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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

They offered me a pacemaker but I bought a fifty-gallon fish tank instead.

Changing my lifestyle to help mend physical problems makes good sense to me, and I have used that life strategy whenever I have been able. So when I had a heart attack/stroke combo in 1995, I made a lot of changes. One of the changes I did not make was accepting the pacemaker that I was offered. Instead I worked to make my life as healthy, steady, and peaceable as possible.

Years later I realized that I had made the right choice when I met a man who had recently had a pacemaker installed. Is “installed” the correct word for wiring an electromechanical device into a human being? I met him when I answered his newspaper ad selling a fifty gallon aquarium, with all supplies included. What a deal, what a deal, what a deal! The whole setup cost me only a token $100.00! He told me that he had decided to give the aquarium to the first caller as a quasi-gift because since getting the pacemaker he could no longer maintain it. When I told him that I had been offered a pacemaker he let me see and felt his pacemaker which protruded under the skin on his chest. I am so grateful to him for this experience because now I know that I absolutely, never, ever want one of those in me. Horrible. Touchingly, he had an extraordinarily beautiful young wife to take care of him and make him happy. She weighed well over 350 pounds but was very well-proportioned, with creamy white skin, ebony hair, and cherry red lips. Her pretty little hands and bare feet were dimpled and without blemish. She was a plump look-alike for Disney's Snow White, and very shy.

Now even more years later, my silver koi and its companion goldfish grew up and became too large for the tank so I took them to sanctuary. I miss the silver koi as it would eat table scraps out of my hand and even bump the tank to call for more food. Its companion goldfish was an amusing stubby-tailed common goldfish that followed the silver koi faithfully like the caboose on a train. Watching those fish seemed like a healthy activity to me, it steadied my heart, and made my life peaceable.

Factoid: How do you declare a person with a permanent pacemaker dead?

“In death there is no contraction of the left ventricle of the heart in spite of continuing electronic stimulus to it, so no cardiac output, because of having no oxygen carrying blood circulating in the brain also not breathing: death. The pacemaker just gives off an electronic stimulus to the in this case unresponsive heart muscle, not followed by a heart beat.

In living people in the old times we could stop the pacemaker by applying a magnet over it, the impulses will stop coming and the heart will show its own rhythm, which in some can be none from the ventricles so a cardiac arrest. That’s why people having a pacemaker should avoid strong magnet fields. Present day modern pacemakers are a lot less sensitive to these not so strong external magnetic interference I thing.” (sic)

Source: Liang-Hai Sie, Retired general internist, former intensive care physician.

Caption: They offered me a pacemaker but I bought a fifty-gallon fish tank instead.

Annmarie Throckmorton

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