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Along Came Pacie

Feb 28

Posted by: ACHA
2/28/2013 8:43 AM  RssIcon

By Gwendolyn Russell

On March 30, 2012, I got a pacemaker. I named her Pacie. The first few weeks after surgery, I didn't understand what was happening to me. I vaguely understood the need for a pacemaker, and I struggled with the concept for a few months.

Before my pacemaker implant, I felt like I was living in a fog and it seemed that reality was feigning. I spent most of my days walking around in what appeared to be a dreamlike state.

I had more pain than anticipated during my recuperation, and after the pain subsided my emotions where heightened. I experienced the “old state of shock”—once again it was surreal.

Next were the stages of grief. Anger and depression were new to me, as this is not generally how I cope. I always see the potential in life. My anger shook my faith—these feelings were so unfamiliar. They were not even apparent during my open heart surgery and recovery.

I specifically recall the aftermath of my open heart treatment. All I wanted was to get on with my life! I recall the time my doctor tried to explain to me my diagnosis of heart disease—I flipped out and argued that I “only” had a hole in my heart and that it was fixed, exclaiming “I don’t have heart disease.”

The next four years were tumultuous—bouts of arrhythmia, trips to the emergency room, and shortness of breath were a way of life. When my EP diagnosed me with sick sinus syndrome and offered a pacemaker, it blindsided me.

Now Pacie and I are good friends—she has given me my life back. Her birthday is next month and I will celebrate! No shortness of breath, I can go to work daily, take long walks, clean my house and even play with my dog. What a wonderful life!

Gwendolyn Russell works full-time as a social worker. She was diagnosed with atrial septal defect (ASD) as an adult in 2008, having lived her entire life struggling with undiagnosed ASD and atrial fibrillation/flutter. Gwen has had open heart surgery to repair her ASD. Most recently, Gwen has been diagnosed with sick sinus syndrome and now proudly wears an implanted pacemaker, which she coins "Pacie."

Copyright ©2013 ACHA

Location: Blogs Parent Separator ACHA Blog

7 comment(s) so far...


Re: Along Came Pacie

Gwendolyn, thank you somuch for sharing your story! I went through that when I got my Bentley! It was scary, terrifying, not really sure why, everything. Thank you for sharing your experience. I know that when you first get one, there are so many thoughts, but seeing as I am where I am, me and Bentley have a long life ahead of us together! You rock sister!

By Elizabeth on   2/28/2013 3:21 PM

Re: Along Came Pacie

Good luck to you with your new companion. I also had ASD and VSD but had surgery as a young child, adding the pacemaker 9 yrs ago after complete heart block. I too am a social worker and value my independence and strength, so those first few weeks were rough emotionally, I felt vulnerable, and the settings were off for a bit, so I didnt' fully trust it. anyway, I too value the advances in the field that give us the ability to live full lives with ACHD.

sending heart smiles your way,

By Lin on   2/28/2013 3:53 PM

Re: Along Came Pacie

I follow ACHA because I'm mom to a13 year old with CHD. I'm always looking for insight to what her future holds. I love that you named your pacemaker. My daughter has had one since she was 16 months old following her 3rd open heart. She just had her 5th battery replaced & new lead wires this past August. I'm going to ask if she wants to name this new one. She keeps all of her old batteries in her jewelry drawer.

By Terra on   3/1/2013 10:25 AM

Re: Along Came Pacie

You go, girl! Congratulations!
I, too, had to overcome A-Fib (actually, I still have it.)
I already had a pacer/defibrillator, but was very sick for a while with A-Fib, until I finally got Jimmy and The Bird.
Who are they? The Bird (aka The Albatross) is the 5-pound carry bag I use for the support for my lvad (heart pump) which I received nearly 2-1/2 years ago.
I still have A-Fib, but I don't notice it, because the pump does most of the work for the heart.
You're a winner! Heart smiles to you, too.

By connie on   3/1/2013 10:25 AM

Re: Along Came Pacie

How awesome you named her Pacie! My late husband had a very complex CHD and he named his pacemaker as well. His theory was if it's going to be there inside you, working 24/7, why not name it? :)

Keep on pacing and best wishes to you. Great story.

By Lorrie on   3/1/2013 10:25 AM

Re: Along Came Pacie

Dear Gwendolyn,

I too was born with an ASD and had it diagnosed and repaired at age 40! By profession, I'm a body worker. To be exact, a massage therapist/craniosacral therapist, I feel our life-long situations with the 'heart' have made us intuitive, open minded and compassionate people. Thank you for your post. I see a pace maker in my future. (deep breath)

One other bit of news, trying to take care of the arrhythmia’s prior to them getting more severe as I aged, I had cardiac ablation two years ago and that did not work out too well. It seems my 'little heart' had made so many electrical connections in the 40 years that I lived with a 5mm ASD that the surgeon could not 'map' my electrical system enough to make a difference in my rhythm section.


Cynthia Schell

By Cynthia Schell on   3/5/2013 10:31 AM

Re: Along Came Pacie

Dear Gwendolyn -
Your story made me smile - I hope you continue to feel renewed strength and empowerment each day with every victory you achieve. You keep going girl!

By Robin Smallcomb on   3/8/2013 8:40 AM

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