I had my six-month echocardiogram in July. As feared, but intuitively expected, there was no improvement in my ejection fraction. My cardiologist then had me get a scan using a nuclear Rubidium-82 tracer to get a detailed mapping of the heart. That confirmed what the previous tests had indicated – scar tissue that would not be recovering. The good news, however, was the circumflex artery that been suspected of having a blockage was actually flowing well.
I asked my cardiologist what it meant to have a nearly normal flow through the heart while having a low ejection fraction. He said the blood flow is overcoming the limitations of the ejection fraction – that’s what makes most of my living seem normal. He added he has patients go on years like this.
As recommended by him, I had an appointment with an electrophysiologist cardiologist. He recommended an Implantable Cardioverter Defribillator (ICD). Low ejection fraction can lead to death from sudden cardiac arrest – statistically it’s about 6% of those with low ejection fraction and that increases to 12% in years four to eight.
That procedure is scheduled for November – the first available opportunity; clearly there are a lot of people getting this procedure. I’m going to use this period to do further research. I want to walk into that surgery knowing it’s the best road ahead.
Other than that, the only interventions the medical profession offers are either a heart transplant or a pump – and those are in the (hopefully distant) future whenever my condition deteriorates. On the issue of the heart transplant, I age out of of that in a couple of years – no transplants are performed for those over 70 years old.
On the pump, that’s a much different issue. I reflect on what a nursing supervisor told me months ago: that is going to require thinking long and hard about what life would be like afterward. Hopefully I don’t cross that point for a long, long time.
Yes, it does suck.
But here’s a dose of reality. No one reading this knows how long they will live. I sure don’t.
We’ve all grown up knowing we’re going to die but none of us quite believe it. This incident in my life was a lightning bolt of reality. Maybe that’s a gift, though it doesn’t always seem like it.
For the last seven months I’ve been a heart-attack survivor. But that means the focus of life was about living in the acute phase of this journey – with too many hospitalizations; too many examinations; and too much uncertainty about how much my heart might improve.
Now I know – more or less.
It’s time to become a person again – one who has heart disease, but one whose life doesn’t revolve around having heart disease.
So what that all mean?
It means one has to be fatalistic about life. At the same time, one still has to live with purpose. For me that means watching my diet, working out, and taking the prescription medications.
It means focusing on all the other aspects of life that I’ve neglected or minimized.
It means it’s time to put an end to the reporting on this journey to the exclusion of the other things I could write about that are important to me.
Thank you for reading about my journey. Hopefully we’ll all be around for a long time to write and read about something else. (And if you’re curious about how I’m doing at any future point in time, feel free to ask).
Finally, I still maintain my belief in comedian Steven Wright’s joke: “I intend to live forever. So far, so good.”