So, I went for my pacemaker check yesterday and ended up staying in hospital overnight!
It happened (vaguely) like this:
I went to the pacing clinic as usual and a nice man started my pacing check, and within a couple of minutes asked me, ‘how have you been feeling recently?’ ‘Very tired’, I said. He replied that he wasn’t surprised because my pacemaker had very nearly run out of battery and had set itself into a different mode [power saving?] which was pacing my heart really slowly. Apparently, pacemaker batteries don’t run out like normal batteries. He drew me a diagram:
Normally, when the battery is getting flatter and it’s got to about 15% charge it goes into the mode where it paces slowly and you have about three months in which to get the battery changed before it completely conks out. No one is really sure when mine started seriously running down, but I (and the medics) think the tiredness I’ve been experiencing in the last few weeks is more than likely due to the faulty* battery rather than other factors (although they may have contributed).
*Apparently, pacemaker batteries don’t normally run out so soon. I’ve had my pacemaker since 2009, and I was told it would last 8-10 years, and it’s only lasted five and a half. The medics were rather shocked that this had happened and they’re going to send my old pacemaker to the manufacturer for analysis. I don’t know whether it is just because it had been working extra hard for me, but they seemed to think it was a mechanical fault rather than anything else. Which is a bit worrying really! As several people have said over the last couple of days, it’s a good job I went for the pacing check when I did!
Anyway, pacing technician was kind but firm and said he thought I should have my battery (just the box part of the pacemaker, not the leads) replaced as soon as possible, ideally today (yesterday). Needless to say I was a bit taken aback at this – not the day I had in mind at all! Fortunately, my mum was already looking after Babymouse and staying until Thursday anyway, so at least that was one thing I didn’t have to worry about too much. The pacing technician phoned the cardiologists and one of them came down to the pacing clinic to discuss options with me. There weren’t really many options! He had already booked me a bed on one of the wards, so I decided to just go with and get it done the same day.
Once I was on the ward I went through the usual joys of pre-operation stuff – showering in the sheep dip, as I like to call it (antibacterial soap) and changing into the fetching gown which I can never do up on my own. I now also had wet hair and no hairbrush or comb! Yay. I know this was the least of my worries really but my hair is untameable at the best of times, plus, there’s the psychological factors to consider, which I will (if I get round to it) consider in another post. Anyway, I phoned Mr C, who made his way over (his boss is very decent about things like this) and my mum, who was her usual calm self. Then I (then we) waited.
We had to wait until about 4.30 pm (having got to the ward at about 11.15 am) because I’d had an early lunch/late breakfast at about 10.30 am (not having had any proper breakfast) and there has to be six hours without any food or drink before you can have the procedure. 4.30 arrived eventually and I was wheeled down to the catheter lab where they performed the procedure. I was awake for it – they just use local anaesthetic, although I did have a tiny bit of sedation because I got a bit upset – and it was not a particularly nice experience, although I’ve had worse! It was rather odd and uncomfortable to feel someone rummaging around in the side of your chest trying to find a pacemaker. We could see where it was on the x-ray but because it had been in for a few years it was quite embedded and there was a lot of scar tissue around it. Once the surgeon had removed the old pacemaker box it seemed to be quite a fast process to put the new one in and sew me up,
After being unplugged from everything (lots of monitors) I was wheeled back to the ward to see Mr C, have a very welcome cup of tea and eat some sandwiches. All was OK overnight, apart from my pressure dressing falling off and having to be re-stuck (with the medical equivalent of duct tape), so I was allowed home late this morning.
I have to go back for another pacing check in six weeks. Hopefully the next check will be more routine! All the NHS people who looked after me were lovely and made what could have been a very stressful experience relatively all right.