All of the sudden I did not feel so well. I didn't want to tell my mom because I didn't want to interrupt her while she was on the phone, so I tried to continue on with my wrapping. That didn't work. The world was going in and out of focus, and I was losing control . . . I tried to tell mom . . .
. . . and then I woke up. My step-dad Robert was holding me. He had sprinted into the room when he heard my mom screaming. Holding my rigid, blue-faced body, he shook me and called me by name until I started to revive.
As the nurse on the phone had dialed 911, some firemen came and then an ambulance because soon I was riding with my mom to the ER. I think my sister Morgan brought me my beloved bunny to take along the way. While in the ER, I proudly told my mom and step-dad that I knew what time it was even though all the hospital clocks were in military time. I watched them take blood. Then the doctor came in with the information from the halter monitor I had been wearing at the time of the episode.
I had passed out a few times (erratically) before in the past month or so, and because of this I was wearing a halter monitor for 24 hours. Only 24 hours! In that 24 hours, I managed to pass out and have a seizure. The halter monitor recorded the entire episode. Because of this, my doctors were able to determine that my heart had stopped for sixteen seconds.
Although they did not determine the exact reasons for my episodes (even though they did gazillions of neurological tests) I had a pacemaker implanted to keep my heart steadily beating in case I passed out again.
Both halter monitors and pacemakers are some of the great innovations that we have had in health technology over the past century or so. Of course, there are also other machines like electrocardiograms, electroencephalograms, CATs and MRIs (yes, I have had all of those .. .) that helped me as well, but I would like to focus on pacemakers because I had one implanted in my body.
A pacemaker is a device that monitors heart rhythms, correcting them when necessary by sending electrical impulses to the heart.
In the 1930's a man named Albert S. Hyman invented the first artificial pacemaker. It delivered ventricular stimuli, and revived fourteen out of the forty-two animals he tested it on.
For more information about Hyman's pacemaker, and to see more pictures, click here.
John Hopps, John Callaghan and Wilfred G. Bigelow developed the first electronic pacemaker in 1950, but it had some problems. In 1952, Paul M. Zoll created the first successful cardiac pacemaker, which was external and stimulated the heart through leads placed on the bare chest. Click here to read more about Zoll and his work. Earl Bakken and C. Walton Lillehei created a battery powered pacemaker in 1958. (Zoll's had to be plugged into a wall)
The electrodes also started to be implanted into the chest around this time period. However, the first totally internal pacemaker was invented in 1960 by William Greatback. Surgeon William Chardack implants it into patients who survive varying amounts of time. We still use internal pacemakers today!
Usually, pacemaker today have two leads that go into the cardiac muscle and are connected to a device as in the picture shown below:
|It is so amazing to me that a pacemaker could go from a hand-cranked machine to a tiny implant that is hardly noticeable! |
They used to implant pacemakers in people's backs but now they implant them in their chests. Mine used to be in my right upper chest because I am left-handed. :)
I will always be grateful for the halter monitor I was wearing at the time of my episode - with out it, no one would have known that my heart had stopped. It truly was miraculous!
Health Technologies of the 20th Century
Museum of Electricity and Magnetism - Pacemaker