January 20, 2022

Science over Superstition

By Glenn

Just over a year ago, I took a call from my cardiologist, Nikhil Joshi.  My general practitioner had referred me to this heart specialist because I had a couple of unexplained fainting spells.  I thought that I was healthy, but I still decided listened to my doctor.

This recommendation was his second referral.  In the previous year, Dr. Grant Craig suggested a sleep study.  I had told him about my wife’s observations.

Jackie told me that I had often snored and would pause breathing while sleeping.  In both instances she would nudge me to reduce my noise or to kick start my breathing.

The sleep study concluded that I had sleep apnea, and Dr. Craig prescribed a CPAP machine.  Everyone told me that this would be life changing.  I would wake up refreshed and ready to go.

It took some time to get used to the mask while I slept.  Once I finally understood the adjustments for the headgear harness, the machine was quieter, and I did sleep better.   I say better because I still woke up tired.

Only after treatment from my cardiologist did things really improve.  He discovered that my heart paused for about six seconds.  The pause was infrequent and irregular.

Dr. Joshi only found it using an experimental device.  He had put me through a traditional battery of stress tests.  Nothing.  He used a sonogram. Nothing.  He used a 24 hour heart monitor.  Nothing.

He then recommended a monitor implanted under the skin of my chest.  It would watch my heart 24 hours a day and 7 days per week. 

In January 2021, Dr. Joshi found that my heart paused about once per month for six seconds.  I really didn’t think this sounded bad.  He insisted it was dangerous.

He recommended a pacemaker and scheduled the surgery right away.  It only took a few minutes in the morning, and I was out by the afternoon.  Normally, a pacemaker patient would stay overnight, but Covid 19 filled the hospital. 

It has now been a year, and I can report that the surgery was a game changer.  I sleep uninterrupted for at least 8 hours per night.  I don’t need naps anymore.  I don’t fall asleep when riding in a car.

In other words, I really do start the day rested and ready to go.  I have a breathing machine to keep my airway open.  I have a pacemaker to keep my heart pumping.  Best of all, no more fainting spells.

As a historian I am very happy to live in an age of science instead of an age of superstition.  Science provides a reliable way to solve problems and improve our lives.  Doctors Craig and Joshi certainly improved my quality of life.

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