04 October 2010 - by ~ 3 Comments

Nine Seconds

I was going to write and publish this post yesterday, but my brain was far from cooperating. Strange how difficult it is to write when your mind is preoccupied with the potential for being electrocuted by a little metal time-bomb inside your chest! Here’s the scoop…

Yesterday was my quarterly visit to the Orlando Heart Center for a device check. This is when my Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) gets tested to see it is functioning properly and spews out a three-month log of my cardiac activity. And next on the afternoon docket was a follow-up with my electrophysiologist, Dr. Roland Filart, a cardiologist who specializes in arrhythmias. He read the printed report and told me that the ICD checked out just fine. He also noted that the device recorded four episodes of life-threatening ventricular tachycardia – or deadly rhythms as he called them – in the past three months. Now, I am not a big fan of the word deadly, especially when it pertains to me. I mean, deadly doesn’t exactly instill confidence in a person. I would much rather hear funky or iffy or even wacky when referring to my ticker. That would kind of take the edge off, you know? But since Dr. Filart is a straightforward type of guy who pulls no punches, deadly was the best way for him to define my heart’s funky rhythm. My heart rate had raced four times at speeds between 170 and 225 beats per minute, but lasted only about six seconds each time. I asked the doctor why I didn’t get zapped by the defibrillator when it is set to fire whenever my heart rate hits 180 beats or higher. Well, he said that the device would not go off unless an episode lasts for about fifteen seconds. Do the math – fifteen minus six is nine. Therefore, nine measly seconds separated yours truly from getting shocked senseless! I was only nine measly seconds away from finding out if the defibrillator would actually save my life!

It is quite unnerving to know exactly how close I might have come to meeting my maker. Like all artificial or computerized devices, an ICD is man-made, susceptible to potential failure and doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything. You see, if the ICD fires and does jolt my heart back into a safer rhythm, I may still get a crack at survival. If not, I’m a dead man. I believe that odds are supposed to be beaten, and I have done it over and over throughout my lifetime, but I need to be realistic. I’m hanging by a thread now, so I would prefer not to think about my fate.

Considering the obvious severity of my condition, Dr. Filart said he was pleased with the results and told me not to worry. As part of my own personal Magi, he has helped to prolong my once before, so I trust him to the hilt. But how could I not worry? When you are just nine seconds away from craziness and intense pain, you worry. And panic! I remember author and friend with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Josh Winheld, telling me a few months prior to his unfortunate passing about how frightened he was when his defibrillator fired several times in a row. So after my own surgery, Josh, offered this sound advice: “Dude, don’t get shocked!” Well, I don’t want to get shocked, and like the next guy, I certainly don’t want to die! I typically block these things out of my mind, but although the doctor was relatively pleased, I wasn’t! Nine seconds surely messed with my head, leaving me with a few extra doubts about my mortality. I know that it is only a matter of time before the ICD must fire and pummel my insides, and I don’t think I will ever be truly ready for it. I am also not ready to see if the device will indeed keep me alive. Heck, I ain’t that strong!

Yesterday served as yet another cruel reminder of how DMD has mercilessly ravaged my heart and numbered my days. Guess I should just be glad I have the ICD to give me a fighting chance against this bastard of a disease. Still, nine seconds is definitely way too close for comfort!

  • Becky

    Sounds like Josh gave you some very sound advice! Keep living life to the fullest. May God bless you and keep you strong.

    Becky, mom to Ben, 19, DMD

  • Anonymous

    I liike the way you write. The content is serious but you make it light hearted and this is so helpful for all of us that are on this journey. My son Dusty 18, worries so much that it is helpful to share the expereinces. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    May I ask who wrote this?