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Ain't Wastin' Time No More!

Friday, February 15, 2013

It all began last Friday with my decision that I've been a wuss long enough about needles and it was time for me to get over it and donate blood at our employer's blood drive.

Well...? I flunked! Couldn't donate blood! Why? My pulse was only 36 and they didn't want me passing out on them. They didn't tell me to see a doc or anything they just said I'd be eligible to donate blood in two days if my heart rate was normal.

Being a typical guy I ignored my son's advice (he's a Physician Asst.) to get in and see my Primary Care doc and just went on my merry way for the next several days, shoveling snow, spinning class, elliptical / treadmill / weight workouts. But I wasn't TOTALLY stupid: I checked on my heart rate at various times and found that despite an HR that climbed right up to my usual workout rates between 120-140 when I sat still for a little the rates dropped right down to the high 30s, low 40s.

So this past Weds. I decided I'd better see my PCP and he got WAY nervous, insisted I go to the ER & THEY got nervous & admitted me with an atrial flutter.

Its the strangest thing. I'm nearly asymptomatic other than some fatigue after exertion. So it feels pretty weird sitting here in the hospital. Heart still pops right up to 130-140 when working out but probably won't be doing any of that for a while.

I'm on a holding pattern as they have been hoping that my heart rate will pick up a bit since stopping my meds which have a heart rate lowering effect. They want to perform a TEE (trans-esophageal echocardiogram) to see if there are any clots around the heart. If there aren't they will then shock the heart, hoping to convert it to a normal rhythm. If there are clots the waiting game continues.

I spent the day yesterday pacing the halls killing time. Heart rate pops right up there but then drops down. Overnight I hit a new low of 28, but the RN said I was just sleeping fine. While pacing it was kinda cool to see more folks filtering out into the halls each time I looped around the floor. So many patients and visitors figuring out maybe there's a better choice than to be vegging out in front of the TV or staring out the window!

With a heart rate so low they couldn't release me from the hospital. But the other problem is with a heart rate so low it can be risky to shock the heart as although the intent is to bump the heart into a normal rhythm there is also a risk that a shock could bump it into a LOWER rate.

And there wasn't much lower for my heart to go.

So while they were planning to shock me today it was still possible that it would be another day of thumb-twiddling and hall pacing.

While most atrial flutters result in a rapid heart rate, some like me kick into a slow heart rate. Staff all the time do a double take when they see me bopping along pacing the halls with a heart rate that would send most folks passing out on the floor.

The biggest fear that I terrorized myself with overnight until I spoke with the doc was: what if the shock didn't convert my cardiac rhythm to normal? The next step would be a cardiac ablasion and pacemaker. Knowing nothing about pacemakers I envisioned myself transforming into an enfeebled old coot and knew I wouldn't stand for such a life! Needless to say I slept very little that night. The doc later reassured me that I could still lead just as active a lifestyle with a pacemaker as I wished.

Today I waited and waited and it appeared everything was on track for me to get shocked. Nervous as my heart rate was still slow...but we did it and...

SHOCK ME BABY! I'm back to the world of normal heart rhythms!

Go little heartbeat GO!

I got plans for YOU!

I am so freakin' relieved!

I'm taking it as a message from Someone: You want your life back? You got it! Now make the most of it!


What a HUGE ZEN THUNDERBOLT to: make absolutely the MOST of my life and whittle my compromises and accommodations down to the bare minimum.

Another message I'm taking away from this:

the pay-off of good intentions (wanting to donate blood) resulting in getting the help I needed to not drop dead in the middle of a spinning class! I believe this condition I have was the same one that took out Jim Fixx, the famous runner.

So hey everyone: Life is too short & getting shorter all the time.

If you have some words and actions of love and caring for yourself or others, just DO IT! Don't just daydream about wonderful things happening in your life, start taking steps to MAKE IT HAPPEN!

The clock is always ticking. It's experiences such as mine which pulls that awareness of the passing of time to the front and center of the stage of life!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Don - I have been AWOL from Spark for awhile due to my work and workout schedule, but I do pop in from time to time to see what my favorite Sparkers have been up to. I know I don't post often, but I do read most of what you post, as it's always relavant and good information.

    I am sorry you have been going throught this, along with the medication and waiting. However, you are only an old coot if you want to be an old coot, so I don't think you have to worry there. I know you've heard pacemaker stories, but we had a guy playing underwater hockey who was in his 70s with a pacemaker. He stopped playing due to issues other than his heart.

    I do like your last couple of paragraphs of this blog. For the past few months I have decided what I want to do for a living (it's taken me 52 years to figure that out!), and I am actively making plans and working towards that goal. You're right. Life is too short, and it's too short to not enjoy what you're doing.
    1853 days ago
  • _LINDA
    Wow! Watch a catch! Doing good to discover an undiagnosed problem! How very scary to be freaking out something serious is wrong with your heart! You handled it like a trooper!! So glad the shock worked!! Keeping fingers crossed that this will hold for you with no further action needed!!

    1853 days ago
    HOLY DOODLE DON!! Glad you are still with us and doing alright after that scare. I have a pretty low resting HR too and often wonder about my heart palpitations. I have had 3 stress tests in the past 3 years and the Dr's can't figure out why I'm even getting a stress test. Hmmmmm...now you have me wondering.
    *goes off to watch YouTube link*
    1853 days ago
  • JLITT62
    Wow! I don't even know what to say, other thani'm glad it worked.
    1854 days ago
    I am so happy.....been sitting here worrying about you all day. LOL Yes, it is a wake up call, Don, and I for one am ecstatic that's all it was. Nothing like riding that thin edge to make you wake up and realize what is important, what isn't, and prioritize your life and most everything else. You go, dude. I am glad you are alright!
    1855 days ago
  • KA_JUN
    Yeah man, truth! Glad to hear that they're sorting out your ticker. I wonder how shocking it returned it to the "normal" rate, from a biomechanical standpoint.

    We can't take our health/fitness, or even that we'll be here for granted. Make it happen and make it count, indeed!
    1855 days ago
    Glad things are looking up now. Now it's keep tabs on the heart rate.
    1855 days ago
    I think my OWN heart slowed and nearly stopped, reading this and worrying for you. That's an INCREDIBLY low and dangerous HR! I mean -- if you were maybe an Olympic cyclist who'd just finished the Tour de France, we might overlook it ... emoticon

    I'm so glad you took yourself seriously and went in to take care of it. I'd imagine the fear at 'being shocked' was great, and I admire the silver-lining lesson you took away from it all. Great motivation for YOU, and thanks for sharing it with US.
    1855 days ago
  • L*I*T*A*
    wow............what an unexpected experience!!!
    so great to hear it all turned out well........
    what a life changing altering time!!!
    take care and all the best with your recovery..
    blessings and hugs.......lita

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1855 days ago
    Wow what a surprising blog and I am so glad you are alright. Having your rythm out of whack should have made you feel bad so just IMAGINE how good you are going to feel now ??? LOL..... I am sure they will monitor you and watch it closely.

    great job on keeping an eye on yourself...... believe me when I say that we must be advocates for our own health !

    1855 days ago
    Wow, so glad that you are ok and how scary to be worried about a low heart rate. emoticon
    1855 days ago
    What a scary thing for you to go thru, Don. Amazing what it can take to make you realize how precious life really is. I am SO, SO, SO glad that you are doing great - enjoy that precious gift of life to it's fullest, my friend!
    1855 days ago
    Thank goodness it all worked out! Now, on to bigger and better things...
    1855 days ago
  • BILL60
    What a great story. Many lessons are in that wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.
    1855 days ago
  • DEBRA0818
    I never dreamed when I clicked on your post to be confronted with such a dramatic series of events; thank God everything turned out well and you are released to go out into the world with a good reminder to love and be loved. I had a similar experience when I was 40: tried to give blood and my BP was sky high (normal up to that point). I have had it under control ever since with a wonderful medication that creates no side effects and regular exercise, but I relate (not in quite such a dramatic fashion) to the gratitude that my small act of generosity helped to save my life.

    There is DEFINITELY a lesson in there somewhere.

    1855 days ago
    Glad to hear that the shock worked and you are fine.
    1856 days ago
    WOW Don! I never expected that. Glad you are better!!!!
    1856 days ago
    I am so glad it worked and you are BACK! It probably is a good thing you were are healthy as you were when this problem started! You are right take each day as a gift!! Bless You! Namaste
    1856 days ago
    WOW dude, what a great story.....and what great timing!

    Good sound advice....maybe we all need a little electro-shock now and then!

    Good luck & keep us posted!
    1856 days ago
    I'm glad the shock worked. Take care of yourself! Wow, that really does sound like it was scary! I can't imagine going through that, I don't think I would sleep either waiting for the outcome.

    Wonderful blog with an important life message. Glad you're okay.

    1856 days ago
  • MAJONES1225
    I agree
    1856 days ago
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