A few weeks ago, I opened an email from my mother with the subject line “Serious Life Situation.” What follows are the emails we exchanged over a 24-hour period as she expressed her dismay about a diagnosis. Emailing back and forth allowed her to calm down, feel safer, and move forward with a treatment decision.
Mom: The cardiologist gave me the results today of my tests from last week. I’m trying to wrap my mind around what the tests showed and what he recommends. I’m very shocked that my good health record (no medications) has come to a close. I guess I’m heart sick emotionally and physically. They will stop me legally from driving.
Pamela: Can you tell me what you were told, what the heart condition is, and what has been recommended?
Mom: I had the monitor for 24 hours. My heart really stops beating. It’s all visually on the paper record, and it matches my written record of what I was feeling in that time which is a roller coaster effect. The doc said it does not get better; it gets worse with time. Although I have yet to pass out, that is next. And my heart drops to 25 when sleeping, which is below normal. I wish my rationales could hold water but they don’t.
Pamela: So what does the doctor suggest? Has a pacemaker been recommended?
Mom: Yup, that is what I have to do if I want to drive and I suppose live without strokes, etc. Oh, well… I need to take my time and calm down, but not too much or my heart may take the calm as an excuse for a recess!
Pamela: Promise me you won’t drive until you have a pacemaker. Take taxis for the next few days if transportation is needed. Schedule the pacemaker immediately. We know people who are ever so fine with their pacemakers and you will be too! These are famous people who have pacemakers: Elton John (since 1999), Senator Bob Dole, Phyllis Diller (since 2005 and she is 94), Roger Moore (Agent 007), and the actress Julie Bowen (“Modern Family,” who is in her 40s and runs 6 miles a day). I will come be with you.
Mom: Really, are they fine with their pacemakers? Oh, I will be so glad if you will be with me!!! He kept saying call your children and come in this coming Monday. Will you do that, as he wanted it to happen immediately?
From Mom, the next day: The office called now to tell me they scheduled it for Monday 11 a.m. and I’m to check in at 9 a.m. Apparently they switched things around because I had been told earlier that the morning was filled. They will not let me drive home and they may want to monitor it overnight or maybe not, it varies. You know, last night I was feeling nervous about sleeping with my heart by the way it takes the liberty of putting itself on the pause button and it occurred to me it might forget to un-pause, and revert to stop.
Three days later, my mother had her pacemaker surgery. The next day, we went out for a delicious celebration lunch — amazing! She will be able to return to her spinning class at the gym in three weeks and she is no longer having the rollercoaster sensation she was feeling when her heart paused. With a dose of reassurance, she realized that her serious life situation had a miraculous solution. I felt tremendously reassured by the excellent care she received from her doctor and caring nurses.