Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Own PTSD


I have a cousin.  This cousin has served over seas in the military.  Sacrificed his time and talents for our country.  Risked his life on a daily basis.  Been targeted and shot multiple times.  He’s been witness to horrific scenes and unfortunately, is now a victim of what’s called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  And it’s only due to my own personal experience that I had the wonderful bonding opportunity to sit with him and share what we both describe as ‘the scarriest days of our lives’.

My cousin was stationed right behind enemy lines.  He told me gruesome stories of his friends being blown to pieces or decapitated right before his eyes.  He told me of the times he’d been shot, and the searing pain he felt once the adrenaline had worn off.  He also explained how PTSD had taken hold of his life for months following his return home.  How he couldn’t sleep at night because the nightmares were too intense.  Or how he couldn’t watch war movies because the sound of shooting guns and firearms would throw him into a panic.  It’s been years since he went overseas and I believe he’s doing much better.  After all, time is the ultimate healer.  But I will never forget the time we sat down to talk. I knew he could understand the panic and anxiety I felt on a daily basis after my incident in July of 2010.  He offered me hope, telling me it would get better. And that eventually, things that created crippling fear inside my mind would soon have little to no effect on me.

I don’t know why, but last night as I was about to post a completely different topic on my blog, I felt like I needed to write this story.  Maybe it’s for my own benefit, maybe not.  Maybe someone else needs to hear it.  I don’t know. Nevertheless, for the first time I’m writing in detail what took place in January of 2010, and putting it out there for all to see.  I believe I mentioned this incident in a post a LONG time ago, but never could I write the details.  Doing so forced me to relive it, and that was something I was NOT going to do, until now.

Most people know I have what’s called an ICD.  An Intro-Cardio Defibrillator.  It acts as a pacemaker and if need be, a life-saving defibrillator.  It was placed under my left shoulder when I was in 8th grade.  It acts as a ‘guardian angel’.  It watches my heart’s every move.  And as a heart disease patient, I was at the point where having one was very necessary.  With my disease, the risks are ‘sudden death’ and/or heart failure.  And yes, sudden death sounds dramatic, believe me I know. Frankly, I never use the term.  But I’m corrected by my doctors every time I just say “pass out”.  In fact, when I went out to the Mayo Clinic in August to get surgery I was in a consultation with a cardiologist when she asked me, “Now, how many times have you experienced sudden death?” and I said, “Do you mean how many times have I passed out?” and she said, “No, we use the term sudden death.  Because you die suddenly.  Understand? Now, how many times.” So, needless to say I guess I was put in my place.  And whether I agree with it or not, that’s the correct term, and that’s why I have an ICD.  When I ‘die suddenly’ the ICD does exactly what an external defibrillator would do.  It shocks my heart back into a normal rhythm, keeping me alive.  

This picture is an x-ray of an ICD.  It's not my x-ray, I copied it off the internet, but it gives you an idea. The wires sticking out of the ICD travel down and screw into the heart.