I was planning on writing this article over the weekend like I usually do, but something came up. Actually it went down. We got the call from the E.R. nurse at Paris Community Hospital Friday night around 11:00 pm. They said that Dad had passed out and hit the floor at Wal-Mart and now he was out at the E.R.
He’d hit his head, which produced a healthy bump that required 2 staples, so they were doing a CAT scan to make sure there wasn’t any internal bleeding. The real worry though, was the fact that he blacked out, which caused the fall.
Now Dad’s heart rate is exceptionally low, especially for an 87 year old. But that night, it hit a new low. I watched the monitor hover around 45-46 beats per minute, and once it dipped as low as 43 bpm! They kept him overnight for observation and after further testing, transferred him over to Union Hospital in Terre Haute so he could be seen by a cardiologist.
This wasn’t the first time he’d fallen. About three months ago, he fell out of his kitchen chair, cracking three ribs and bruising the side of his head. After getting checked out at the doctor, since everything was O.K., everyone concluded that he’d just fallen asleep.
This had actually happened before, about 14 months ago (without the broken ribs and black eye). Dad takes naps in the chair with his feet up, and everyone figured he’d just fallen out of the chair.
So when it happened again, after making sure he was O.K., we tried to address the problem by having him keep his feet down. We also got a different kitchen chair that had sides for the arms, thinking it would be more secure.
Then in church about 6 weeks ago, he kind of slumped and listed sideways in the pews. Since he’d often take little naps, it didn’t seem that unusual. A nurse was behind us, and he was alert right away so we all concluded that again, he’d simply fallen asleep.
Looking back, we should have taken him in to be checked out then. He’d been treated for lower leg swelling 2 years ago, and his cardiologist put him on a water pill to help reduce the swelling. At the time, they noticed that his resting heart rate was really low and said that if it got any lower, it could be dangerous, and he’d have to be treated for it.
Somehow, all of us missed it—even the health care professionals. But this time, everyone realized that it had gotten serious.
Once he got over to Union, he had several more episodes that night. When his heart stopped again for 6 seconds (and he passed out), they were watching. Then it happened again for 11 seconds.
The final time it happened that night, he was out for 19 seconds without a heart beat. Of course they were monitoring everything and ready to step in if he needed help, but the evidence was conclusive—he needed a pacemaker.
The next morning, he was scheduled to be third in line for surgery, but after those episodes, the cardiologist moved him to the front of the line. In just over an hour and a half, he was out of surgery with a strong heartbeat locked in at 60 bpm!
Dad was a little tired, but feeling pretty good, and in amazing spirits. His doctor said that this should fix the problem. He had a strong heart—it just needed a little help initiating the cycle.
We were grateful for all the great help he had out at Wal-Mart with Edgar County Special Service Ambulance, at Paris Community Hospital and then over at Union Hospital. We were also thankful to God for looking out for him.
For six weeks, he’ll have to be pretty careful moving the arm, so the tiny electric leads have time to become permanently attached to his heart. But in a week, he’ll be able to start walking and riding the exercise bicycle again.
Dad was pretty disappointed when he found out he had to put his weight training on hold for six weeks. We figure we’re going to have to strap him down for the duration. He’s got a lot of heart!