After admitting to Westmead Public Hospital again last Saturday (24 Oct) for a racing heart, I’m currently in Westmead Private Hospital, in the Cardiovascular Ward, awaiting a procedure to implant an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). This is scheduled for Monday morning, 2 Nov. Physically I feel great, emotionally I feel shit.
2020, the year that keeps on giving.
This second admission for tachycardia took two goes of Adenosine and two electric shocks to get my heart back into Sinus (normal) Rhythm. Whilst I feel fine, and all my health markers are within ranges, my cardiologist believed it too risky for me to head home. The chance of another tachycardia (racing heart) event simply too great right now. Every time this happens it increases the risk of a “life threatening episode.” Not to mention both the tachycardia, and medical interventions, damage my heart further.
After heading home last Tuesday, i.e. after the first event on Sunday 18th Oct, the doc scheduled me for an Electrophysiology Study this Wednesday (28 Oct 2020) to clarify my diagnosis. Alas, this confirmed my condition as Ventricular Tachycardia (VT), rather than the originally suspected Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT).
You see SVT is relatively benign, it is a short circuit that begins in the atrium (Supraventricular = above the ventricles), usually caused by an extra nerve pathway that is congenital. This short circuit causes the heart to beat quickly. (Tachycardia = racing heart)
The reason I was hoping for a SVT diagnosis, is because of the treatment. The clinicians can ‘ablate’, essentially kill off, the extra nerve node that causes this electrical interference. This is a quick procedure they can do during the EP Study, and I understand has minor long term implications.
Ventricular Tachycardia is also a short circuit (you guessed it, in the ventricle) However, this is more likely to stem, as in my case, from scar tissue initiated by the heart attack four years ago.
The challenge with VT is that scar tissue. This both evolves (so the condition can return) and is likely multi-channeled (so there’s no one node to ablate). Also, because VT causes extremely low BP, or can develop into Ventricular Fibrillation (VF), it can be life threatening in its own right. So the current guideline is to implant an ICD.
Once implanted, the device requires no management, and should last a decade or more, depending on how much I “use” it. Doctors also prescribe a medication that acts as a beta blocker (slows your heart down) to manage VT. So you shouldn’t need to use the ICD. Of course, with the rate of technology advances, in 10-15 years I’m hopeful for even newer, smaller, longer lasting and better solution. Something like Iron Man uses would do nicely.
In one sense, as I’m sure everyone is thinking, I’m the lucky guy who dodged a bullet. To have access to this amazing, life-saving technology. And I am! Of course I am! I am very grateful, again, to live in these phenomenal times, in a free country with skilled medics, amazing resources and to have the means of affording private health cover. I’m not even stuck at home without quality of life, fretting for six months to get on a list to fit the device. I get it as soon as Monday, and until then, I’m in the best care of leading medical experts, being served Salmon or Roast Beef for dinner.
In another very real sense, I have to be honest and admit that I am struggling emotionally.
This year I planned, come hell or high water, to (finally) get my pilot’s licence. I was planning to ride a motorbike through South America, Africa, or return to the Himalayas. And of course, spend more time underwater blowing bubbles.
I already started my plans to lose more weight, regain my fitness, and build ACHIEVR to impact the lives through training delivered via VR.
All of these goals, and more (Spanish, Trumpet, nurturing family and friend relationships) were, are, on track. Despite social and travel restrictions, not to mention lack of revenue due to the Pandemic. The bigger, more resource dependent dreams, like flying and riding, were delayed for sure. But until now, only by a few months or destination.
But this? This may mean that I never get the chance to do do them at all.
Yes. Of course I am glad that I get to watch my grandchild(ren) grow up. But I’m not about to don my dressing gown, slippers, and sit in a rocking chair passively letting life pass by. I intend to be an active part of my family’s life as well as Live my own. Live, with a capital ‘L.’
Perhaps this sounds very entitled. After all, I have already been privileged in so many ways, and experienced so many things. From sailing across oceans, riding across the Himalayas, to delivering my children. In one of the dark times chatting to Lu over the last few days, I acknowledged that if it did all end here, I regret nothing. Not any of the experiences, or decisions, or relationships. I don’t regret the dark times either, the family tragedies, the illnesses, even the broken relationships. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve endured remorse, and ever so slowly I’ve learned. I’ve worked on fixing my broken parts, and healing relationships. And I don’t regret anything…
…except not learning to fly.
I’ve wanted it for so long. Since I was 4 in fact. And I’ve had so many opportunities across my life that all seemed the wrong priority at the time. I didn’t have the money, or the time, or I just had too many crowding commitments, family, career, faith…
Now I may’ve just run out of time…
It isn’t over of course. Not by a long shot. I will never get the opportunity to fly as a commercial pilot, perhaps not even as the only (private) pilot with passengers. But as I am allowed to drive, and ride a motorbike (again, not commercially), perhaps I’ll be able to get a Recreational Pilot Licence, or a Sport Licence for microlights. We’ll see.
I’m not sure you can relate quite to how I feel. Some speaking to me have responded with some form of “look at the bright side – living, grandchildren etc” and/or “you have weathered so much, you’re resilient, and strong and will pul through.” I understand (and appreciate) the intention. It’s tough to see your friend hurting, and you want to help. But there’s nothing to say. No story that you can use to relate. Intellectually, I know that life, any life, is better than the alternative. I also know how to sail through storms. But there’s a storm bigger than the strongest boat, and right now, this feels like one of those…
Thanks For, Well, Everything
Anyway, that is where I’m at. If you’ve read this far, well thank you. Thank you for your interest, your care, and indulging me. I really am fine physically – fitter than I’ve been in a decade in fact. Of course, physiologically not so much. Turns out I’ve had this ticking time bomb for over 4 years now. But once the Bionic/Iron Man/Borg implant is in, I’ll be back to those fitness goals with a vengeance.
Emotionally I’m still in the pit. It is cold, and lonely, and dark down here. Very uncomfortable for me. I’m finding it hard to turn on my light, to own the pain, but refuse to suffer, as I usually can. There is a flickering light above, and I hold on to that. It may be a mirage. But it’s my mirage.
I am really glad for all of you, my family and friends. The WhatsApp messages, Instagram Comments, Facebook conversations. But also for all of you who have called, sent videos, made me laugh, allowed me to cry, and not judged me in my vulnerability. Thank you.
I just have to remember: There is no kill switch on awesome (thanks Scott Adams)