During the first week, after I wrestled with the monitor to find a comfortable position in bed, I settled into sleep. My heart, booming loudly in my ears, jarred me awake. I pressed the record button and the monitor gave off a high-pitched sound and began taping. As instructed, I lay still. When the whining stopped, I stumbled out of the bedroom to call the toll-free phone number.
The nurse talked me though the process of sending the recording across the phone lines. I hung up, relieved that she didn’t tell me to go directly to the hospital, as happened with my friend, Norm, after his first submittal. He was sent to the emergency room immediately. A pacemaker was implanted in his chest the next day.
I reassured my husband, who woke up during the taping and trailed after me, concern covering his face. We ambled back to bed—him to sleep and me to await any further malfunctioning of my heart.
Three weeks later, I mailed the monitor, wire, attachments and unused batteries back to the company. I wouldn’t miss the nightly struggle to sleep with a rigid box digging into my ribs. Or fear of the monitor beeping at inappropriate times during the day. Or most of all, the constant state of surveillance for any twitch in my chest.
The only two episodes I had during the month were not atrial fibrillation but sinus tachycardia: a regular, rapid heart rate that’s not life-threatening. Wearing the monitor for a month seemed too much of an inconvenience for such a paltry yield.
No doubt there will be other assaults to my aging body, mildly annoying or life threatening. The trick is to know the difference: whether to stay back and seek medical care or take a chance and get on the bus.