When I woke up after an evening nap, I immediately sensed something was wrong. My heart was beating like a kettle drum. Sticking my right index finger into a heart monitor, it registered 140 beats per minute. I asked my wife to dial 911 thinking the end was near.
When paramedics arrived they hooked me up to several monitors. One of the techs asked a question that I’d never heard,
“Have you used any recreational drugs?”
I assumed the man was talking about over-the-counter pills that older people take after exercise.
“Yea, I popped some Tylenol yesterday after working in the garage.”
He clarified his inquiry by inserting the word narcotics in place of drugs. I assured him that I wasn’t a doper.
Once I arrived at Havasu Regional Medical Center via ambulance, Emergency Room personnel gave me the same urgent-care as heart attack patients get. Blood work came back normal, showing no cardiac arrest. That was a big relief. The ER doctor told me I had arterial fibrillation, or afib. I knew all about the term as my mother and brother went through such.
He gave me medicine to slow things down before sending my still-breathing-carcass off to ICU. Late that afternoon, respected cardiologist, Dr. Pareed Aliyar, came in to examine me. He said that if my heart didn’t go back into what’s called sinus rhythm, he’d perform a technique on me the next morning where the vital organ is stopped, and then restarted. Being a former mechanic, the thought of doing such was a bit too much.
There was a time years ago when I had an old car with a bad starter. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. I knew that if the engine started, it was wise not to turn things off until my mission was complete. I often parked the vehicle on an incline so that I could let her roll downhill, and then pop the clutch to get it running. If I messed up, a call to a friend was made for a jump start. I didn’t want that happening to my ticker.
The first thing I did after Dr. Aliyar left, was have my wife place a message on Facebook for all friends to see. On behalf of me, she asked them to say a prayer. I had her mention that I didn’t want to go through the heart procedure as I was a bit apprehensive. She went against my instructions, using the word scared instead.
Sometime that night I woke up with doctors and nurses standing around my bed. My heart monitor had sounded an alarm alerting them that something was up. One of the employees told me that my heart rate was back to normal.
Thank you Jesus,” I said for all to hear.
The next few weeks called for additional tests, plus, I was placed on medicine designed to prevent such from happening again. Dr. Aliyar suggested I undergo a sleep test. He believed my afib came from something called sleep apnea. That’s a serious disorder where you basically stop breathing during a snooze. My heart rate had always been very low at rest.
A couple of overnight tests proved that I indeed had the problem. I thought it amazing they could even decipher such, because trying to sleep with oodles of electrodes all over my body was a nightmare. I was extremely relieved when each session was complete.
I was given my own CPAP machine which I immediately named Jarvik 7. For those folks my age and older, most will remember that Jarvik 7 is a name given to the world’s first successful mechanical heart. Dr. Barney Clark was the device’s initial recipient back in 1982. That mechanical blood pump went wherever Dr. Clark did. He was attached to it via tubes and wires.
My CPAP machine is not as serious a device as a mechanical heart pump, yet Jarvik 7 seemed an appropriate and funny name. I desperately needed some humor at this point in my life.
A CPAP machine is basically an air pump or air-compressor designed to keep oxygen flowing into my body when sleeping. CPAP stands for: Continious Positive Airway Pressure. If I were to stop breathing, air is forced into my lungs via this apparatus. Doing so helps keep my heart in sinus rhythm.
Sadly, CPAP machines have been given a bad rap by folks afraid to use them. At first it was a bit worrisome to wear the cushioned mask with attached hose because of claustrophobia. Bill Malloy, at ALLPAPS in Lake Havasu City suggested I initially put it on while watching television or reading. That advice helped greatly in my overcoming pent up anxiety. These days I won’t leave home without it. I religiously carry Jarvik 7 with me on overnight trips. I even take naps with the thing just to be safe.
A side benefit on wearing one, is that the hypoallergenic filter inside has done wonders for my allergies. It’s amazing how many people use CPAP’s. I have several friends and relatives hooked up to them each night.
Perhaps the biggest complaint from folks is that the mask will leave lines on their face when removed. That’s no problem for me. There were plenty of lines and wrinkles to begin with.
It appears Jarvik 7 and I will be buds until the very end. I’m not so worried about my passing as I am with his. My plastic and metal companion was paid for with insurance money. Should this machine give up the ghost, the next one will be on my dime.
“Because of that, I’ll do my best to keep Jarvik 7 alive!”