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Emails to my Therapist

Heartbeat Emergencies–Three of Them!

Air ambulance arriving as we are leaving just before dawn

Dear Nicholas, My husband Bob has had three ER trips in the last three months. One lasted into the fourth day and resulted in a pacemaker. The most recent–and dramatic–gave me a bad scare. This one included an ambulance, lights flashing, at our door. The reason: heartbeat emergencies.

Turns out the problem is an AV block: the electricity between heart chambers gets slowed or interrupted, temporarily causing loss of balance, extreme muscle weakness, light-headedness, skin the color of dough, chills and massive sweating. I’d thought that the pacemaker would prevent this happening again. It didn’t.

A Happy Aorta, But…

Only a few weeks ago, we were told that his aorta–which broke open in a horrendous crisis seven years ago–is now fine. Doesn’t need further watching. But there’s apparently more to a heart than an aorta.

On this third and most scary trip, he was treated in a hallway way back in the Duke Hospital ER.  Eight patients were lined up on gurneys in a hall that looked to be about a quarter mile. At first I thought he was waiting in line, but this was a treatment area and it worked better than our being isolated in a cubicle. Doctors and nurses were plentiful and I could stop them in passing, to ask a question, to get him another blanket, etc.


In ordinary circumstances I’d be hesitant about asking for a lot of attention, for “more than my share.” In this alarming situation, I became quietly, politely demanding, seizing passing medics, insistent that he get anything and everything that would help. I could see that in their eyes I was the-wife-who-must-be-dealt-with, especially when we were told that he was being released and I wanted him to stay in this hive of doctors until his problem was solved.

Finally I agreed to go home. It was 6 a.m., about 11 hours after after we arrived. The monitoring machinery showed that his heartbeat had stabilized. We could come back if it hit a glitch again. Now he has out-patient appointments with docs to try to get a solution to this problem. Perhaps medication? Google has not given me any easy answers to this.


Back to Normal? What Is Normal?

Now Bob has his strength and balance and steady heartbeat back. I count on that. Nothing is more important to me.

I have an idea there will be more heartbeat emergencies. These recent three were not the first. We can deal with these, he and I, as long as his steady heartbeat quickly returns and we can come back home. But a cure would sure as shooting be welcome.



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  • Anonymous
    April 24, 2024 at 2:59 pm Reply

    I love “hive of doctors!” I’m very empathetic since Gus has 5 stents (even I have one). I’m convinced Duke provides the best care there is. Your love and Tlc provides a great healing combo.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 24, 2024 at 3:08 pm Reply

      Thank you! I too am so grateful to the folks at Duke Hospital. One very good surgeon saved Bob’s life when the odds against survival were extremely high. That guy remains a household god.

  • Randee Bieler
    April 24, 2024 at 3:36 pm Reply

    Peggy, Thank You, for these reports from the far war fronts of aging. The way you are so totally there, I wonder if I could do that if I was sleep deprived and scared to death. Thank you for this inspiring glimps, I love this blog and you.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 24, 2024 at 4:31 pm Reply

      You could do it, Randee. And I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. Let’s talk soon. Love, Peggy

  • alcooke
    April 24, 2024 at 4:22 pm Reply

    None of us wants the ambulance ride either as patient or as spouse. But we are glad when it gets us the attention we need! here’s hoping the need is far off…

    • Peggy Payne
      April 24, 2024 at 4:36 pm Reply

      Sounds as if you know something about ambulance rides, Al. And yes I am so grateful for the help we got. Four EMTs arrived in minutes, an ambulance and a car with flashers behind it. On our two-rut gravel road that had never seen such traffic. I was relieved to see them and shocked by the sight. Deeply unsettling to see the gurney at the door.

  • Lee Grohse
    April 24, 2024 at 7:21 pm Reply

    So sorry, Peggy. This sounds very upsetting and I know you are scared. Keep on demanding everything you need for yourself and him. I know you’re doing a great job and I know that Bob is making the best of this because I know that’s what he does. We are very lucky to be living in a place with such good medical care. I will be doing whatever it is that we who care do to send our best wishes and intentions for getting this fixed soon so that you can both go back to living your wonderful life together with less worry. Sending my love to you and you pass it on to Bob

    • Peggy Payne
      April 24, 2024 at 11:02 pm Reply

      Bob and I thank you, Lee. He sends you his love and says “she is very kind.” You are indeed kind. I appreciate all the love and good wishes.

    • Bob
      April 28, 2024 at 7:57 pm Reply

      Lee, You Are very kind, as ever. Thanks, ol’ bob

  • Kenju
    April 24, 2024 at 9:20 pm Reply

    Considering that I had been through something similar (twice) , I can say with some surety that I know just how you felt. Thank Heaven for EMTs and Hospitals, docs and nurses. I am relieved for you both, that Bob got to come home. Make sure he follows his doctors advice, especially with medication. I know it often takes them a while to find the right mix of heart meds, but be patient and good luck for no more episodes!

    • Peggy Payne
      April 24, 2024 at 11:00 pm Reply

      I’m glad to know that it’s possible to get a mix of heart meds that works. That’s reassuring. And I too thank Heaven for the good medical care. Thanks for your good wishes.

      • Gail Waters
        April 25, 2024 at 12:24 am Reply

        My best wishes to Bob and you. Holding it together in the ER is tough. I hope these episodes subside. Have been thru similar situation with my husband where he would pass out ( once when driving), but thankfully they finally figured out that his heart was stopping and now has pacemaker. Blessings
        Gail Waters

        • Peggy Payne
          April 25, 2024 at 12:58 am Reply

          We both thank you, Bob reporting that you are “a good lady.” Very scary that your husband passed out while driving! We’ve been lucky so far that Bob hasn’t lost consciousness. Blessings to you.

        • Catherine Simmons
          April 25, 2024 at 2:01 pm Reply

          Peggy. I feel your frustration. Jerry has been in ER twice in this month, one my EMS, one by me. The first occurrence resulted in diagnosis of pneumonia in one of his lungs, respiratory infection in upper chest, to migraine headaches, constantly for 3 days. The headaches were the reason for the first trip. After his follow-up visit to PCD, this heart rate was at 141. The doctor said he could not send him home, his heart was racing so fast. He asked if I felt like I could drive him to ER, right across the street. With an emotional “yes”, he asked if I was sure. Told him yes, he was my husband. After the same isolated stay behind curtains in an ER cubicle, he has sent to room last Thursday. After attacking the pneumonia and respiratory infection and stabilizing his heart, he had an ablation on his heart on Friday. It was explained as a round race tract of electricity and the heart was racing so fast. The ablation interrupted the race. He came home on Saturday afternoon, very tired and out of sorts. Jerry is such an avid outdoor person, it was very hard for him to take it easy. On Monday afternoon, he made his way outside. Very slow and very cautious. He is still not 100%, but he takes his time and is back to trying the field trial/retrievers. He hired someone to do kennels and take care of ducks so that helps him, tremendously. He has to take breaks and a 20 nap after lunch. Praying we won’t have a third visit as y’all have had to experience. I will pray for a speedy recovery for your husband and you. As a wife, the occurrence are hard on you, physically and emotionally. I know. You are at the right hospital! If we were nearer, that would be my choice. Duke took care of me in the best of ways. Prayers going up!

          • Peggy Payne
            April 25, 2024 at 5:48 pm Reply

            Catherine, I am so sorry you and Jerry have gone through so much. A three-day migraine is awful to even think about. And I do recognize the tired-and-of-sorts way of getting back home. I’m glad Jerry is taking it easy and getting back to his regular life. I hope you’re recovering as well. Thanks for your company in this.

  • Anonymous
    April 24, 2024 at 9:27 pm Reply

    All’s that ends well, bob

    • Peggy Payne
      April 24, 2024 at 10:58 pm Reply


  • Reagan
    April 24, 2024 at 10:25 pm Reply

    You’re not alone! Thinking of you!

    • Peggy Payne
      April 24, 2024 at 10:57 pm Reply

      Thank you, Reagan!!

  • Mary Ann Olsen
    April 25, 2024 at 1:05 am Reply

    Sending a load of empathy. I, too, watched my Ray head off in a blaring ambulance last week and wen I arrived in “Cardio Cath,” I was that same wife! Back home with three stints and recovering his strength. Docs and ICU attendants amazing. We’re grateful.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 25, 2024 at 5:53 pm Reply

      Mary Ann, I’m glad your Ray is back home and recovering. And so many people have mentioned their gratitude for all the medical staff who helped in their own family emergencies. We too are very grateful to them. It’s reassuring that these folks are doing such a good job. Wishing for good health for all your folks.

  • George Wingate
    April 27, 2024 at 1:34 am Reply

    Our love to both of you.
    I’m sorry that each of you has had to experience medical emergencies like these in separate and equally profound ways.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 27, 2024 at 2:01 pm Reply

      Thank you, George. We send our love back to you two. And I think Bob has the much harder job.

    • Bob
      April 28, 2024 at 8:06 pm Reply

      Thanks Much G, Different job, and hard /? impossible to compare apples and oranges.
      Love to you both

  • Dorrie Casey
    April 28, 2024 at 7:32 pm Reply

    My goodness, Peggy. How resilient you are, to get through this and then to have the energy and courage to write about it. Sending you and Bob love and well-being

    • Peggy Payne
      April 28, 2024 at 8:39 pm Reply

      Thank you, Dorrie, ( spellcheck just changed your name to Worried) Writing about it helps me tremendously. Have already started thinking about what to wear to your party. I’m looking forward to seeing you.

    • Bob
      April 28, 2024 at 9:07 pm Reply

      Thanks Dorrie, bob

  • Dorrie Casey
    April 30, 2024 at 1:39 pm Reply

    NOT worried!!!!!!!
    Working on my outfit, too!

    • Peggy Payne
      April 30, 2024 at 1:51 pm Reply

      I thought it was funny that Spellcheck came up with such an inappropriate name for you!

  • thinking of you both
    May 9, 2024 at 10:29 pm Reply

    sending solace, strength and energy to aid a fluid watering of the garden in love and life you share with each other. may it last forever and a day. love you both, please send bob my love

  • May 28, 2024 at 4:12 pm Reply

    I missed the drama a few weeks ago. Delighted to learn Bob is rounding back into his normal state!
    Best to you both.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 28, 2024 at 5:47 pm Reply

      We thank you, Rick. Bob says hi to y’all.

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