Feb. 1, 2013 (Go Red for Women Day)
So here’s the thing. I have an ICD – internal cardioversion defibrillator. It also acts as a pacemaker for my heart 99 percent of the time. The defibrillator part is what would deliver a large shock to my heart should my rhythm go into a dangerous pattern. Although it’s for a condition I was born with, I’ve only had an ICD for six years – just having my second put in four months before this trip began. (Side note – I have an amazing doctor at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, Eric Good, who happens to be an MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine grad).
While I can’t ever really forget that I have it, I try to go about my life in as normal a way possible. It was an adjustment getting used to it, but I don’t let it slow me down and I never want to be treated any differently because of it.
A few people questioned if I should embark on this crazy world trip because of it. They wondered if it was safe for me. They wondered what would happen if I got a shock in some foreign land. They wondered if I could handle it. With absolute clearance from my doc, there was no way I was missing out.
Like I said, I really try not to think about it. But there’s one place I’m reminded every time – airport security. Because of the high-powered magnets used in scanners I can’t go through them. So each time I have to alert security and they walk me around the scanners and I get patted down. Most people are very nice about it. It hasn’t been an issue on this trip, just a minor annoyance.
Except once. Looking back on it now, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Whether it was lack of sleep, the fact that no one was speaking English, that I was separated from my colleagues, that they wouldn’t let me have my documents, that the whole procedure was different from any other place I’d been, or just that it was a blatant reminder that I’m not the same as everyone and have a heart condition – it affected me.
It all turned out fine and luckily with Jim and Kurt I have two of the most wonderful colleagues and friends anyone could have on a trip like this. They were there to support me completely and prop me up when I needed it most.
I soldiered on and hit the ground running at the next location. We really don’t have time to stop and think most of the time. There’s no time to dwell on a bad experience and absolutely no time to feel sorry for ones self. And, after witnessing the challenges people face every day in the locations we’ve been, I don’t think I ever will again. I have a heart condition…so what? I should be thankful every night for the access to care and technology that I have when some people wonder if they or their children will make it through the next day.
If I’m being completely honest, there was a short second when I too wondered if I could do this trip. I had a moment of worry. I thought about being different. But I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t going to let fear stop me from experiencing all the world has to offer. That I wasn’t going to let fear stop me from living. My doctor once said, “I put the ICD in you so you could live – so go live.” (Like I said, he’s a Spartan through and through).