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Joyce's first symptom of heart failure hit hard—and suddenly. "I woke up
one morning and couldn't breathe," she says. "I was real shaky, and I couldn't
lie down at all."
Joyce, 83, went to the hospital and was diagnosed
with heart failure. Then 3 days later, a pacemaker was placed in her
Her doctor explained that she had an irregular heartbeat
and that a pacemaker could fix it. "My wiring was worn out, and they were going to
rewire me," Joyce says, recalling how her doctor explained the
Joyce had local anesthesia to numb the area under her
collarbone and some medicine to make her feel relaxed. She didn't have much
pain during recovery. "No problem," she says. "I might have taken a pain reliever one day."
Joyce noticed soon after the surgery that she
had more energy.
"Oh, my word, yes. It made all the difference in
the world," Joyce says. "I could work in my yard and walk my dog. I think I
gradually had not been so strong and hadn't been aware of it until after I got
the pacemaker. When you feel better, you realize how bad you felt
Before she got the pacemaker, Joyce could walk for about
10 minutes. After she got the pacemaker, she could walk for 30 to 40
There are a
few things Joyce has to watch out for with her pacemaker. Joyce travels a lot, so she knows what to do at airport security. Before walking through the metal detector, she shows the guards her card that says that she has a pacemaker. If she has to be searched, she asks for a hand search rather than the security wand.
Any doctors that
Joyce sees need to know about the pacemaker. They may need to make sure that
any electrical devices they use won't change how her pacemaker works.
And sometimes, the device—which lies just under the skin in her upper
chest—can catch on her bra strap when she turns a certain way.
those are minor concerns compared to how the pacemaker helps her, Joyce says.
"The pacemaker works so well. I haven't had any heart problems."
Joyce's story reflects her experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Joyce, to protect her privacy.
September 12, 2012
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
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