Hands Only" approach. I also believe automated external defibrillators (AED) should not only be everywhere (high schools, libraries, churches, restaurants, etc.), and people should be properly trained on how to use them. When a person is going into sudden cardiac arrest seconds really do count. It can happen at anytime and to anyone and with a little training anyone can be hero.
I know a few of my friends think what happened to me back in June was a heart attack and that is furthest from the truth. It's fundamentally different. I like the "Apples to Oranges" campaign the Heart Rhythm Society is promoting by providing education and information to the general public.
My cardiologist explained it to my husband and I as a short circuit or when the electricity is suddenly turned off. In SCA, the heart simply stops beating. It's as if someone pulls the main breaker on your house to the off position - the power flow would be quickly disrupted, and all power to your house would be lost. The results are instantaneous from the moment the breaker is pulled. Sudden cardiac arrest functions in much the same way. The switch is moved to the off position and the heart malfunctions, loses power, and immediately stops. The person loses consciousness, as blood no longer makes it to the brain, and they stop breathing.
The heart will need to be restarted, which like using jumper cables to restart a dead battery on a car, an AED, shocks the heart back into hopefully a not so dangerous rhythm. On a side note, one thing I learned this past Monday, after meeting my rescuers, according to the final report from the AED device that was used on me, I had been shocked six times!! No wonder my chest hurt. Of course, it also dd not help, that a couple of my ribs were cracked while doing compressions on me. For those who are apprehensive about breaking ribs, at least victims can recover from a broken rib, and I have been told a time or two, that if ribs are cracking, not enough pressure is being used. By the way, Pete and Jesse, I forgive you.
A few years ago, my cardiologist told me about a new subcutaneous implantable defibrillator doctors were experimenting with in Australia and was hoping for FDA approval in the States soon. It was a device that required no lead wires to the heart and since I had an issue with breaking the lead wires, he had hoped this would be an option for me. However, both him and I had hoped that since twenty years had passed from my my sudden cardiac event, that hopefully I would never need one. What do they say about famous last words?
Boston Scientific: Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator
In addition, I am going to have to wear a Medical ID Alert Bracelet at all times from now on. I found this design. I love the double links with all the hearts. My only complaint is the bracelet doesn’t turn over, which could cause problems. Someone would have to unclasp the clasp. However, I do get lots of compliments. I had S-ICD engraved on the inside, so EMT's would be aware of my device in an emergency. My only other complaint are the daily emails spamming my inbox to buy ID bracelets. Thanks. I bought one.
“What symptoms were you experiencing?” asked the nurse. I looked over at Ed, and he glanced up at me, and we both sighed.
It was supposed to be a vacation of a lifetime. Ed had just turned 50 a few days prior and we were about to celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary. We had decided to go on an extended camping trip without the kids, just the two of us and visit family, friends, and a couple of national parks, including the Grand Canyon, which had been on my bucket list for a long time, with a quick stop in Las Vegas. On Sunday, we left Portland and drove all the way to Napa, California to visit my Uncle John and Aunt Gail. That night we had steak, baked potatoes, and salad, and caught up on family news and events. The following morning, we packed up the car with our suitcase and pillows, and headed for San Francisco. I was really looking forward to visiting the city on the Bay, as Ed had never been to San Francisco, and I had not been back since my grandmother passed away several years prior.
We left Napa and drove to the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. It was a beautiful sunny California day. The weather was gorgeous, with early morning fog lifting off the water, surrounding the bridge and we could just make out the towers and car deck. We stopped at the first view point and took pictures and then a quick hike around the old military batteries, followed by another stop at a second view point. We had then decided to take a short hike to the Point Bonita Lighthouse and we pulled into the parking lot. . . that is the last thing I remember.
Had a referral to see an electrophysiologist last week to discuss whether or not I was a candidate for catheter ablation, because I have gone back into atrial fibrillation again and the cardioversion (where the doctor uses a defibrillator to shock the heart back into normal rhythm) is not keeping me in normal sinus rhythm. A few weeks ago, I had an echo-cardiogram and based on the results, we can go ahead with this procedure. My other choice is to do nothing, continue to take beta blockers and a baby Aspirin everyday; however, someday, I will have to go back to being on blood thinners. The main symptom I have been struggling with extreme exhaustion. I am tired all the time and just don't seem to have any energy to do anything. Not that I am too thrilled to have this procedure done.
With a catheter ablation, the doctor places a series of catheters into the thigh that goes into the blood vessels and is advanced to the heart. Then they "freeze" or terminate a faulty electrical pathway from sections of the heart.
Catheter ablation of most arrhythmia has an extremely high success rate; however, because of my history, and length of time I have been in a-fib, the doctor estimates a 60% chance he would have to do this procedure again in a year or two. I was really hoping for better numbers.
It's a fairly invasive medical procedure. Nonetheless, I would only have to send one night in the hospital under observation and he said I should be able to resume normal activity in about a week. I am not too thrilled about having to go back on blood thinners for several weeks before the procedure and for a period of two months after. I will also need a CT scan in the next few weeks. Nor do I really like the idea of doctors poking and prodding in my heart. However, after weighing the pros and cons all week long and I think I have decided to go for it.
It’s been a mixed-bag sort of month. The family drove to northern Idaho to visit Ed’s mother. We had a good visit and a wonderful, appetizing, home cooked Thanksgiving dinner. The following evening, we had dinner with Ed’s older sister and her family, and on Saturday, we spent the night with his younger sister and her youngest daughter. We don’t get to visit with his family very often, so it was a good trip all around. I was able to work on some genealogy, too. The weather cooperated for us, which was good, even though we spent a little extra money to rent an SUV—just in case we ran into some bad weather heading over the mountain passes. Thank goodness we safely made it to our destination and back home again.
Today is my husband and my 20th Anniversary. We were married on a beautiful, sunny June afternoon in the rose garden, overlooking the Willamette River. I remember being so nervous, I could not stop shaking, even when he took my hand in his. We were married for better or worse, for rich or poor, in sickness and in health.
Unfortunately, we’ve had more than our share of sickness than health; however, I am eternally grateful my husband, Ed, knows CPR and saved my life back in 1994. For the most part, I have been a fairly healthy individual. My obstetrician told me I was his most healthy high-risk pregnant woman he had back when I was expecting.
This was a letter I wrote to a friend of mine after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer back in 2008. By God's grace, she kicked cancer to the curb, and has been cancer-free for close to three years now.
Snuggled next to my husband in bed late one evening, I heard him mumble, “How much overtime do you have?”
“Huh?” I asked, jolting him awake in the process.
“Sorry, I was talking in my sleep. I do that.”
“Yes, I know,” I answered back, trying to settle back to sleep. However, he got me thinking about how much ‘overtime’ we really do have?
Exactly sixteen years ago today, I l was lying in a hospital bed at Harborview Medical Center, on a respirator, with machines monitoring my vitals. I was literary knocking at death’s door. A nurse held my hand, and spoke to me. “Hello, Anne, you’re in the hospital. Your family is worried about you.” Or so I had been told, I have no memory of my stay at the hospital. The night before, I had stopped breathing and went into sudden cardiac arrest. The doctor’s never determined what caused my heart to stop beating, all I know is God was not ready for me, and gave me some ‘overtime.’ How much, I can’t say? It’s God’s timepiece, not mine.
Jan, I want you to know you are continually in my thoughts and prayers, and hoping our Heavenly Father continues to give you lots and lots of overtime.
"Hey. . . it's me."
I live in the shadows of the Olympic Mountains, in the State of Washington and I love camping, boating, hiking, and hanging out with my husband, our three boys, and two Bernese Mountain dogs.