A LOT OF HEART–PART 2

Last week I told you about Dad’s adventure that ended with him getting a pacemaker. This week I’d like to talk about the rehab involved. As a healthy, fit 87 year old, the pacemaker basically solved the problem.

Even as they wheeled him back to his room, his heart was beating a steady, unchanging 60 beats per minute. Even though that might be pretty low for most folks, I can’t remember the time his heart rate was that high.

Pacemaker recipients have to be pretty careful of their arm for awhile. Since they put it on the left side, Dad had to wear a sling to keep his left arm immobilized for 48 hours.

The reason is there are little leads running from the pacemaker to his heart, and they want to be sure that the leads have time to become fully attached. If he should lift his arms over his head, or forcefully contract his chest muscles, the leads could be pulled out which would cause quite a problem.

Since he needs the pacemaker to generate a decent heart rate, it could cause the same problem he had before (extremely low heart rate) that resulted in him blacking out when his heart stopped. Obviously, he’d have to be rushed back into surgery if that happened.

Those were compelling enough reasons to cause Dad to agree to take it easy for awhile. He can’t lift weights for 6 weeks to be on the safe side. He was allowed to start walking right away, but it was about 3 days before he really did any walking of substance.

Since Dad needed 24 hour care, he checked into a nursing home for a week or so to be sure he’d have help around. The first few days he needed help getting his shirts on, which was kind of tricky. By the end of the week, though, he was doing it on his own.

He also didn’t need any support while getting up and moving around, although he still needed some help getting cleaned up. The area around the pacemaker can’t get wet for awhile, so right now, sponge baths are in order.

At 7 days, he was feeling pretty good, but was complaining about a little dizziness when he got up out of bed, or out of a chair. They pulled him off his high blood pressure medication, thinking that now he didn’t need it. They were probably right, because the problem seemed to go away.

He’ll have his first visit with his cardiologist since being discharged from the hospital, later this week, and probably move back home after that. At that point, we’ll check on him from time to time, but all indications are that this heart will allow him to return to a pretty normal lifestyle. He’s amazed.

He told us when he was a teenager, he’d gotten burned and spent time in the hospital. “It was $15/day and no way could they do what they did.” He figures they saved his life and now, he gets to “keep on ticking.”

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