Speaking of monitoring

I was on a once every 6 months schedule, but now that my pacemaker's battery has less than 6 months to ERI, I'm being asked to send transmissions more often.

I have the old style Merlin@Home transmitter which requires I sit down, put the donut over my pacemaker and press START. As the tranmission progresses, different icons light up with a series of beeping tones. It's done when the star icon lights up and I hear a rising C-chord of beeps. Takes about 5 minutes.

Yesterday, cooperative patient that I am, I sat down, reread the instructions, positioned the donut and pressed START. After a minute or so I realized something was wrong. Icons not lighting, beeps out of order. I pressed START to stop the transmission (does that bother anyone but me?) and reread the instructions.

After checking all the connections and making sure the cell-phone adapter light was on, I tried three of four more times. No luck. I called the pacemaker clinic (per the instructions.) I was told to call the manufacturer assistance number.

Well. You know what happens when you call those Help numbers. You'll be helped eventually, but first you'll get 20 minutes of threading through three or four menus only to have a recorded voice lie and say they are "experiencing an unusually high call volume" and put you on hold.

Thinking about what the customer service rep would say when I finally got one on the line, I thought of one thing I hadn't done when I checked all the connections. So I unplugged the Merlin from the power strip, waited one minute to allow it time to reboot, and tried again.

Et voila! Order was restored to the icons. After a minute I was rewarded with the C-chord. So I called the clinic and left them a message to check and make sure they had received it. This morning they called back. They hadn't. They said "call Medtronic."

Merlin/Medtronic--easy mistake, right? I didn't correct her. But I thought I'd give it one more try before running the gauntlet of Merlin customer service. I unplugged the unit, and this time waited 5 full minutes before giving it a go. Everything worked perfectly on the first try. 

Again, I called the clinic."Sure, I'll check." Long pause. "How do you spell your name?" Long pause. "Your date of birth?" pause. "No, we didn't get it."

"Okay, thank you." I said. "I guess I'll have to call Merlin and see what to do next."

"Wait! Did you say Merlin?" "Yes. Merlin@home transmitter." "Oh. We have you listed  with Medtronic." "No, my pacemaker's a St.Jude." " Let me see" pause "Yes, here it is. We got your transmission."

Now I'm wondering how many transmissions they got from me, but she didn't say and I didn't ask. When you're winning, you don't ask questions.

I'm sharing this small story here, not because of any angst, or even needing suggestions. It's just because nobody except someone who deals with pacemaker monitors will get the triumphant, half-frustrated humor of it all.



one of those M's!

by Tracey_E - 2022-05-05 15:43:59

Glad they found the transmissions before it went EOL! 

I've only called St Judes a very few times, but I've always gotten a person very quickly and they were very responsive and helpful. I hope it stays the same now that it's Abbott. 


Oh my favourite subject

by Gemita - 2022-05-05 17:15:20

Home monitoring at its very best?  Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.  I think you handled the situation with a great deal of patience Gotrhythm but I can see you might have to ask for an acknowledgement of anything you send in the future.  On a separate issue, what are you going to do at end of battery life.  Are you going for an upgrade of the same system and a new monitor?  Can’t remember what you had in mind


by AgentX86 - 2022-05-05 19:20:10

It sounds like your doctor's office has some real operational problems. They should know, immediately, by your profile what system you have.

I have no idea if Medtronic`s app writers know anything about monitoring but the app reports, under "messages":

INFORMATIONAL.     <date >

Transmission received

Your transmission was successfully received by your clinic.


If the message means what it says, I know it's somewhere in my cardiologist's office.


by Gotrhythm - 2022-05-07 12:13:30

My EP and I haven't discussed my options yet, although I know he's leaning toward a CRT.


by Gotrhythm - 2022-05-07 12:16:46

Yes. My system is old. I have felt the lack of any sort of feedback telling me the transmission went through. I would hope they're doing it a little differently with the newer models.

From now on, they'll get a call from me anytime I send one.


by Gotrhythm - 2022-05-07 12:23:37

In fairness to St Jude, I have never actuallly had to call them. I fear I was merely be prejudiced by experience with other customer service interactions.

My pacemaker and the Merlin have always worked "fine."

St. Jude/Abbott Customer Service

by Marybird - 2022-05-07 15:40:42

I have a St. Jude Assurity MRI+ pacemaker, with bluetooth wireless capability, so all my transmissions through the Merlin@Home monitor are done automatically. There is no notification when this is done, the monitor lights in the front don't light up with an automatic wireless transmission (unless I miss it when I'm sleeping), they say the light on the cell adaptor in the back (normally on in this model) blinks green when sending a transmission, but it's tiny and easily missed.

Gothythm, from perusing the internet and the Abbott site, I'm under the impression that St. Jude has used the same Merlin@Home monitor ( maybe with some modifications) for years, and has updated it for the wireless transmission capability. The wireless Merlin@Home still allows the user to send a manual transmission as needed, you just push the button on the left and watch the lights do their thing as you describe with your transmissions. The only difference is that you don't need a wand, you sit in front of the monitor and your pacemaker sends its transmission to the monitor. I'd bet that if your replacement generator is another St. Jude, you'd get a wireless model and your new Merlin@Home monitor would look virtually identical to your old one, though it would be wireless.

I've called the St. Jude/Abbott customer service people at the number taped on the top of the Merlin@Home monitor twice in the nearly 3 years I"ve had it. Both times there wasn't much of a wait to speak to someone, and they were very helpful. The first time was the morning after the pacemaker was implanted. They had plopped the monitor in the box onto the bed tray during my 6 hour post-op monitoring period in the hospital, but with no instructions or explanations. They'd even cut off the "quick-start instructions" from the box so I didn't know if the monitor had been paired with the pacemaker or if I needed to do that at home. The St. Jude customer service lady assured me that the monitor had already been paired and was set to go, but she offered to have me send a manual transmission so I could see how it worked. So I did, and saw all the lights and bells go off, and a successful transmission. She verified she got it, and commented that my cell phone signal was strong.

The second time I called them was maybe a year ago, when a closeby lighning strike zapped a couple of our appliances. Probably paranoia, but I wanted to see if it had also affected the monitor, so I called that customer service number again, didn't wait long, and they had me run through another manual transmission, and assured me everything was ok.

They tell me when calling their customer service numbers, giving them your pacemaker and leads model and serial numbers helps them find your information faster.

Gotrhythm, I'm sure you know this, but with automatic remote transmissions, you won't know just when one of these is sent- usually it's during the wee hours when you're asleep. But you should be able to get the dates for when your transmissions are scheduled, your pacemaker clinic would know that. You can contact the customer service number on your monitor to check to see when a transmission was sent, but they won't give you any information about anything else. You could also contact your clinic for this information, perhaps they'd be willing to send you an email or text letting you know they've received the transmission?

I know the "no news is good news" stance taken by these folks can be offputting, sometimes, especially when you're thinking there's no real reassurance that there was a transmission, or if anyone reviewed it. I've thought that way myself, as these wireless remote monitors really don't involve the patient and leave no reassurance that a transmission was carried out. Which is why even a text notification that it was is reassuring.

I've been reassured that the scheduled transmissions have been done, and the reports reviewed, even if it looks like the monitor does nothing but take up space on your nightstand and catches dust. This after notifications of alerts  on several occasions by my cardiologist's office, with instructions to adjust my medication each time. Though they may not always contact a patient about an alert unless it's actionable, but I'm a believer in the remote monitoring ( even if I can't see it happening) after my experiences.

I now have the approximate dates for my scheduled transmissions ( got those from the monitoring company used by my cardiologist, but your clinic could give you those dates as well). The dates of those transmissions, once they are done, are also now documented on my cardiologists' office patient portal.



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