Matters of The Heart
It has been a couple of months since my last post. During this time, there have been a few prominent people to pass away which triggered my thoughts about a death that I experienced; my mother. My post is not about the grieving process, bereavement issues, making the adjustment, or how my life has changed because of it. It is about bringing awareness to the issues of THE HEART-the organ that circulates the blood, the vital center of one’s being, emotions, and sensibilities. Well, what happens to that vital organ when it fails to pump effectively? It is called heart failure.
In September of 2007, my mother experienced three heart attacks in a week. Prior to her illness, she was vivacious, energetic, and extremely independent. Her symptoms were: high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, weakness, and sleep disturbances. Unfortunately, men do not have the same symptoms when they experience a heart attack. It was reported by the cardiologist that my mother had severe blockage to the point where she was not a candidate for bypass surgery. The cardiologist stated that, my mother could receive a heart transplant or a defibrillator along with medication therapy. It was decided that the defibrillator was strongly recommended for her. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Communications (CBC) News Health, “The defibrillators are implanted in people who are at risk of sudden cardiac death because of heart rhythm disorders. The actual function of the defibrillator is to apply an electric shock to the heart muscle. This is performed with the intent of reestablishing a normal heart rhythm.”
Basically, my mother had her own “crash cart” with this implanted device. In November 2007, my mother had surgery to have the defibrillator implanted. It was an outpatient procedure. The doctor had a mechanism in his office that monitored the signals from the defibrillator. On December 1, 2007, there was an episode with the device, meaning my mother’s’ heart stopped. Nevertheless, the defibrillator provided the shocked needed to stimulate the rhythm of the heart and my mother survived again. On the other hand, for the next 18 months my mother was in and out of the hospital because the defibrillator was “firing off” inadvertently, and it had to be recalibrated repeatedly. Because of this, my mother was no longer able to drive which curtailed her independence. Needless to say, this was devastating to her! Moreover, I wish that our family had the information in the article below to help us make a more informed decision about the defibrillator. We might have had a different outcome. Please click the link below and read the shocking news:
Women who have defibrillators implanted for heart problems are more likely to develop complications than men, a Canadian study suggests. Men and women were equally likely to have cardioverter-defibrillators or ICDs implanted. But women were nearly twice as likely to have major complications within a year of getting the devices, according to the study in Monday's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Defibrillators were not designed with body size in mind. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)
The defibrillators are implanted in people who are at risk of sudden cardiac death because of heart rhythm disorders. The devices work by recognizing serious heart rhythm problems and treating them automatically such as by giving an electrical shock. Women were a third less likely to receive an appropriate shock than men, the researchers found.
"We had thought complication rates were fairly low," said Dr. Douglas Lee, a cardiologist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto and a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. "In fact, it was a lot higher than anticipated." The findings suggest women should be aware of the potential risk of early complications after the surgery and see their doctor if these occur. Such symptoms may include:
- Swelling or tenderness at the surgical site.
- Difficulty breathing.
Other complications can only be detected during regular checks of the defibrillator at a clinic, which is why regular follow-up is so important, the authors said.
Women-only trials needed
In the study, a major complication was lead dislodgement. When a lead or wire connecting the heart to the defibrillator is dislodged then the device can't sense any abnormal electrical activity or deliver shocks. The patient has to go back into the operating room to have the lead repositioned or replaced, Lee said. To obtain the data, researchers analyzed Ontario's ICD database, focusing on 6,021 patients including 1,288 women from February 2007 to July 2010. The researchers did not find any differences in mortality rates between men and women who received the defibrillators. But discovering the differences in complication rates adds to what is known about sex differences in heart patients.
The devices were not designed with body size in mind, which may be part of the reason for the lead-related problems in women, Lee speculated."The results reported by the investigators emphasize the ongoing need for inclusion of large numbers of women in randomized prospective clinical trials," said Dr. Stephanie Brister, a cardiac surgeon at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre. "Indeed these results suggest that in certain circumstances 'women only' clinical trials may be required," she added in a release. The researchers noted there were drawbacks to the study, such as not following up on all potential ICD candidates. They also did not look into potential reasons for the differences between men and women. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Another major issue with the defibrillator is, most of the time (70-80%) the devices are USED. Our family was shocked when we heard this information! The County Health Department and the funeral home director confirmed this information. The day my mother died, the defibrillator did NOT emit an electric shock. The cardiologist confirmed this information on his monitoring device; therefore he was quick to remove the defibrillator from my mother’s body while she was in the funeral home. Unfortunately, there was no recourse for these actions, due to time constraints and other severe health challenges that had impacted the family at the time. I hope that the information in this post will help you or a family member if you are ever confronted with this issue. In May of this year, will be three years since my mother’s passing. She lived to be 74 years old. My mother had a very giving heart; until one day her heart gave out on her. More importantly, she loved God with all of her heart. I believe the following scripture depicts my mother’s life: “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 (King James Version)
What are your thoughts on the "Matters of the Heart" post?