I live in Texas, and after 64 years of almost perfect health, experiencing a cardiac arrest was the last thing on my mind. I had started a new health routine 18 months prior that involved exercise and health supplements. Immediately I developed night sweats, something I had never experienced before.
One night, I woke at 2 a.m. with chest pain and numbness in my left arm. My wife and I walked around the house, hoping it would subside, but it didn't. I called 911 who immediately sent an ambulance to our home. I hung up, and immediately pitched face-first into the carpet, unconscious. Fortunately, the paramedics arrived just in time, applied the shock paddles to my chest, and I sat straight up! Although I had had a cardiac arrest, the cardiologist at the hospital found no blockage. Without having an obvious cause, he strongly advised putting in an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), and we did.
A few weeks later, I started feeling numbness in my upper left arm, and weakness in my triceps. Through internet research, I learned that sometimes the ICD puts pressure on the nerves in those areas. I asked the cardiologist who had implanted the ICD device about the numbness and weakness, and he dismissed my concerns.
I sought the opinion of another cardiologist. He was very thorough, and we discussed all my medications and supplements, and what I ate and drank the day of the heart attack. He concluded that the combination of supplements,dehydration, and caffeine had produced a "perfect cardiac storm". However, he felt that I should leave in the ICD until my first scheduled change out—in seven years.
It can be risky to remove an ICD, especially the lead, the wire that delivers energy to the heart muscle from an ICD. That's where Dr. Charles Henrikson at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute comes in. Through my research, I found a case study of a complex lead removal that he had performed. He was clearly skilled and experienced in lead removal.
I emailed him and asked if I was a candidate for removal. In his opinion, since the device had only been in for nine months, he believed it would come out easily. My new cardiologist in Texas also thought that Dr. Henrikson's approach was reasonable.
I flew to Portland for an exam with Dr. Henrikson. He agreed the cardiac arrest was likely caused by that "perfect storm," but we couldn't be 100 percent sure. If I wanted to proceed, he recommended an electrophysiology study to discover any genetic weaknesses in my heart. There weren't any, so he was confident he could safely remove the ICD and the lead.
A few months later, I flew back to Portland and had the ICD and lead removed by Dr. Henrikson. It can be a tricky surgery, as there is some risk of puncturing the heart or artery as the wire is extracted. However, Dr. Henrikson and the rest of the team did a great job and there were no problems.
Now, I'm doing everything I did before. I have no restrictions—except I have minimized my caffeine intake and eliminated one problem supplement. I play golf, do landscaping, exercise and stay fit. I am so thankful. Soli Deo Gloria!