After getting the news that I did, in fact, need a pacer, I tried to wrap my brain around the idea. My vasovagal syncope episodes had gotten so severe, that I no longer felt I could travel without someone who knew my history. I had turned down an international trip at my institution because I was concerned I would freak out with anxiety on the plane to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. I’m usually a risk taker and enjoy going to new places and experiencing new things. So this anxiety concerned me. Anyway, I digress. The point being, I was convinced for some time that I did need a pacer because I could feel my heart rate lower and beat with strong palpitations right before I would wake up dazed and confused on a floor somewhere (my bathroom, office, etc.).
While in the hospital I did not allow myself to search the internet on “pacemakers”. I still haven’t decided if this was the right move or not. I was so happy to have a possible solution to my episodes, that I didn’t want to read more about how a pacer might negatively impact my life. Plus, I didn’t think I was in a good frame of mind to determine science from pseudoscience from personal accounts of living with a pacer.
By nightfall my husband had returned home and I was hanging out in my hospital room. I thought I was fine with everything until the nurse told me “you are not cleared to shower”. At first I thought this was funny, and then my whole world seemed to crash over this odd statement. Then I tried to sleep and was awoken every 25 minutes for various and crazy reasons. The last straw was when a nurse came in to introduce herself at 2:30 am. I completely lost it and starting crying uncontrollably. I hadn’t cried like this since cashew was born and had escalating bilirubins and I couldn’t hold him 24/7 when he was a day old. Anyway, I left my room and began pacing (no pun intended) the halls. Every nurse asked how I was doing and I bawled about how I woke up healthy and now I was in a hospital and couldn’t sleep or shower and I was sure I would catch some horrible virus (one trainee nurse had coughed on me earlier in the day). I ended each blurb with “I know I seem crazy”. Then, I noticed 3 nurses and realized I taught them. Wonderful. Amazingly, that didn’t seem to stop my ugly crying. I was completely distraught and I couldn’t stop myself. Here I was, finally getting the medical care I needed. So why was I crying uncontrollably? Finally, I went back to my nurse, told her I was awoken every 25 min and that I really, really, really wanted a shower. I didn’t understand the medical reason why I couldn’t shower and I knew that after the pacer I couldn’t shower for 3 days (this seemed completely reasonable to me). She agreed to check with the Dr. in the morning to see if I could shower. He came in the morning and shrugged it off “of course she can shower”. Every nurse seemed amazed to hear these words. I still don’t know why this part of my stay put me over the edge, but it did. And frankly, I think I needed to break down. Before that time, I was trying to assure everyone I knew that everything would be okay. I was so concerned about everyone else and their feelings that I had completely blocked my own.
So I showered. It did not wash away all my fears, but at least I had clean hair. Then, a nurse came in and hooked up my i.v. to give me fluids. I had to do everything in my power to not pass out, and it wasn’t pretty. Doing crazy legs lifts to push blood back to my heart. Before I knew it, I was getting wheeled down to the OR. Then, I got to sign lots of paperwork and my Dr. had to reel off all the potential problems “punctured lung, heart, etc. overall, a safe procedure”. This really didn’t bother me, and I’m not sure why. He said it so quickly and in an oddly irritated and nervous way. Usually, he spoke slowly and clearly, so this part was odd. I then asked to please give me the sedative sooner than later and next thing I was waking up in recovery. My chest really hurt where the incision was located, although it was only ~2.5 inches. My Dr. suggested I take narcotics for the pain, but I was hugely opposed and tried to deal with the pain on Tylenol. Which I did.
On my way back to my room I told every nurse, NP and PA I saw that the pacer was pacing inappropriately. I was told, “No, its not. This is part of living with a pacer now.”. Finally, the next day my Dr. came to see me and said “your pacer is pacing and you don’t need it pacing this much”. Great. How about you fix it. Which he did and I felt much better. Overall, the recovery was okay. I was sent home the next day with no Rx and everyone told me they hoped I didn’t return because I was so young.
BTW: the pacer “procedure” is called a procedure because you are not under general anesthesia and it is relatively non-invasive. Or so I’ve been told.