A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I've got no String to Hold me Down

Timothy Birdnow

A quick personal note for readers.

As most of you know, I suffered heart failure back in September and have been forced to lug around a portable defibrilator. I have been on a horrible diet for diabetic cardiac patients, with no salt, not processed meats, no processed foods, no sugar, low starch, restricted fluid intake, and absolutely no taste. I have been moved to insulin, which I take twice a day, as well as a drug called corvedilol, which makes me dizzy and weak. It's been a hard three months.

I've been quite dilligent about doing what I am supposed to do, and all praise belongs to my saintly wife who has devoted her life to keeping me above ground. (My sister-in-law refers to her as Nurse Ratchet, or the Food Nazi.) I had an echocardiogram on Monday.

Good news! My ejection fraction has risen from 25% to 45%, a major increase! I am no longer in danger of Sudden Death Syndrome (a wonderful party favor of my weak heart) and so was able to unplug myself from the chain I forged in life (whenever I wore the accursed thing I felt like the ghost of Jacob Marley) and return to , well, life!

The Lifevest is a wonder; a vest that resembles a gun vest but is actually more like a brazziere (a cardiozziere?) with heart monitors on wrap-around arms and front and back "treatment pads" which are electro-shock paddles. The unit itself is like an old-fashioned camera, about five pounds and can be worn on the belt (theoretically). It transmits a signal to the company, who are always recording what is happening with the patient's ticker. If the heart stops a siren goes off, and the patient has to press a button or he will be defibrilated. Mine went off several times during my tenancy (it's a rented machine) although I was never defibrilated. I suspect I had a missed beat.

The gadget is hideously expensive, and the insurance company doesn't like to pay for it (they are happy to pay for a permanent pacemaker/defibrilator which it turns out I didn't need). I am in a second appeal to the denial of benefits on the gadget now. (It costs $3300 per month.) If they won't pay I suppose I'll be able to make a deal with the company. They have been excellent to deal with, I might add.

But OH! how I longed to be free of that gadget! It's tight, and has to be worn 24/7. When you try to turn over in your sleep you have to raise up first, or you will pull the contacts lose and get a gong sound that will wake you. Whenever you move you have to think about the unit. Going to the bathroom means picking up the thing and carrying it. Taking my insulin was a chore; I had to set the unit down, then rotate my body to perform the small tasks to get the syringe ready and give myself the shot. While it may not seem like a big deal, it's much like the Chinese water torture; after a while it drives you mad.

I would leave it off for an hour in the mornings; I just couldn't stand using it.

But now I'm free! To quote Pinoccio:

"I've got no strings to hold me down, to make me laugh, to make me frown, I had strings, but now I'm free, there are no strings on me!"

I'm not out of the woods yet; my heart is still below normal strength, and the recovery is fragile. I'm still stuck with the horrible diet, and will have to take the corvedilol for the rest of my life. Hopefully my body will eventually get used to it. It makes me dizzy.

But the worst appears to be over. I suspect I'll be heading back to the Ozark Hilton in the reasonably near future, and can at least expect to live through the visit!

I'll keep everyone posted.

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