By Guest Blogger Ann Kiefer
My heart stopped for 23 seconds. Then I received a pacemaker, and a second chance at the life I loved.
My name is Ann Kiefer. I’m 52 years old and I teach math. My husband and I love chasing our three teens to theater, dance, and athletic events. My family, teaching, and volunteering are my whys—my reasons for living.
Throughout my life I’ve experienced fainting spells caused by a minor heart condition. As the years passed, I learned to control my symptoms and lived a mostly symptom-free life—until recently. About two years ago the symptoms became more severe and I was diagnosed with neurocardiogenic syncope—fainting due to cardiac arrhythmia. I quickly lost much of my ability to truly experience my life. I was miserable. I quit driving for fear of fainting. Some days I wasn’t able to walk around the classroom or even stand up for fear of falling or fainting. I felt horribly guilty. I was tired and drained of energy. My students soon learned that if I sat on the floor they needed to get help. Then my heart stopped. My heart needed help. I needed help.
Days later, I received a pacemaker and my life started again.
I have regained my confidence. I am now thriving in the present and excited for the future. I can walk around the room, teach at the board, interact with students, and know that I’m not going to faint or need to sit down. I once again enjoy and appreciate my time with my family. I can garden and not worry about passing out alone.
I suffered for years trying various treatments and medications but nothing worked. When I was told I needed a pacemaker, I was nervous, scared and uneducated about options. Thankfully, my cardiologist guided me towards a pacemaker with closed loop stimulation (CLS). The CLS function enables physiologic rate adaptation and kicks in to increase my heart rate and offset symptoms caused by any acute mental stress. After connecting with communities of people suffering from arrhythmias, I found that many aren’t aware of the options that exists and how important it is to select a device with functionality like CLS. Other device features such as home monitoring to ensure your physician is notified of potential issues on a daily basis, and MRI compatibility that allows pacemaker patients to safely receive MRI scan, help ensure quality of life and care following the device implantation.
Patients, caregivers and family members need to be aware of the symptoms of arrhythmia and treatment options. If you are experiencing symptoms talk to your doctor. If you need a device, do the research, have a conversation with your physician, join a patient community like My Heart Club or the American Heart Association’s Support Network, and be confident that you are getting the best device for you. You deserve it. You deserve to start living again.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Tell us what your “why” is? Visit Share Your Story
Information and opinions expressed within our Guest Posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association|American Stroke Association; nor does the Association endorse any products or services represented in this blog. In addition, these blogs are not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. The American Heart Association|American Stroke Association recommends you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters.