Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ten Things They Don’t Tell You About Your Shiny New ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) Before It’s Implanted In You

1} You’re typing this one-handed because your left arm is immobilized, either from sheer pain (at least two days) or in a sling, because raising it over your head means potential infection, dislodging the device or the lead(s), and/or having to go through this all over again after being confined to the hospital for the two weeks it takes for the infection to clear up. Yikes.

2} It hurts. Actually, probably a lot more than you expected. How such a small incision can hurt and knock out use of your left arm is puzzling, but there it is. However, it passes – my swelling went waaay down the first night I was home, and I felt vastly better when I woke up the next morning. I could even roll over at will – carefully ! - without twisting my entire body into a grimace of pain. I was offered a narcotic in the hospital, but didn’t need it then. I’d have gladly traded every doll I owned for half of one last night. 

3} Even when it doesn’t hurt, a motion you’d think has absolutely nothing to do with your left upper chest will suddenly hurt briefly. I learned pretty quickly that, like with a bad asthma attack series, being perfectly motionless = no pain. But no human ever is designed to go more than a minute without moving, so that’s not a feasible means of pain management. 

4} If you naturally sleep on your back, you’re ahead of the game. Us side sleepers will find it more of a challenge, and I can’t imagine how a chest sleeper will make it through the night. Three days after surgery, the site is still like a massively hyper-sensitive bruise. 

5} Being home is somewhat like being at the hospital sometimes. You get no rest at either. When I could finally lie down for a nap my first afternoon home, Beloved Hubby thoughtfully tried to keep my spirits up while having to tie up a loose end at work by texting me every few minutes. Dearest Son also announced that he was there to check on me at least once every ten. At least I slept *really* well that night ! 

6} While being prepped for the surgery, your team will use light restraints on you, just in case. Too many of us try to ‘help’ while we’re being worked on. 

7} You know the device will painfully ‘shock’ you to get your heart back in rhythm if it goes rogue, that’s its job. What you may not expect is that your surgery team will shock your butt on the table to make sure it’s working before they close you up. At least, mine did. I was halfway dozing throughout the surgery, when all of a sudden WHAM ! I let out a yelp and an antique obscenity before I was even fully awake yet. To their credit, no one laughed (it was funny, though), and I at least know about what to expect if/when this thingie decides to belt me one. 

8} There’s next to no information about recovering after the surgery. Sure, you can watch a dozen videos of what the device does and how it’s implanted, but about all you’re gonna find – even in an article titled ‘What to Expect After Your ICD Surgery’ – is that it varies from person to person, listen to your docs and do what he/she says. How uniquely helpful. 

9} Surgical tape itchhheeesssss….

10} At least once during the whole thing, you’ll get conflicting directions. On Wednesday morning I was told to leave the incision bandage on for a minimum of 48 hours. Then I could take it off, just keep the site clean and covered with gauze or at least a light cotton shirt. Thursday and Friday, I was told to leave the dressing on until my follow-up appointment next Thursday. Guess I’ll call Monday, see which one they want me to follow. 

Really though, common sense rules. Your body heals best while you sleep, so anytime you’re getting the signal to rest, do so if you can. In my opinion, recuperating is at least two weeks, probably a month afterwards, so take care of you like never before, and you’ll probably notice an immediate improvement. I’m in a much better mood, which is odd – maybe it’s the new, improved energy talking !

Bonus Secret #11} You probably won't be wearing a bra for a while... that strap will hit just where it'll hurt the most.  
Plus, can you put your bra on one-handed ? Luckily I practiced with a t-shirt Wednesday night, so that was easy enough. 


  1. Glad to hear your surgery went well. Hope recovery goes well also! Hang in there hun!

  2. Glad you came through with flying colors, even though you're sore and itchy!

  3. So happy to read that you made it through surgery and are back home recovering.