Sunday, April 26, 2015

How I spent my Spring vacation....

....I nearly died.  OK, slight exaggeration.  But I was very sick.  For a week I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something, culminating in my doctor sending me to the ER.  There they suggested several other possibilities, and did a standard EKG. 

The doctor  asked, "How did you get here?  I didn't hear an ambulance."  

I told him I drove myself, why?  He said by all accounts I should be unconscious.  My pulse rate was down to 29 beats per minute.

"Well, SURPRISE!  I'm here."

He brought in a neurologist who eventually confirmed that I had Myasthenia Gravis, an auto-immune system disorder.  As explained, if our brain wants a muscle to do something, it will send a signal via a nerve to the muscle, and the muscle will reach out to receive the nerve signal.  A tiny connector completes the circuit between nerve and muscle, and the muscle moves.

But my auto-immune system decided that those little connectors were foreign and needed to be killed off, and began pumping out antibodies.  M/G can attack anywhere, but in my case was confined to my mouth, tongue, chewing, and swallowing.  It isn't curable, but is treatable.  I can deal with it.

The real kick in the gut was the bad ticker.  I had no idea!  Further tests showed that my heart and all associated piping were in great shape, but the "generator" that told my heart when to beat was failing.  Off to the cath lab I went.

The science behind this is mind boggling.  As my friends Bruce and Mike and probably a few others that I'm unaware of already know, it's now a fairly routine procedure.  A small devise is implanted under the skin on the upper chest, outside the ribcage, and teenie little wires are threaded through a vein and stuck into the heart muscle.  Then the pacemaker is programmed to kick into action to assist if my pulse drops too low.  

That's it.  No pain, no fuss.  

My point in telling you this isn't to fish for sympathy....I don't need it.  All is well.  The endless tests they did on me showed that, as mentioned, my heart was in great shape, as were my liver, kidneys, lungs, etc.  (When the respiratory therapist came around to make sure my lungs were working, she asked me to suck on a tube, which would cause a diaphragm to rise in a cylinder, the higher the better.  When I pegged it, she just patted me on the head, smiled, and said, "you're fine".  :)

I just want to let people know that, heaven forbid, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, don't be afraid.  Trust your doctors, trust medical science, and do exactly what your doctors say.

Until this I hadn't spent a day in a hospital, ever.  Just a couple of surgeries, so this experience was a real eye-opener for me.  I really do appreciate all your kind thoughts sent my way.  

More really interesting stuff, and plenty of "thank you's", yet to come.  Stay tuned.  :)



  1. Wow!
    Hope your ticker hangs in there for many years. Sure upbeat for having a new health issue, stay that way. I had thought of you last week when I discovered another of my bright colored T shirts had died. You did good getting a closet full of them.

  2. bro has borrowed a valve from a poor pig that no longer needed it (bacon!), and he now has a totally mechanical heart valve. He also has a pacemaker. He's actually on his second model. You are healthy and happy, and the docs can keep you going. That is an awesome thing! Modern medicine is a gift from God...

  3. You had us scared there for a while. Glad to hear you're doing well, and it's great hearing from you. Take care.

  4. And one of the reasons health care is so's worth it. Glad to have you back!

  5. When I started the adventure that led to a Pacemaker, my nurse said "your pulse is irregular." The doctor then ordered a quick EKG, then came in and said I had atrial fibrillation, caused by sleep apnea (I later found out.) Short story: the cardiologist I saw ordered a Pacemaker and I've had one or more for 8 years now. I NEVER had any symptoms of anything wrong with me. So it was all a surprise and I didn't feel better after the machine went in because I hadn't felt bad before. But they shut off my heart's normal rhythms once the machine was in so it's keeping me alive and I feel great. For a 75 year old man.

  6. So glad you're doing well! It was a scary week or so...

  7. Glad to have you back, and grateful for modern medicine! Did you not read the chapter about how to spend spring break? A hot Swedish doctor does not count!

  8. Wow, a medical adventure. Interesting how some ailments can come up secondary to other issues, and take the forefront.
    Before they put the pacemaker cath in, they did a electro-physiology study in the cath lab, right? What diagnosis did it show?
    I've had patients who were a tad younger than me when I was in my residency who had this, and they were still kicking around when I retired.
    Glad you're doing well.