Living with an implantable defibrillator

You can reassure your parents that feeling anxious about a shock from an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is both understandable and fairly common. An ICD continuously monitors the heart’s rhythm and rate, checking for abnormalities. If it senses a minor glitch, the device emits a low-energy electrical correction that might go unnoticed. But correcting a potentially life-threatening rhythm problem requires a significant jolt.

Some patients have told me it feels as though they’ve been kicked in the chest by a horse. It may help to know that many people with ICDs never receive a shock. In fact, recent improvements allow doctors to program the devices to have a longer period of “watching” to allow the errant rhythm to terminate on its own before delivering a shock.

I’d suggest that your father ask his primary care doctor for a referral to a therapist, as there are specific treatments — such as relaxation therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and support groups — that may help ease his anxiety.

If a shock does occur, he should call his physician right away, or 911 if he cannot reach the office, experiences more than one shock, or has other symptoms such as chest pain. Sometimes people lose consciousness after a shock, but that’s uncommon. After a shock, most experts recommend that the person avoid driving for six months, although if there was no loss of consciousness, this restriction may be reduced to three months or possibly less.

People with ICDs need to be monitored for the rest of their lives, usually about every three to six months. But newer wireless technology now allows some of these evaluations to be done from home. A special wand that communicates wirelessly with the device sends information from the ICD to a computer.

Your father should always wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a wallet identification card to let others know about his ICD in the event of an accident. Finally, the American Heart Association has information about other devices that may (and those that probably will not) interfere with ICDs and pacemakers; see /pacemaker.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23 NIV

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 NIV

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7 NIV

So that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. Romans 15:32 NIV

Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111 NIV

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6 NIV

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 NIV

For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. Psalm 149:4 NIV

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17 NIV

The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him. Proverbs 23:24 NIV
I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. Psalm 119:14 NIV

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5 NIV

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