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Monday, 24 December 2012

I Used to Be Battery-Operated; Now I’m Hard-Wired

By Lyn Burnstine

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.

View from hospital window370

My view for six weeks370

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Kudos to you, your family, and your medical team for your getting through the health crisis. And, thanks for your indomitable spirit, fine photos, profound gratitude, and wild sense of humor: "Who, me? All 120 pounds and a health-food nut?"

Lynn, so glad to see your name and your story! Nice to see your smiling face, I feel as if I know you, and I'm happy you are up and at 'em.

Dear Lyn, I do feel I know you...that was quite a siege, nice to hear it all came out well.. Nice that your children rose to the occasion too..
You must be A powerhouse at 120 .. A weight I have long aspired to myself... Nice that we live in a time when all those doctors. Had all those "ways and means" to restore you to the world.. you are a lucky duck and we are happy to have you writing to us...Blessings on you and those wonderful family members for the new year...

It is so nice to have you back, Lyn. We missed you and worried about you.

Hope you are correct in your assessment that you are good for another 50 years with your new wires.

Thank God for good children. My husband had very serious surgery recently and I'm not sure either of us would have survived it without the love and help we received from our kids.

Merry Christmas to you and here's hoping that ALL of our Elder Storytelling family have a Happy and Healthy New Year...

You are quite amazing!!! Love your sharing.

Lyn - You're amazing!

I just finished poking all the "not included" batteries into the Christmas presents of my youngest grandkids.

Soon, that small par of everyday life not requiring batteries, will do so I'm sure. Where would we be without them?

Have a Merry@! - Sandy

Lyn, I did not know what had happened, and I'm glad to know that you're doing so well.

I love your cheerful attitude and your gratitude for the care of your grown children. I myself have a-fib and may have to have ablation or a pacemaker so it is heartwarming and encouraging to hear about a scenario like yours and how bravely and defiantly you have dealt with what life has dealt you recently. Bravo!

Dec. 24 Molly W. from Montreal

Thank you all so much for your supportive comments, and Molly, I had a pacemaker for 10 years with no problems, and A-Fib for about 30 before this freaky thing happened, so don't be afraid. We are all so lucky to live in a time when there are things to fix most of what's wrong with us!

I know I speak for many when I say your voice is valued *and valuable* in our community. I am so grateful to hear you are healing well after such an ordeal, but I know two other people in my small circle whose pacemaker wires have broken, so I think those numbers need to be revised upward!

Have a Merry Christmas from Calgary!


Wow! Another fifty years of your pics to look forward to! Whooeee! Anyway, truly glad you were able to pull through this. And I'm glad your kids were able to show you how they could rise to the occasion. You are truly blessed. Plus now that you're back at "work" with the photography, life is indeed better and better. You look great. You were quite the sensation with the FB PNN crowd, so don't ever think you aren't in our hearts. Take care.

You have so many comments but I would like to add mine. I don't know you but you sound like a real trooper. I admire your spirit. You are so fortunate to have a loving and caring family, like families should be.

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