Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Some ten years ago I was diagnosed with a heart condition. I had bad reactions to the drugs that would normally be used to manage the problem.  So eventually I was fitted with a pacemaker. Pacemakers are interesting little devices that have given many people a whole new lease of life. Heart pacemakers are small, battery-operated devices that senses when your heart is beating irregularly or too slowly. The pacemaker then sends a signal to your heart that makes your heart beat at the correct pace.

For me it was a very positive life changing event. To all intents and purposes the only thing I do now is attend the pacemaker clinic once a year for an MOT. A pad is placed on my chest and the pacemaker is interrogated by a laptop computer, the previous years data is downloaded. An ECG is taken and the consultant then decides if any changes need to be made to the settings.

At the time, I was off work for six months and that was the standard NHS wait back then for the pacemaker to be fitted. To me it seemed like an eternity. I was a pain in the arse with regular calls to the hospital for updates on when the pacemaker would be fitted. Then one day I was called to the hospital for a pre-surgical consultation. Whilst I was in the waiting area, people started to arrive in wheel chairs, there were kids with tubes up their noses. One little girl was obviously in dire need and even now the mental picture of her is as clear today as it was ten years ago. One look told me that these people sitting around the waiting area were the serious cases. In reality I was quite low on the urgent list. I felt quite guilty about my previous behaviour.

After the device was fitted I went home. There was an appointment set for two weeks later. When I went back I told the consultant that the pacemaker was not making any difference. He said "That does not surprise me, it is in passive mode at the moment whilst it learns about you and your condition. We will turn it on later." Sometimes you feel a twerp, that was one such day!

Today, I can walk for miles and miles. I am pretty fit and the heart condition is just about a thing of the past. I don't take any medication and I feel in good fettle. The little box of tricks is a wonder of the technological age. In about another ten years or so when the internal battery goes flat, I will get a replacement model. Now these are the kind of leisure batteries I want for my boat - I wonder what they are?

Imagine my surprise to read that a man in the USA has died "after trying to surgically remove a pacemaker out of his own chest" It seems that 47-year-old Channing Askew told friends he was experiencing chest pains and asked for an ambulance to be called. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive he attempted some home surgery and tried to gouge out the device using a screwdriver or knife. When paramedics arrived at the house Askew was unsurprisingly already unconscious. As they attempted to revive him they noticed the stab wound and called police. Police were called amid fears by the ambulance crew that Askew had been attacked.

It makes you think.


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