This is my story on how I got back to fitness after having a Sudden Cardiac Arrest, you will find some tips and guidelines but remember we’re all different.
You will also come across many barriers as you come to terms with your new life.
After implantation of an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator), you can be usually discharged from the hospital the next day.
Depending on your situation this can be a relief, for some, it feels a little too quick.
Usual recovery time for this procedure is between 4 to 6 weeks, there are two different types of ICD.
The recovery time is generally the same for these but ‘cause of the placement you may counter different difficulties.
Subcutaneous ICD is less invasive than Transvenous ICD, the generator is usually bigger than a transvenous ICD.
Your cardiologist will decide what sort of ICD is suitable for your needs if you require pacing the transvenous will most likely be opted.
I think subcutaneous is becoming more popular due to the fact that it is less invasive and is believed the placement is better suited to patients needs.
A subcutaneous pocket for the generator is created on the left side of the chest next to the rib cage and the lead is implanted just under the skin above the breastbone.
The subcutaneous ICD electrode is placed under the skin and the system delivers therapy without the need for wires implanted in the heart.
The subcutaneous ICD leaves the heart and blood vessels untouched and intact.
Personally, I have a transvenous ICD so unable to comment on the recovery of the Subcutaneous.
A transvenous ICD device is typically implanted in the left shoulder area, near the collarbone, a pocket is made in the muscle. Using X-ray imaging, the leads are fed through a vein into the heart and across the heart valve.
Depending on your heart condition, one or two leads will be placed in the heart.
Once the leads are put in place, they are attached to the heart wall for optimal connectivity.
A couple of hours after having my ICD implanted I woke up in my room full of friends, I think I came around full of emotion that first thing I did was throw up.
I had been in the hospital for 3 weeks at this point, I felt bruised, beat up and now that I had ICD they were telling me that I’m going to be released the next day.
I had been ready weeks ago to go home but having my ICD implanted I was scared to go home, but also relieved to be going home.
The cardiac nurse felt that I wouldn’t benefit by going to cardiac rehabilitation, I think that was my mistake.
Yes, I was 26 at the time, but I didn’t know what I could do anymore, they said I could exercise but never gave me a true indication of what I could do.
So my first tip is to make sure you take up any rehabilitation offered to you, even if you’re really fit, I think cardiac rehabilitation is a good tool to help you adjust to your ICD.
So after being released from the hospital I only had to return 3-5 days later to get my stitches removed, I was then left to my own to adjust to my new life.
I had an early setback, whilst in hospital, I made friends with someone online and they said they wanted to look after me after I got released from the hospital.
So I did go and stay with this person for a few days, I had a sexual encounter with this person, afterwards, I collapsed/ passed out in their bathroom.
That was a week after being released from the hospital, maybe that was too much too soon.
I was back to work within 2 weeks from ICD implantation, I worked in retail management ‘cause I will still healing I wouldn’t do any lifting or reach overhead.
I was pretty much back to normal within 6 weeks and regained natural movement in my left arm.
I wanted to get back to exercise, I wanted to go running, but I was too scared, finally, I had my first pacing test 3 months after being released from the hospital.
I relayed my fears to the technician at the pacing clinic, they put it in my notes and through them, I got my fitness test at the hospital.
So they got me on a treadmill, wired me up and this helped me discover that I could get back to fitness.
In my mind I still didn’t know what level of fitness I could attain too, I still wanted to run.
Running had been my escape, if I was down I would run and I felt I could no longer do that anymore.
Joining a GYM was my next move, all gym will ask you to fill out a PARQ form (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire).
Working in gym myself now I appreciate the importance of a PARQ form and I feel it is best to be honest when filling one out.
I joined the Gym Group and they didn’t contact me to ask me any questions or to check that it was safe for me to exercise.
A good gym will ask you questions and some might want a doctor’s note or a cardiologist letter to say that you are good to participate in exercise.
Which can be a pain to obtain but if the gym showing an interest in your welfare and not just your money that is a good sign.
Also by filling out the PARQ form honestly if something was to happen whilst you were exercising the staff in the facility will be able to help or pass on your PARQ form to medical professionals.
Most gyms will offer you an induction with a Personal Trainer/ Fitness Instructor and hopefully, they will put you with someone that got cardiac experience or with the doctor referral qualification.
Do take an induction up it is good opportunity to relay your fears, but also they will be with you whilst you workout and they can be the reassurance you need to get you through your first workout.
Being aware of what I was capable of doing, I would jump on the cardiovascular machines and go hell for leather trying to get my heart rate as high as I could.
Probably not the best practice but it was my way in finding out how hard I could push myself.
There may be a fear of doing overhead exercises, it is safe to do overhead exercises.
Start with light weights to get used to the movement and with time and confidence increase your weights.
Over the years I have now pushed my body harder than ever but at the same time, I listen to my body.
If I have cold/ illness I take a break from my training, I let my body fully recover.
When you think have recovered from a cold it can still takes up to 5 days for your body to be fully recovered.
In 2010 I finally braved it to go out and run on my own again, it took me 2 years.
In 2012 I started work in a gym called Alive Fitness & Natural Health, I have completed my qualification as Fitness Instructor & Personal Training.
In 2014 I completed Spartan Race, I had to get my cardiologist to sign a consent form, I think if he knew what the Spartan Race entailed I would have given him a heart attack.
In 2015 I completed the Brighton Marathon and I completed it 20 minutes faster than my London time in 2007
I even set myself crazy challenges like how many press ups I can do in an hour, the most I have completed in an hour is 1033.
Things to remember:
There are so many different heart conditions out there, meaning you could also be on medication.
If your medication makes you dizzy or feels sick best not to workout directly after taking said medication.
We are all different and we shouldn’t put a timescale on recovery, there will be other obstacles.
The greatest obstacle is in our mind and the fear of what will happen when we receive a shock.
There is no answer to this, other than it’s not worth worrying about because it may never happen.
Look after your body:
You have a foreign object in your body, the muscles have to adapt to this object.
Your muscles have been pulled and stretched and this will affect other areas of your body.
I suffer from a really tight back and my left shoulder is always knotted, after doing a little research and talking to other people with ICD I learned they suffered too.
Even if you don’t exercise you may find that you have a tight back, there is a couple of ways to break these knots you will need a friend/ partner.
Get them to put apply pressure on the knot with their elbow and this will slowly breakdown the knot.
Another option is to purchase a handheld massage ball like the one below priced between £5-£10.
You will need your partner to roll over the knotted area but my god it feels good.
Please do not attempt this until you have fully recovered from your surgery, give your body at least 12 weeks.
I hope that you find this information useful, don’t forget there is support out there, we’re here to support each other.