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Monday, December 11, 2006

The Interrogation

Don't worry, I'm not suspected of a federal crime or anything like that. But I did have my pacemaker "interrogated" at a routine visit today to the electrophysiologist (cardiologist specializing in heart rhythm problems), meaning that information was downloaded from the memory of the device implanted in my chest.

My pacemaker, made by Guidant, is similar to the one pictured to the right and is about 1 centimeter thick and about the size of a doorknob, so it's really quite small. However, the left side of my chest, where it is implanted, does look bigger than the right side (in case any of you ladies out there were wondering why I only have half of a studly chest!)

Actually called an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator), the device is not only capable of "pacing" my heart back into a normal rhythm, but can deliver a shock if pacing doesn't work. Pacing doesn't hurt, but I've been told a shock feels like a swift kick in the chest (hasn't happened to me so far). The ICD also constantly monitors my heart and records any unusual rhythms, even if it takes no action.

To download that information, a magnetic "wand" (left) is placed on my chest, directly over the device. The wand is connected to a laptop computer-like machine that prints a lengthy report. The process is completely painless, although I hate one of the tests that the machine performs because it briefly increases my heart rate. It feels like being in an elevator that is going down.

The report downloaded today was a good one. Over the previous three months, the ICD recorded one dangerous rhythm that lasted about a second, but it resolved on its own.

While people with Duchenne's are susceptible to fatal arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms), I don't know anyone else with an ICD. It's a relatively new phenomenon. My ICD cannot stop the breakdown of cardiac muscle due to my disease, but it gives me a shot at surviving a sudden dangerous abnormal rhythm.

It's a chance I'll take, and that should come as no "shock" to anyone who knows me.

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