Often times, CHD patients face issues with the rhythm of their hearts. In some patients, this can mean additional treatment is necessary, with either medication or a cardiac device. In this week’s post, Terri Elliott, an adult CHD patient, shares her experience with an arrhythmia that led to her receiving an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. or ICD.
My name is Terri. I am 61 years old, a wife, mother (of 1 daughter), grandma of 5, and a Licensed Veterinary Technician. I was also the 1992 Hunter Jumper Champion in my state!! (…my cardiologist was not happy about my jumping fences on a horse, of course, until I WON!! LOL!) I live an active/fulfilled life, despite living with CHD, arrhythmias, and a lovely ICD which I have named affectionately “my friend”. My original defibrillator was named “Sparky”, it was replaced with a larger one and we are trying to bond!! I was diagnosed as a child with a VSD, Pulmonary Stenosis, LTGA, and a “blue baby” which I had surgery in 1960 (yes, with ether!)! I have been told that I am one of the oldest complex congenital heart patients in Michigan). My childhood was difficult with much bullying to endure. Funny (but sad story), the kids in my school teased me so unmercifully, that I told them that I would “give them my bad heart if they didn’t stop”! Well, you can see how that would turn out (and did), so I did not have any friends, as they were then afraid of me. As you can see, having CHD was not an easy feat, as a child. More of this at another time.
Living with arrhythmias can be challenging. Mine have caused me several trips to the hospital. They feel as if my heart is racing like the “Top Thrill Dragster” at Cedar Point, OR it skips beats like a “cell phone with bad reception”. Either way, intense! Medication helps to control them, and if I don’t “listen” to them, (which I can usually hear or feel 80 percent of), I barely know they are there. That seems to be a learned trait. There are times, however, that arrhythmias can make me feel like I will “pass out”. Those are the difficult ones to deal with.
As for my defibrillator, well that is a totally different situation. My defibrillator was placed after I had sudden cardiac arrest (due to v-fib) in 2009. I was on life support, and when I woke wondering what happened, I was told that I needed one for “insurance”. At that time, I had heart surgery to put in a shunt and implant the device. Having a defibrillator is challenging, but also frightening at times. With my first defibrillator (“Sparky”), it was placed in my abdomen. I did a lot of exercising and fractured wiring a lot!! Funny story – My first fracture – I thought was my brand new smart phone!! I remember wondering why I got the stupid smartphone in the first place, since it chimed relentlessly, and I could not figure out what was wrong! The problem was that it was not my smartphone at all!! It was ME!! I had fractured wiring. Surgery is always needed when something like that goes wrong. But in “my friends” defense, it is always there to protect me. It can deliver many joules of electricity to my heart if needed to save my life. I have had 3 defibrillators, so far, and my current one is an advanced version of a sub-cutaneous unit. I am one of the lucky ones in that none of them needed to “fire”. Patients like me live in fear, have challenges, pain, can be limited, and sometimes breathless. But, I for one, am positive, strong, determined, full of love, am caring, and even defiant!!
Don’t be afraid of your defibrillators! They are there to help and possibly, keep you alive!! That’s a lot of power in one little box!! I have a lot to say after this many years living a life of CHD! That, my friends, would need a bit more time and space to cover! Another time and place! Happy if this helps even one person!
Terri Elliott is a Licensed Veterinary Technician of 28 years who lives in Oxford, MI with her husband, Mike and their 2 dogs, “Madison” and “Charlie”. She holds an Associates degree in Veterinary Technology and is currently earning her B.S. in Business Health at U of M. She enjoys travelling and summer activities, especially golfing, horseback riding and swimming. Mostly, she enjoys spending time with her 5 grandchildren, daughter and son-in- law. She is a volunteer chairwoman at the Michigan Congenital Heart Walk and enjoys speaking at hospital heart events. She has just been accepted and trained as an ACHA Heart to Heart Ambassador.