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In September 2006, I was at my job as a corrections officer at the local jail. About halfway through my shift, I felt like I had a chest cold coming on: coughing and hacking, and my lungs felt like there was fluid in them. I went to the nurse’s station and asked for some cold medicine. The nurse, a friend of mine, asked if she could check me out first. After a few minutes, she said she didn’t think it was a cold and suggested I go to the hospital. In my mind, that meant I had pneumonia or something similar. So I told my sergeants that, upon advice of the nursing staff, I was off to the hospital.
Now, there was a hospital just 5 min away from work, but I lived 45 min away. I decided to drive to a hospital closer to my home. I wasn’t in any pain or hurting; I just had a bad cough. I walked into the emergency department and told the person at the desk what the work nurse said. They ran test after test after test, and the next thing I knew I was in the intensive care unit. I spent a week there with no real answers and many more tests. Then they told me they were going to send me to another hospital for, you guessed it, more tests. So into an ambulance and down the road I went…to the hospital that was just 5 min from work!
After a week in the second hospital and more tests, they told me that I had had 2 silent heart attacks, and I was warming up for a third one! The next thing I knew, we were doing a cardiac catheterization, and I was put on a boatload of new medications—with all new side effects.
Time went by; work retired me (can’t have someone with a bad heart locked up with inmates). It took forever to get Social Security. All the while, doctors were telling me to reduce my stress level. Impossible, as I’d been without a paycheck for more than a year, and the bills were piling up. I was falling into that “well, that medication is not working, try this one” merry-go-round that most heart failure patients go through. I would get a little better and then take a turn for the worse. I was in and out of the hospital time and time again, enduring medication changes with different side effects.
One day in 2009, I was in the bathroom and the next thing I knew EMTs were rolling me over asking me if I was okay. Thank goodness my stepdaughter was living with us during that time and heard me hit the floor. This time in the hospital, we were talking about a pacemaker/defibrillator unit being put in. It was a never-ending spiral: more medications, more side effects.
Over the next few years, I would feel better off and on, but the medications were taking their toll on me. I started to think that I would never feel “well” again. The defibrillator would shock me every now and then. I began to think of it as a warning device; that is, to watch myself and ease up on things and stop overdoing it.
By 2013, doctors were talking to me about open heart surgery. They were going to fix this, going to fix that; a triple bypass with a valve repair was the bottom line. So, in I went and ended up having a 6-way bypass, with guess what? A bunch of new medications, each with new side effects!
The next 2 years went on in pretty much the same way. One day during a visit to my cardiologist, I overheard someone saying something about a new “device.” I had 2 questions: one, is it going to hurt putting it in? The answer was no. It was explained that it was a same-day catheterization and, barring any problems, I would be home that night. Question two: will it help me feel better? It was explained that they should be able to “see” me getting sick before I felt it and that they could change my medications via a telephone call with me. And yes, it should make me feel better. So, I went for it.
It was 2 years ago—St. Patrick’s Day in 2015—that I received the CardioMEMS HF System. My heart failure team has tweaked my medications a few times over the telephone but not a lot. Overall, I can go about my life again. Before CardioMEMS, I had given in to that “you’re sick and you’ll never be well again” train of thought. I was just this side of a full-blown couch potato waiting for my time to end. But my doctor, with the help of the CardioMEMS HF System, changed all that. My wife and I live on a small hobby farm, and we love the lifestyle. I have to watch what I do, and I have overdone myself a few times but nothing that warranted a hospital stay.
This device, the CardioMEMS HF System, or “Chip” as I call it, has given me the quality of life that I thought I’d never have again. For that, I thank the people involved with this wonder of science. I owe them my life.
Please note: Mr. Covert has reported that he has no relationships relevant to the contents of this paper to disclose.
- 2018 American College of Cardiology Foundation