It turns out it wasn’t a black and white issue. I thought it would be one of two possible outcomes; it never occurred to me that there’d be one in the middle.
My heart has recovered…some. My ejection fraction is now 35. An average person’s EF is over 55. My doctor says this is good news, but she still recommends the implanted cardioverter-defibrillator. However, the decision is up to me.
Dr. G explained to me that when they implant the ICD, they purposefully put you into V-fib to see if it works. If not, they shock you the old-fashioned way to keep you from dying, and then change the settings.
That kind of bothered me. If I haven’t gone into V-fib ever, it seems to me like putting me into it intentionally only increases the chances that it will happen again.
When I got home I read about the procedure to implant the ICD and what recovery is like. Obviously it involves surgery. The surgeon creates a “pocket” under the collarbone, like they do for a pacemaker, and a lead (or three) goes down a vein to the heart. You’re not put all the way under, but there is a sedative.
As with any surgery, I imagine there’s a chance of death during the procedure.
If I do this, I will have a device stuck in my body that will be noticeable through the skin. Plus I’ll have a scar. Plus, they pretty much never remove these things, even if you get better.
If I don’t do this, and I ever do go into V-fib, or my heart is otherwise irregular, I won’t have anything to save me from sudden cardiac death.
The issue, to my way of thinking, is whether or not I am in grave danger of my heartbeat becoming irregular or stopping. This may just be the heart meds talking, or my complete lack of desire to undergo surgery again…but I don’t feel like I am. I think my heart has improved a great deal in the almost six months since I was diagnosed, and I believe it will continue to improve. I think that if I had worked harder to improve my diet and exercise, it would be better than it is…and I think if I work on those areas now, I can help it improve even more.
At this point, I feel like waiting and seeing what happens.
I have an appointment next month with the doctor who does the procedure, then a follow-up with Dr. G in July. By then it will have been eight months since my diagnosis.
Some heart patients apparently wait nine months to see if their heart has recovered, so why not wait that extra month and then have another echo before I undergo life-altering surgery?
That’s basically where I am right now. Obviously, I’m going to talk with more people and learn as much as I can, to try and make the most informed choice.