Any of you who have been following this column for some time will remember that about six years ago I went into Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and had a pacemaker implanted.
My heart – the part of it that beats and pumps the blood – is healthy, but I had some problems with the electrical part that sets the rhythm, the pace and the number of beats per minute, which resulted in what is called atrial fibrillation. This simply means that the blood does not move in the steady rhythm that is desired for good heart health.
One of my problems was that my heart had spells of slowing down below the prescribed minimums and the pacemaker kicks in when it falls below a certain level and gets it back up to speed.
You are also given a medicine that works in conjunction with the pacemaker to deal with the atrial fibrillation – or AFib. My doctor says that my pacemaker is working fine but that I had outlasted the rhythm medicine and it had lost some of its effectiveness. So, I was periodically falling back into a AFib again which was making me feel extremely run down.
The next step was a process known as cardiac catheter ablation.
I won’t even get involved with trying to explain exactly how the procedure works but will endeavor to relate it in broad layman’s terms. Should anybody be interested enough, it is easily obtainable on the web, complete with exhaustive written information and diagrams.
But for all you, “cut to the chase” people like me, let me see if I can explain it so you can at least get a cursory notion of what is involved.
I don’t know why or what caused the condition, but there are places in my heart that emit rogue electrical impulses and throw a monkey wrench into the natural timing, pacing and rhythm.
Through some complicated x-ray procedure, the emissions are located and identified and mapped out.
The procedure requires going into a vein in the groin and inserting a probe with a device on the end of it that is able to cauterize the places causing the trouble.
The doctors speed up the patient’s heart, then they can see the skin around the heart’s electrical path that is causing the AFib. With either heat or cold, they cauterize a “fence” around the electrical path. When the fence heals, the cauterized skin turns into scar tissue. The scar tissue keeps the electrical signal in the proper path due to the fact that scar tissue does not conduct electricity.
Of course, I’m oversimplifying it, but in layman’s language and cowboy logic, that’s about it.
I have dual reasons for writing this. When people hear the word “heart” and anything to do with its treatment, they tend to conjure up thoughts of cardiac arrest and open-heart surgery, and my condition had nothing to do with either one. I wanted to let everybody know that the procedure is done, was successful and I am home where I am not supposed to lift anything heavier than ten pounds for a week and take it sort of easy for the same period of time.
After a week, I can resume my regular schedule of exercise, lifting things and normal life.
My other reason for writing this is that if anybody who reads this is having weak spells, unexplained trouble breathing or noticeable loss of energy on a regular basis, please go and be examined because if you catch your problems in the early stages there is a good chance it can be eliminated by simple means like medicine or maybe a pacemaker.
But if the day should ever come when your doctor tells you that you need a catheter ablation, don’t fear it.
It is mostly non-evasive, has absolutely nothing to do with opening your chest, usually requires a one-night stay in the hospital, and gets you back to normal life in a few days.
Unattended to, little problems can turn into monsters when it comes to health. So, if your heart – or any other part of your body – needs medical attention, don’t put it off, and above all, don’t let your imagination run wild about what kind of treatment it would take to make you well again.
It could be something very simple.
And one more thing I always remember, doctors treat, but God is the One who applies the healing touch.
What do you think?
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God Bless America
Charlie Daniels is a legendary American singer, song writer, guitarist, and fiddler famous for his contributions to country and southern rock music. Daniels has been active as a singer since the early 1950s. He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on January 24, 2008.