y brother, Clint, was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy at the age of 36. The physicians soon recommended that Clint consent to the placement of an internal pacemaker/defibrillator. After much research, family and physician communication and prayers, he received his first defibrillator in December 2003. Due to complications, he underwent a second procedure exactly six months later to remove the initial defibrillator and implant a second defibrillator. All was going well and Clint received a full release from his physician six weeks later. Unfortunately, that scenario did not continue.
working alone in a remote area, Clint experienced a shock from
the defibrillator. Previously the device had been tested, but under
a controlled atmosphere with the supervision of physicians and
use of sedation. That was not the case on this particular day.
After the first shock, Clint initially felt he had been struck
by lightning, when the device fired the therapeutic jolt to his
heart, Clint remembered seeing a bright flash of light, severe
pain and being knocked to the ground. After a brief recovery period,
he was able to sit up and regain orientation. Seconds later, he
realized that the shock had come from the implanted defibrillator.
Within the next 80 minutes, Clint was shocked a total of 74 times. Located in this remote area, minimal cellular phone service was available; therefore, contacting anyone was extremely improbable. After an hour of lying in a field alone, Clint weighed his options, remaining where he was and dying or finding help. He was able to crawl more than 100 yards (mostly uphill) back to his vehicle, detach the trailer from his truck, and drive several miles back to the camp site where our family was waiting for him to return. All the while, he was feeling jolts of electricity through his heart. Eventually an area was reached where emergency response services could be contacted. Clint was stabilized, airlifted to CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth Hospital Emergency Department, and transferred to the care of his physician in Houston. All health care workers involved, including the field representative for the manufacturer of the pacemaker/defibrillator, stated they had never seen a person suffer 74 episodes of shock from an internal defibrillator.
The family and friends of my brother are very grateful for modern technology. Without the availability of the internal pacemaker/defibrillator Clint’s initial prognosis would have been grave. Without the use of cellular phones, he would have suffered more therapeutic shocks from the defibrillator. Most of all we are grateful for Clint’s strength to live and God’s will to show him his inner strength to find help. Without that miracle, I would be an only child.
Associate Health/Infection Control Director
CHRISTUS Jasper Memorial Hospital