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.