Today, the long nightmare that started on 6.28.08 came to an end.
Because of a miracle of modern western medicine, a tiny little device the size of two silver dollars pressed together; I was able to overcome a rare heart arrhythmia and will now be able to resume my active life.
Today we tested the pacemaker in a lab at Cadence, as I was finally strong enough to ride at more than a recovery pace. For the first time I felt what it was like to be paced for a duration of over 15 minutes.
Having the pacemaker create the contraction in my ventricle is not the same pathway as if my intrinsic conduction system caused the heartbeat. It actually hurts a little when I am paced for an extended period. There are a lot of electrical impulses going through those leads in my veins and into my heart muscles.
My LT did drop 30 watts since December. But who the hell cares? I can actually train now. In another month I will be back on the mountain bike and I can't even imagine how sweet it will be to bound up the rock steps in the Wissahickon without going into heart block.
I am truly incredulous. And grateful.
This whole story, which I will be writing about as the next several weeks unfold, has been a long, confusing, frustrating, and disjointed journey. I am truly grateful to everyone in my life who helped me during this process; and who supported my decision to be able to continue my cycling lifestyle by getting an implantable medical device.
Especially Mark, who has been an incredible caregiver (I can see why he is "Best of Philly"), Benjamin Zola, M.D, who understood the complexities of the endurance athlete's heart (being one himself)
David Callans, M.D, the pacemaker guru who implanted my device;
my parents, who feared I was making a poor decision and who loved me enough to tell me so; my sister Sabrina, who really is the best little sister one could ever be stuck with;
Grant Calder, who connected me with Dr. Zola,
James Wilson, M.D., Ph.D., who I ride with on Tuesday nights and who connected me with Dr. Callans;
my coach Mike Kuhn,
my brother Colin; and many more who helped me along the way**
Thank you from the bottom of my bionic heart.
** some others
Donald Yih, MD
Steven Rothman, MD
Charles Leng, MD
many many cycling friends
and last but not least, Max Calder, who was there at the very beginning, when we were both totally in the dark