Joyce's Story: Feeling Better With a Pacemaker
Joyce's first symptom of heart failure hit hard-and suddenly. "I woke up one morning and couldn't breathe," she says. "I was real shaky, and I couldn't lie down at all."
Joyce, 83, went to the hospital and was diagnosed with heart failure. Then 3 days later, a pacemaker was placed in her chest.
Her doctor explained that she had an irregular heartbeat and that a pacemaker could fix it. "My wiring was worn out, and they were going to rewire me," Joyce says, recalling how her doctor explained the procedure.
Joyce had local anesthesia to numb the area under her collarbone and some medicine to make her feel relaxed. She didn't have much pain during recovery. "No problem," she says. "I might have taken an (ibuprofen) one day."
Joyce noticed soon after the surgery that she had more energy.
"Oh, my word, yes. It made all the difference in the world," Joyce says. "I could work in my yard and walk my dog. I think I gradually had not been so strong and hadn't been aware of it until after I got the pacemaker. When you feel better, you realize how bad you felt before."
Before she got the pacemaker, Joyce could walk for about 10 minutes. After she got the pacemaker, she could walk for 30 to 40 minutes.
Things to think about with a pacemaker
There are a few things Joyce has to watch out for with her pacemaker. When she goes through airport security, she has a hand search, rather than walk through a metal detector or be checked with a wand. The electricity in those devices could affect her pacemaker. She carries a card from her doctor to show that she has a pacemaker and can't go through the usual search.
Any doctors Joyce sees need to know about the pacemaker. They may need to make sure that any electrical devices they use won't change how her pacemaker works.
And sometimes, the device-which lies just under the skin in her upper chest-can catch on her bra strap when she turns a certain way.
But those are minor concerns compared to how the pacemaker helps her, Joyce says. "The pacemaker works so well. I haven't had any heart problems."
Joyce's story reflects her experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Joyce, to protect her privacy.
For more information, see the topic Heart Failure.
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