a woman being shocked and cursing

PRETTY LADY CHRONICLES:  "OH $.H.!.T. " - Shocks. Hurt. Induce. Trauma

Have you ever had an uncontrolled verbal reaction?  Well, after experiencing some powerful shocks from my implantable defibrillator I would.

Setting the stage

Recently I have taken up some new advocacy efforts. One of them is utility protections for power-dependent electric customers with in-home medical devices such as oxygen concentrators, hemodialysis, home mechanical ventilators, and ventricular assist devices (VAD). Seeking to have my voice heard, and on record, I decided to attend a local City Commission meeting.

I did my research and was aware that my comments should only pertain to facts related to city business and jurisdiction. I prepared my statement days in advance and was prepared to deliver it with passion from the heart. However, I do not think anything could have prepared me for what was ahead.

The shock

Someone was joining me at the meeting, and we both arrived just minutes before it was scheduled to begin. Thankfully, I parked in the handicap space right in front of the door, grabbed my bag, and headed in. As we made our way to a bench row, I felt my heart begin to race. As soon as I sat down, they asked everyone to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance. I was hesitant but quickly toyed with the perception of others if I did not rise. I would slowly stand, as my heart began to pound faster and faster. I was silently telling my heart, "calm down calm down."  As the crowd began to recite, “I pledge allegiance to the..." it happened. My defibrillator would administer a strong shock as I yelled, I mean YELLED, "OH $H!T."

Everyone would pause and turn. It is funny, now, when I tell the story, but that was so embarrassing. All I could remember thinking is how am I going to tell my mother. I have never heard her say a curse word in my entire life. Why couldn’t I have said "Oh Lord," "Oh Jesus," "Oh God," anything, but "OH $H!T."

The trauma

Over the last year, I had two valves that went from moderately leaking to severe. Almost simultaneously I began having runs of afib. I would experience more shock events in one year than in the last thirteen years combined with my implantable defibrillator (ICD).

Each event would come with its own onset of trauma and PTSD. From nightmares where I am being shocked, to wake from others believing I was dying. The trauma, anxiety, depression, PTSD... ALL of it was real!  Those words, "OH $H!T,", would become their own acronym describing my suffering - Shocks. Hurt. Induce. Trauma.

I would go on to experience four more shocks during another event. Unfortunately, I yelled out "OH $H!T" then. Research would uncover that I was a prime patient to experience such trauma. A 2011 publication by ahajournal.org identified being under 50 years of age, female, and someone with greater than 5 defibrillations (or shocks) as risk markers for psychosocial distress in ICD patients. That year I experienced a total of eight defibrillator shocks I believe rounding me out at 20 in all. While evidence shows there is a “negative impact of 5 shocks on quality of life and emotional distress.” 1

I understand this all too well. My life has taken a direct hit as a result of this trauma. It affects my relationships, my career, and at times, my peace.

The calm

Although I do not need research to substantiate my experience, it is somewhat comforting to know it's recognized. I have not experienced a shock in over four months. I can only hope my reaction won’t be as dramatic.

I have new meds that are helping to manage my afib as my team considers the best approach to repair my three leaky valves. I have relied on my faith, prayer, and coping tools to help maintain my peace from the effects of my own shock-induced trauma. For now, my heart is calm which is something worth celebrating.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Heart-Failure.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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