I never thought I would see my cardiologist be surprised and enthusiastic. But that is exactly what happened when I had my (almost) two-year check-up this week, two years after my heart failure in October 2018.
Two years ago, I was pale, weak, afraid and trying to stay alive.
I was mentally drained and could feel the dark clutches of depression grabbing my neck and shoulders. It was dragging me into the darkness, fueling my doubts that I would live beyond the next 2-5 years. Fear was taking over and I was losing the will to carry on.
My heart’s ejection fraction was below 10%. I was experiencing aFib and both my cardiologists were confident that I would require a pacemaker. Not just any pacemaker, but a biventricular pacemaker combined with ICD, aka implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.
The pacemaker’s main purpose is to keep the heart beating and can adjust to irregularities. Leads go into different chambers of the heart. If any problems are detected, painless signals are sent through the leads to fix the problem. The pacemaker can also speed the heart if it is beating too slowly.
The ICD will shock my heartbeat back to a normal rhythm if it is dangerously fast, and can prevent sudden death. Not a device I want inside my chest, near my heart.
Pretty scary forecast for a young man in his mid-forties. Not something that anybody can prepare you for and the outcome of these conversations triggered anxiety issues. I’m certain I developed a mild version of PTSD.
The cardiologists gave me a very low percentage of ever recovering, and a high percentage chance that I would need to get pacemaker + ICD installed.
For the past two years, I have done everything I possibly could to change my life. It was an attempt to change the course of my grim future, to enjoy more time with my family. I was too young to pass over the rainbow bridge, and I’m confident would not have been too pleased to see me this soon.
Long story short. I listed to my dietician and changed my diet completely. I reduced portions, said goodbye to many delicious foods, and embarked on a journey to live longer. If I could also strengthen my heart at the same time that would be a huge bonus.
During every visit to my cardiologists, there were small improvements, but not enough to make them change their diagnosis.
Most of my journey has been published on this site, so you can read the various chapters to better understand how I’ve changed and how my heart started to heal.
Along the way, I found God, or should I say he found me?
Together we made further adjustments, and that seems to have boosted my progress – in the right direction.
Last week, I had a two-year check-up
It always starts with a cardio diagram, to take pictures of my heart, calculate the ejection fraction, record sounds, and measure how well the heart is performing.
Every time I lie there, on the cold hospital bed, my mind wanders back to my first visit. Fear starts coming back, worried that I’ve had a setback, and will get sent to the local cardio ICU again.
I silently pray and divert my mind to more positive thoughts. It’s only a 10-15 minutes process, but it feels like an eternity and I can feel the devil breathing down my neck.
Afterwards, I walk down to my cardiologist’s office, and wait patiently for him to arrive.
The devil continues to play games with my mind, but I wife him away with positive memories of my lovely wife and kids. You have to manage your fears and the darkness does not like rays that come from these wonderful moments.
Suddenly the door opens, and there he stands. He claps his hands and I can sense a smile behind his medical mask, as he reaches out a fist to greet me. I had not seen (or heard) him this cheerful ever!
Then he burst out:
“Your heart has fully recovered. It is as if the heart failure never happened!”
He did not use the word miracle, but it was evident that he was surprised, amazed, pleased, and overly delighted that one of his patients had made a full recovery. It rarely happens in his field. At least that is what he said two years ago.
I had no one to hug or cheer with. I just sat there trying to absorb what he had just said. Inside my heart was leaping and my mind was screaming of joy, but I kept it cool.
I wanted to kiss ‘n hug my wife but had to head to work. She was at home making sure the kids started their virtual school classes. It was so surreal.
I called her from the car and shared the good news. I could hear she was emotional and relieved. Part of me wanted to skip work that day, but I left a little earlier instead.
Dad! We will not meet again for many years. I miss you, but it is not time yet!