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November 1, 2011

The Bionic Woman?

The fragment of a song has been playing in my head:

Sweet Jaime, I'll love you forever
I know we'll never part
I love you like I've loved no other
Make room for me in your heart. 

It is sung by Lee Majors. Yeah, when he was playing Col. Steve Austin on the 1970s hit show The Six Million Dollar Man. In a gravelly, off-key, lounge lizard voice, he sings this tribute to his great love, Jamie Sommers, AKA The Bionic Woman.

Ah, the weird memories and thoughts that spin into my head these days: Lee Majors singing. You don't believe that Lee Majors sang on his show. Check it out.

So, I got on this Lee Majors/Bionic Woman train of thought because my new pacemaker technically makes me "bionic." One dictionary definition of "bionic" is: "having anatomical structures or physiological processes that are replaced or enhanced by electronic or mechanical components."

That's me, bitches. 

As I write this, I'm feeling pretty good. The slight tiredness I had been feeling since Monday is gone. I went for a walk this morning, and climbed a hill. I didn't feel out of breath or light-headed, sensations that had been hitting me over the past couple months. 

I went for a checkup with my cardiologist Monday. He said I'm doing "great." I should be able to start jogging next week, and I should be able to resume my new mother/son rock climbing hobby in about a month.

Modern medicine.

I was diagnosed with "sick sinus syndrome" or a slow heartbeat, also known as brachycardia. According to the website for  St. Jude Medical Inc., the manufacturer of my pacemaker:

"The sinus node is a group of cells located in the right atrium. It is called the heart’s 'natural pacemaker' and produces electrical signals that initiate each heartbeat. The electrical impulses travel from the sinus node across the atria to each ventricle, causing them to contract and pump blood out to your lungs and body.

"If the sinus node isn’t functioning as it should, you may develop sick sinus syndrome. This means that when starting a heartbeat, the electrical signal either moves too slowly through the sinus node or there are pauses in delivery of the electrical signal. Your heart rhythm may be too slow or it may speed up and slow down intermittently. With SSS, your heart may not pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs."
My pacemaker is a computerized device as about the size of two stacked silver dollars. It sends electrical stimulation to my heart whenever it senses that the heart is not beating or is beating too slowly.


My pacemaker is supposed to last eight to 12 years, longer the less I have to use it. During my checkup, the cardiologist placed a sensor over the area of my chest where the pacemaker was implanted. A read-out showed that I'm using the pacemaker 10 percent of the time. About 3 percent of that time, my heart rate has fallen below the normal lower range of 60 beats per minutes.

I pushed my cardiologist on what could cause such a condition. It's hard to know, he said.

I may have been dealing with this for a long time. In the fall of 1989, when I was in my mid-20s, I suffered two mysterious fainting episodes within a few weeks of each other.  I went to see a neurologist, who checked me out and couldn't find anything. Twenty years later, I'm fainting again. This time, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I was home for the first faint, then in the emergency room for the subsequent episodes.

Pretty easy for the John Muir Medical Center staff to see what was going on, and to conclude that it was time to make a new woman--a bionic woman--out of me.

4 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Glad you are feeling better! I didn't realize how they put in a pace maker, very interesting.

Sometimes I feel like I am a bionic woman too, since I just got my hip replaced a couple of years ago, and I'm only 49. I feel better, but every once in a while I keep thinking about the foreign piece of metal in me.

Modern medicine is pretty amazing isn't it.

Martha Ross, AKA Soccer Mom said...

I do wonder if how much all the work done on Steve Austin would cost in 2011 dollars. I mean, with health care costs having gone up so much. If they did a remake of the show would he be The Sixty Million Dollar Man?

Old Fart said...

you are hilarious some times!

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog! I think I may have SSS too! I have tachycardia and bradycardia. I've only blacked out once, but I suffer from chest pains, shortness of breath, & painful but simultaneously numb arm. (If that makes sense.) I go to the cardiologist on Monday to find out more about my issue. Two questions...do they always do a pacemaker, and, are you allowed to drive?