8 years ago I wrote about my husband’s congenital heart defect.

To recap: he was born with a literally broken heart, underwent multiple surgeries as a kid, and at 18 years old got an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) installed to keep his heart monitored and in check. It’s a small device sitting under the skin on his chest, with two electrodes going into his heart.

The ICD, like all other electric machines, needs to be replaced every once in a while. The last time I blogged about it he had had his first “battery change” – and now he’s had his second! And it went very well. 😊

Since they only change the actual ICD (and not the electrodes) it’s a fast and relatively simple procedure. All they have to do is open the skin about 5 cm, take out the old machine, and insert the new one. The actual surgery only takes 30-40 min and only requires local anaesthesia.

Last time I accompanied him to the hospital and stayed with him the whole time, but now we have a pandemic going so… you know. I dropped him off early in the morning and picked him up just before lunch. He was a bit groggy as they, in addition to the anaesthesia, also gave him “some real good stuff” to help him relax. 😁

Photo of Markus laying on the operation table at the hospital. He's giving at thumbs up.
Markus on the operation table. The anaesthesia nurse was kind enough to snap some photos before they started.

Cardiovascular Internet

His ICD is not the very latest model, but it’s still a wonder of modern technology. His heart even has Internet access!

We have a device (it looks a bit like a radio) sitting on his nightstand, and every night it transfers data from his machine to the hospital. So his doctor gets daily reports of what his heart has been doing.
They actually call Markus to let him know when/if the ICD register something unusual and to ask him what he was doing at the time. It’s nice to know the doctors are actually paying attention. And I guess they also want his information for their research. Every now and then Markus is asked to participate in some study or other.

We had a (harmless, it turned out) situation a few years ago when the machine on the nightstand lost connection to the hospital.

We were laying in bed, getting ready to sleep, when we heard a little beeping sound. A short beep-beep-beep that came with a few seconds interval. Sounded like the kind of warning you’d get from any common electrical device. After looking puzzledly around the bedroom we realised the sound came from Markus. Not from his phone, from him.

It beeped like that for less than a minute, but it’s pretty damn scary when the machine that is hooked up to your heart starts making weird noises. Then he got hold of the hospital who was just like “oh, yeah, we lost connection for a few seconds. But it’s all fine now, you can go back to sleep.”

Jesus. We didn’t even know the ICD could make sounds. 😅 But it’s funny in retrospect.

The latest version of ICD apparently comes with an app. So you can see your heart data in real-time. Which sounds nothing but anxiety-inducing. If I had something like that I would sit and stare at it all day long, waiting for something to happen. I can only imagine the level of hypochondria I’d develop…
The electrodes going into Markus’s heart are too old to get the latest version though, so he’s stuck with an older model and the “radio” on the nightstand. Since changing the electrodes is a much bigger operation I assume they won’t do that until it’s absolutely necessary.

Photo of an ICD device still in it's plastic packaging.
The ICD itself.
X-ray of a chest with an ICD in it.
X-ray of Markus’s chest. The white lines are the electrodes.

Last time I blogged about this I wrote that I had a hard time thinking of him as “sick” because he doesn’t seem sick at all. That still stands, for the most part. He lives a normal life and isn’t restricted in any significant way. But I’m better at acknowledging his “illness” these days. Maybe a side-effect of growing up and getting older? As I watch myself and everyone around me age, I’m becoming more aware and accepting that bodies, even those of people you love, have limitations.

I wonder if, in the future, we’ll reach a point where it will be easier to give him a new bionic heart than keep changing ICDs. Or grow him a heart from his own stem cells. In the meantime, I’m amazed at what technology we currently have. It’s incredible that we have these kinds of devices. And, as always, thank the gods for our almost-free universal health care making them readily available to everyone!

I’m grateful for all of it. And Markus’s wound is already almost completely healed and his device is set to tick on for another 8(ish) years! ❤