UPDATE: PM Problems whey Flying

If you remember my earlier post in February regarding interference with my pacemaker when flying, I have gotten some validation from a reliable source. To recap the problem, although I have flown hundreds of times since getting my implant, three times in the past 10 years I have experienced problems with it malfunctioning while flying. The manufacturer does not admit a problem with it and my cardiologists didn't offer any support either. In other words, nobody believed me.

All I know is that my PM seemed to stop working at the moment the planes' engines reached a particularly high RPM and the problem ceased at the exact moment that the engine RPMs were reduced. The problem only occurred when the flights were late and the pilots were trying to make up time. On those late flights, the engine speeds were higher because the crew was trying to make up time. That would seem to explain why this didn't happen on those hundreds of other flights. They were not late.

Now, for my update: My niece works for one of the major airlines and she has been talking to pilots about my problem. None of them seemed to know anything about it, but one suggested that she talk to the mechanics, and gave her the name of the best one to ask (like our Smitty). A couple of weeks ago, she went to him, told him about me and together with his boss, all three called me and talked about it. The mechanics both agreed that I was dead on with my idea that the engines were interfering with the pacemaker. They said that they feel it is resonant oscillation of the engines at a frequency that was interfering with my PM. They said that they had witnessed the same thing with jet engines interfering with other electronics in the shop before. I don't think the problem is specific to a 737 engine, as we didn't go into specifics regarding models. I don't know exactly how the resonant oscillation works, but I do understand radio frequency (RF) and how it can interfere with PMs.

Here is my take on it. I think that the engines emit sounds (sounds are vibrations) that are at a frequency that human ears can't hear, but can have an effect on electronics. It appears that they interfere with mine only if they reach a certain (high) RPM that is greater than the RPMs of a normal speed flight. Normal flights do not seem to produce the interference, but when running late, the engines may reach the point of interference. More research is needed to learn more about it and I intend to continue digging for more information. The mechanics are not willing to discuss this on the record for fear of reprisal. They think it is a Pandora's Box that could have far-reaching consequences.

At any rate, it was good to hear validation from somebody who knows jet engines, rather than a doctor telling me it was "stress", or as someone posted on here that it might be a "phobia". The last thing any of us want to hear when we are having problems is people (even doctors) telling us that it is all in our heads.

There is no way to predict when this problem may occur. I am supposed to get my new PM early next year, but this may show a need to push it up a few months. I hear that the newer models can hold tracking data that would show when a problem occurred and allow the doctors to see that I was not imagining the problem. My model doesn't retain data, so there is no evidence of it malfunctioning. It's like that noise in your car that you want the mechanic to hear, but is goes away when you get to the auto shop. When I see my doctor, there are no interferences, so he says "I don't see anything wrong. It's working fine."

Also, maybe the newer models don't have the same problem with interference from jet engines.




by Susan - 2007-04-05 01:04:32

Thanks for the update. Good luck in your efforts to get more information. Do keep us posted on your new findings. Isn't it a grand feeling to know that it is not all in your head!!


by CathrynB - 2007-04-05 10:04:51

Fascinating! I could tell when I read your comment in February that it was a real issue and that you would dog it til you found an answer -- congratulations! And whether the mechanics will talk about this on record or not, it's great for the rest of us to know about in case we experience similar problems. I took my first post-PM flight recently and thought about you and your issue while I was flying. I didn't have any problems however. Thanks for giving us an update, and I hope your next PM replacement goes smoothly! Take care, Cathryn

similar feelings

by jbj - 2007-05-08 07:05:06

I recently flew from the UK to Boston on a delayed flight (!) and did experience some irregular heartbeats and accompanying dizziness for a brief period of the time. I thought of your message. It wasnt a big deal, I am not 100% dependent, and of course some may say it could be 'autosuggestion' as I had previously read your mail. However like you Ive also flown several times since the implant (and since reading your message) with no ill effects. Intriguing, and I look forward to hearing if you find out any more.

You know you're wired when...

You play MP3 files on your pacer.

Member Quotes

Pacemakers are very reliable devices.