06 July 2012 - by ~ 1 Comment

5 Beats, 5 Minutes

I’m a little over two weeks removed from my latest brush with death. I went into a little something that those of us in the business refer to as V-tach, short for ventricular tachycardia. That’s when the lower chamber of your ticker suddenly decides to beat ridiculously fast, and if left untreated, will eventually kill you. Well, out of nowhere, my heart rate skyrocketed from 60 to a whopping 195, and my ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) didn’t even get a crack at corralling that number. I expected to be shocked senseless in a matter of seconds! In fact, I was bracing for it, and the mere thought of being zapped out of my pants worried me more than my pounding chest and potential demise! The paramedics arrived, did their paramedic voodoo, and wanted to get me the hell out of there and to the nearby hospital! They were freaking out, knowing that they could have a flatline in a power chair on their hands at any moment. The primary medic started an I.V. line in my wrist on his second attempt, pushed a drug called Amiodarone to try and quell my dangerous cardiac rhythm and some Ativan just in case I had to be shocked by their defibrillator on the fly.

It was time to get me to the emergency room, and fast! But transferring my funky, contorted wreck of a human life form to a stretcher from the wheelchair would’ve taken all ten people in the foyer and some serious logistics, only to break every bone in my crippled body! Besides, who would be pumping the ambu bag to keep my artificially ventilated ass breathing in the process? So, we had no conceivable choice but to initiate Plan B – usher me to my own van, hop in, have my nurse take the wheel, and hightail it to the hospital behind fire truck escort. This, too, would not be easy. Fitting my wide wheelchair – flanked by two paramedics carrying gear and I.V. lines – out through my front door was kind of tricky. Needless to say, the jaunt to the van wasn’t exactly swift. I was driving my chair with needles in my wrists and wires attached all over me, as yet another paramedic barked orders into my ear along the way. “Let’s go!” he shouted, “You have about five minutes before you’re in cardiac arrest!” And here I’m thinking: Great, now I’m a rolling cardiac arrest in five measly minutes! Yeah, like that’ll make my heart rate go DOWN!!!

Finally, we all packed into my minivan and bolted for the ER on a mission to save my life! By the time we arrived, my heart rate was hovering somewhere between the 170’s and 180’s. All totaled, I toiled in V-tach for nearly two full hours! Once I stabilized with a heart rate in the upper 70’s and was out of the danger zone, I was admitted to the hospital for concern that my ICD may be dysfunctional because it failed to issue a shock. We would learn later that the device was set to fire at 200 beats per minute, and I topped out at 195. So, I missed being shocked by a mere five beats! Lucky me!

I left that germ factory twenty-four hours later, armed with two new cardiac medications and my defibrillator now set to fire at 170. I’m still a time bomb, but at least these interventions might just buy me some extra beats, minutes, or even years.

Surely, there’s never a dull moment in Duchenne Central, and frankly, I am tired of it. I know that I’m a pro at this medical stuff and not easily rattled, but I must admit that this latest episode left me quite unnerved. However, my best friend – who has always been in my corner through the rough times – only needed one sentence to get me back on track: “It was just a blip.” He was right! I’ve faced numerous blips during my battle with this disease and have always managed to endure, and I refuse to allow another one to get in the way of the big things on my horizon. Rest assured, I will continue kicking Duchenne muscular dystrophy square in the ass every single day! And I mean that from the actual bottom of my heart.

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  • If I can hear someone says I have five minutes before I get cardiac arrest, I would get really nervous but if I know my status, I can calm.