Recent Pacemaker Insertion 3 weeks ago

Hope everyone is well. I'm 34 years old very active and in the military. I recently received my pacemaker 3 weeks ago due to an vasovagal syncope episode I had in the hospital while battling Covid in which I was found unresponsive and my heart stopped for 10 seconds. I had already had tests ran on my heart 2 weeks prior to hospitalization due to chest pain which consisted of an EKG, stress test, and ultrasound and they all came back clean. The Cardiologist checked the telemetry and was very concerned about my heart stopping and stated it was very abnormal and advised I get a dual chamber pacemaker. It's been 3 weeks and I am struggling with sleep, constant muscle twitching around my heart and into my left arm, sharp pains shooting around my heart, and left arm pain. I am also struggling with my mental health. I'm young and it's hard to deal with but I'm also concerned at the fact that my cardiologist didn't talk to me about alternatives like leadless and literally walked in while I had Covid at 5 am in the morning and said you need a pacemaker and didn't discuss anything else and 5 hours later I'm under the knife... I was disoriented and scared because of the episode and agreed to get it but I'm curious was there an alternative? Sorry I'm all over the place it's just a lot. Thanks in advance.


5 Comments

Probably not

by crustyg - 2021-09-06 05:25:23

Sadly we now know that Covid-19 can cause a lot of heart problems - conduction defects being only a small part of it

If you use Google to search for this (all the content here is available to the major search engines) you will find that leadless PMs for young, athletic folk, generate brisk exchanges on this site.  IMHO, a leadless PM is completely inappropriate for young patients who can be expected to require several PM replacements for expired batteries.  But that's my opinion and we all know what Dirty Harry said about opinions.

The other debate in the EP world was whether to use a single-lead + PM for those with a failing/failed SA-node, or go straight to dual-lead/dual-chamber PM.  DANPACE was supposed to answer this, but so many contributors broke protocol that the data is useless.  There's no doubt that it's a lot easier to put in two leads at the start, and the cost increase for a dual-chamber PM over a single isn't that great: you'd struggle to find an EP-doc in rich countries (don't say it) that will implant a single-lead setup.

I wish you well with your struggles against Covid-19, and hope that you make a full recovery.  The emotional impact of the PM will become less over time, and you're not alone on this journey.  Someone wise said 'the emotional scars take longer to heal than the physical ones.'  Very true.

Your doubts are normal

by TLee - 2021-09-06 09:52:16

I pretty much knew I needed a pacemaker, as I was having multiple pauses & I would come very close to passing out. No longer allowed to drive, afraid to be left on my own...that was not good! Even so, after the procedure I had the feeling that I had not been prepared for what having a pacemaker really means, and that maybe I had been rushed into it. I can imagine that having been so ill & confused at the time it is even worse for you, and I sympathize. I agree with crustyg that the emotional scars are in some ways the worst. For me, I think that the physical trauma & the pain I experienced added to the feeling of having been "used & abused". Once I started to feel better physically, getting past the worst of the pain & feeling a bit more energetic, I had to admit that maybe the doctors knew what they were doing! I am glad to hear that you are healing from both the virus & the procedure. May you continue to do so!

Moving forward

by Theknotguy - 2021-09-06 12:57:26

Let me discuss the items as you brought them up in your note.

1) It's been 3 weeks and I am struggling with sleep, constant muscle twitching around  my heart and into my left arm, sharp pains shooting around my heart, and left arm pain. 

A) You used to be able to find videos of pacemaker implants on YouTube.  I think you still can.  If you watch a video you'll wonder why you don't hurt more than you do.  Some of the doctors appear to be rough while implanting the pacemaker.  That said, the area under the clavicle is very sensitive.  Add to that the trauma of having things shoved into that area and it's a good recipe for enhanced pain.  For me, I had pain going up into my left jaw and sometimes into my left ear.  I also had severe muscle spasms on the left side of my neck.  All I could do was just stop and hold still until the spasm went away.  

A) The next thing is they used to increase the voltage on the pacemaker for about the first 30 days and that can cause some added discomfort, and you have the stretched out skin from the pacemaker "pocket" they made to put in the pacemaker.  So you will have pain in that area for a while.  I think mine lasted for about the first year but then I had the added trauma of CPR to deal with.  Eventually the pain will go away.  Hot packs, cold packs, and Tylenol will help.  

2) I am also struggling with my mental health.  I'm young and it's hard to deal with but I'm also concerned at the fact  that my cardiologist didn't talk to me about alternatives like leadless and literally walked in while I had Covid at 5 am in  the morning and said you need a pacemaker and didn't discuss anything else and 5 hours later I'm under the knife... 

A) A lot of us were minding our own business and we woke up a few hours later with the pacemaker.  So your reaction to that is normal.  Your heart not beating for 10 seconds was really in the danger zone and the doctor didn't have too much of a choice. As for options, sometimes it's - same old disease - same old treatment.  I know you don't like it, but EP's see hundreds of people like us every year.  Consequently they aren't too good sometimes at explaining the details.  You may have had options but under the circumstances they didn't have the time and staff to go into details.  However you can discuss with your EP about options in the future.  Oh, and the inside-the-heart pacemakers have problems too.  One of which is they can't remove them. 

A) Your mental health reaction is normal.  I ended up seeing a psychologist who dealt in trauma and heart problems.  (Yes, there are people like that out there.) She was a help too. That's another option for you in the future.  Getting answers to my notes from people on the forum was a big help to me too.  

3) I was disoriented and scared because of the episode and agreed to get it but I'm curious was there an alternative?  

A) Alternatives for the future can be discussed with your EP.  What they don't know is what damage was caused by covid.  Is it permanent?  What will change in the future?  And learning that will take time.  Main point being the 10 seconds your heart didn't beat was a real danger and they had to react to that.  Or, as my EP put it when I was complaining about something... "You're alive!"  While you are alive there are options.  None when you're dead.  

Notes for the future:  1)We don't know if covid permanently damaged your heart.  That's one thing to find out and that may take at least a year to determine.  In the meantime you have the pacemaker to keep you alive.  2) Having a pacemaker isn't that much of a limitation.  If you look around the forum you'll find people with pacemakers leading "normal" lives.  We've even had people with pacemakers doing sky diving.  Why you would want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane I don't know.  3) There are options you might be able to take in the future.  You aren't limited to just what you have now.  And medical science is changing very rapidly.  What I tell you today may not necessarily be true a year from now.  In the meantime your pacemaker gives you the help you need.  4) There are people who can help with the mental side.  Also being on the forum tells you that you aren't the only person with your problem.  In the meantime just concentrate in getting through the day.  Oh, and you can always come back to the forum and ask questions.  5) Life is what you make it.  Sorry for the platitude but it is.  

Otherwise I hope your adjustment goes well.  
 

Grateful

by CyborgMike - 2021-09-11 21:04:22

Hey Redman. Welcome to the club. There is no one here that planned to get a pacemaker. It sure wasn't in my life plan. I got a call from my doc who was looking at my heart monitor data and he said "you need to get admitted now, you may not live through another night..."

so here's the deal, you were supposed to die three weeks ago, but some doctors prevented that and a device is now keeping you safe and allowing you to live a normal life. You are not unfortunate, you are one of the lucky ones. Figure out how you want to celebrate that each morning. Every day is borrowed time. 
#Grateful

Strength in Numbers

by MinimeJer05 - 2021-09-12 19:23:50

Sounds like you've been through a wild ride and all I can really say is I'm glad that you're alive to tell your story and that I hope it'll get better for you. 
 

Im a week from having my pacemaker put in after fainting at work and losing my vision behind the wheel of my truck. Of course I'm still mentally drained and stressed, but I try to remind myself of all of the good -- we are still here, alive and kicking. 
 

if it makes you feel any better, I haven't been able to sleep much at all (sleep for 2 hours, up for 2, sleep for 1, etc), despite damn near passing out on the couch from tiredness. You'd think I'd be sleeping like a baby?

 

and I continue to experience weird warm and tingly sensations on my left side and near my device and I even went into the ER and all they said was "everything is fine". Sometimes feeling these weird pains or not being able to sleep is "normal" and "fine" and it sucks to experience it, but it's good to know we aren't special. 
 

im only 29 and terrified of everything now after having my device being put in so young, but just need to remind myself that these things happen and sometimes younger means less risk and better chance at recovery. If your mental health doesn't turn around, don't be afraid to seek help. I never thought I'd be interested in seeing a therapist, yet now I'm actively considering it. 
 

best of luck with everything!

 

Jer

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