Monday, 24 December 2012
I Used to Be Battery-Operated; Now I’m Hard-Wired
By Lyn Burnstine
I had been having a pleasant year: enjoying my photography, my writing groups and other friends and family, my new photo-a-day feature on Facebook and occasionally being the featured writer on The Elder Storytelling Place blog.
I had an essay and a photograph of my gnarly hands published in a book from Canada called Our Hands Can. I emceed two Folk Guild concerts: the Woody Guthrie 100th birthday tribute and the summer concert.
Not the level of excitement and activity my life used to encompass but at almost 80, that’s just fine.
On September 16, I remember thinking I felt pretty good, all things considered. I woke up on September 17, reached way over the side of my bed to plug in a heating pad and evidently my already-compromised 10-year-old pacemaker wire finished the process of breaking.
I couldn’t lift my head off the bed for the vertigo, saw bright florescent flashing lights along with an awful feeling of downward pressure and momentary loss of consciousness. But the phone was within arm's reach and I was able to call 911.
They arrived ASAP, slapped an external pacer on me after realizing that my heart was only beating about once in 10 to 11 seconds. They wasted no time getting me to the ER.
My beloved doctor - “the electrician” - tried the next day to install new wires but the vein had calcified so he put a wire up my groin for a temporary fix and called in a cardio-thoracic surgeon who did a dual thoracotomy two days later and wrapped the wires around my heart. I figure I’m good for 50 years now.
While in the chest, the doctor observed that I had an unusual amount of fat on my heart! Who, me? All 120 pounds and a health-food nut?
When I asked if the broken wire was common, he replied, “One in 5000.” Why me, Lord?
Six-and-a-half weeks later, two more surgical procedures, having survived C-Diff, a nasty case of thrush and blood clots in my arm, my kids brought me home and continued to care for me for another two weeks.
My children were absolutely heroic during all of this: all three were here for the serious heart surgery then one at a time for most of the time. They kept friends and family up to date with daily postings on the caringbridge website and ran interference for me since I didn’t feel like visitors or phone calls most of the time until now.
I never in a million years would have thought they could have arranged their busy lives to be here for me, although I knew they would have wanted to. Their devotion was nothing short of amazing.. Gourmet meals, too. And was it ever great to be able to enjoy eating after weeks of the hospital's and nursing home’s idea of gluten-free food – never mind that I couldn’t eat for at least two weeks of the six.
The blizzard of cards and online messages of hope and encouragement kept me going when I was tempted to just give up. During the weeks of what felt like torture, truly believing I’d never get home again, I told myself, “I can’t let them down – everyone’s counting on me to be a survivor one more time.”
Well, I am! Still somewhat battle-scarred but determined to get back to pre-surgery function. I took pictures twice since coming home, a good sign.
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