Before we ate dinner on Thanksgiving Day 2015, the friends and family members who gathered around our table were all asked to mention one thing they were thankful for. That’s my wife Sherry’s idea, and it’s a good one. We do it every year. It causes us to remember that Thanksgiving is about much more than eating a big meal and watching football games.
But if Thanksgiving came again tomorrow, I’d hard-pressed to select just one blessing to relate to others. I have a long list of things to be thankful for. In no particular order they are my caring family and friends, my faith, medical advances and healthcare professionals.
I was reminded of these blessings on Thursday, Dec. 3, one week after Thanksgiving. On that day I had a heart procedure done at Genesis Medical Center, East Campus.
Like many people in their 60s, I have some health issues. One of the most annoying is an inherited tremor called essential tremor. It causes some weakness in my left leg, an occasional tremor in my left arm and the loss of fine motor skills in my left hand.
One the plus side, the tremor, which occurs mainly when I’m cold, nervous or tired, is very helpful for brushing one’s teeth or shaking some liquid in a bottle that advises, “shake well before using.”
But there is a down side, too. Perhaps because of the weakness in my left leg, my sense of balance isn’t what it used to be, especially on uneven surfaces, and I sometimes find a cane useful. Regarding my arm and hand, I’m left-handed and my handwriting has gone from bad to worse and my keyboarding skills with my left hand have also declined.
The essential tremor has come on slowly since 2009. My latest problem, though, is an irregular heartbeat.
My doctor, James Kettelkamp, has a nurse named Judy who meets with his patients periodically to see how they are doing.
In my last meeting with her, she discovered that my heart rate was lower than normal and that my heart occasionally had an irregular beat. It’s called atrial fibrillation and can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
After some testing I met with a cardiac doctor, Blair Foreman, who said I was into and out of A-Fib on a regular basis. The first step to take, he said, in hopes of returning the heart rhythm to normal, was shocking it. The procedure is called cardioversion.
That sounds frightening, but several nurses and a doctor in my family reassured me the treatment is common and often successful.
The procedure is done on an outpatient basis at Genesis East’s cardiac care center. The date for my shock was Dec. 3. With my wife at my side, I showed up a little before the appointed time, which was 9:30 in the morning, to handle paperwork.
After that the registrar, Michael, then led us to the hospital room where preparations and the procedure would take place.
There I removed my shirt, put on a hospital gown and climbed into bed. I thought I might catch a little nap, but that wasn’t in the cards.
A parade of technicians and nurses, including my main caregiver, a nurse named Laurie, came in to my room. They reviewed my medications and when I’d last taken them. They asked when I had last eaten and used the bathroom. They took vital signs, administered an EKG and started an IV. The IV was used later to get a sedative into my system to knock me out long enough for the shock to take place.
Dr. Foreman arrived about 10:55 for the procedure, which was scheduled for 11. After some conversation, he administered the anesthetic and had Sherry go to a waiting room. I tried hard to stay awake so I could see the shock take place but was unable to do so.
I knew I was headed to la-la land when my speech began to slur and the clock affixed to the wall in front of me appeared to endlessly jump up and down.
When I woke up about 10 minutes later, the shock had already been administered, and my heart had returned to normal rhythm. Only time will tell if it stays that way.
As for my heart rate, it is still low when I’m at rest but is normal when I’m walking around. I have a feeling there may be a pacemaker my future.
The heart shock went off without a hitch, and I was permitted to leave after a recuperation period.
I feel fine, and I’m very thankful for that, too.
Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This ran as a column in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.