Living with a Pacemaker – Guest Blog

Working Together
Those of you with a good attention for detail noticed that I myself do not have a pacemaker! Now whilst I am happy writing about the technology and the geeky side of pacemakers, I am unable to offer any insight into life with a pacemaker. I do recognise that there is a psychological aspect of having a pacemaker/ICD and for that reason I am delighted to introduce this guest article from Dr Liza Morton.

Born this way


I know a little about living with a pacemaker. Well actually, what I don’t know is what it is like to live without a pacemaker because I have been dependent on one since I was a few days old. I was born with complete heart block which means that the signal from the top of my heart does not reach the bottom “a simple fault for which we currently only have a rather a crude solution” as one cardiologist recently told me….

By the time I was a few days old I was in heart failure. When an external pacemaker seemed to restore life a team of pioneers at my childhood hospital decided, in a world first, to implant a pacemaker. I was 11 days old. In those days complications were common because pacemakers and leads were much bigger and less reliable. They were also set at a fixed rate limiting me physically. By the age of 7 I had been fitted with five, each by thorocotomy (pretty invasive surgery where the pacemaker is placed directly onto the heart through the ribcage). From the age of 12 I have had a further five variable-rate, therefore physiologically more responsive, pacemakers. Surgery to fit these systems has been far less invasive. As a child, I spent quite a lot of time in hospital with a team of electrophysiologists, being taught by a Physics professor from the university, how to adjust the settings on my pacemaker. I remember lots of feeling dizzy, cold gel, electrodes and being asked to lie very still. 

So, I owe my life to this little piece of machinery, sewn inside my body, propelling my heart to beat, not to mention all the wonderful healthcare professionals that have contributed to my care. Over the years, these systems have got smaller, more physiologically responsive and reliable. Although, it does frustrate me that the battery life does not seem to be getting any longer.

Although living with a pacemaker has compelled me to navigate any limitations and live life to the full it has not been without its challenges. At times, I have kind of felt that the psychological and emotional impact of this unusual set of life circumstances wasn’t really understood or acknowledged. This is one of the main reasons I went on to study Psychology and subsequently explore and write articles on the psychological impact of living with a heart condition from birth. This includes a series for The Somerville Foundation, the UK’s leading charity for young people and adults living with a congenital heart condition, which can be found here: 

If you are interested in reading any of my other articles let me know. I have a couple ‘in press’ at the moment which I can keep you posted about. 

Liza

Guest Blogger: 

Dr Liza Morton, has a PhD by research and works as a Clinical Associate of Applied Psychology whilst training in Counselling Psychology. In her spare time she works voluntarily as Scottish Campaign Manager for The Somerville Foundation. 

A complete explanation of these topics and more is available in the book Pacemakers Made Easy by Carl Robinson.

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