About five years ago, we noticed that Dad had taken a couple falls and gotten bruised up. Nothing really bad, but certainly of concern. The question was how was it happening?
In his mid 80’s, Dad had developed a habit of taking naps at the kitchen table. He’d lay back in his kitchen chair with his feet up on the table, or another chair. Sometimes, when he fell asleep, he’d slide sideways out of the chair and hit the floor.
So we got him a nice Lazy Boy chair and encouraged him to take his naps there, where he could recline and put his feet up. But like many in his generation, he was used to doing things his way, preferring to stay at the kitchen chair and table.
One time he “fell asleep” in church.” It kind of reminded me of someone having a low sugar emergency. One of our members was a nurse, and helped revive him during the service. We took him out to the emergency room, but nothing showed up.
Then one day, we got a call from the hospital telling us Dad had taken a fall at Walmart, and he’d been transported by ambulance. The folks at Walmart said he’d been shopping when he just dropped like a rock in the middle of the aisle!
He was all bruised up but had escaped any serious injuries. At this point, it was becoming clear that he wasn’t just falling asleep. So they kept him for observation, but once again, nothing jumped out at them.
The ER doctor suspected something was going on with Dad’s heart, but they couldn’t find anything. Finally, they decided to send him over to Union Hospital in Terre Haute so he could be seen by a cardiac specialist.
They put him on a monitor around the clock, and this time, they caught it. His heart actually stopped beating for several seconds that night. They told me it stopped again several times. That was what was causing him to pass out and fall down!
While he was there, the stops began increasing in frequency, with one lasting over 30 seconds! At that point he got moved to the front of the list, and they scheduled him to get a pacemaker the next morning.
The procedure was simple, and his recovery was quick. He was back in the gym in just a couple weeks, walking and riding the bike. He was restricted to no overhead lifting for about eight weeks, but that passed quickly for him.
Other than a small rectangular shaped bump under his left collarbone, you’d never know there was an issue. His activity quickly got back to normal, and he no longer had any falls (except for a seizure a couple years after, but that’s another story).
Dad was extremely happy to survive the episode, although he doesn’t remember any of it. I ask him how he’s doing when I pick him up to take him to the gym, and he always says “I’m Still Alive!”
Every three months, we’d call the pacemaker clinic and they’d check out his device right over the phone with a magnet and a phone modem. He ended up on a once yearly physical checkup and things went very well for about four years.
Then a couple months ago, they started detecting signs that Dad’s battery was starting to get low. They didn’t know exactly how long the battery would last, but the tests showed it was winding down. As a result, they started doing his battery checks every six weeks.
Finally, a couple weeks ago, the test showed his battery was low enough to warrant a physical check. They confirmed he was ready to have his battery replaced, and they just did the outpatient procedure two days ago.
It went very well, and he was walking into his home just a few hours later. After a few days off, he should be ready to start riding the exercise bike and walking again.
This time around, he has no restrictions, and he’ll likely be hitting his weight machine circuit again in just a week or so. Not bad for a man turning 92 in July.
And whenever anyone asks him how he’s doing, he always answers by saying: “I’m Still Alive!”