A haiku or two: cardiac devices

A rounded silver object with clear plastic section at the top. On the silver part it reads, "Pacesetter Systems, AFP. S/N 100107, Coats Pacesetter Ltd, United Kingdom."
Dual chamber pacemaker, Wellcome Collection

The time has come! As promised, I’m back again, asking you to share your experiences of heart disease through the fun (if slightly random) format of haiku!

Quick reminder… A haiku has 17 syllables in all: 5 in the first line, 7 in the second, 5 in the third. For our purposes, that’s really all you need to know – just don’t tell the haiku police I said so!

This month’s theme is CARDIAC DEVICES – pacemaker, ICD, CRT, LVAD, loop recorder, mechanical valve…basically anything non-organic that’s inserted into the body to monitor or assist a person’s heart function. I’m sorry that this prompt is a bit less universal than the previous months’ themes. Inevitably there will be a theme from time to time that doesn’t apply or appeal to everyone, but I’ll do my best to include wider themes in between.

An X-ray image of a human chest with a pacemaker in situ, with a wire leading to the heart.
Pacemaker, atrial anti-tachycardia, Wellcome Collection

Do you have a cardiac device? What is it and what does it do? What’s your relationship with your device? Have you given it a name? Does your device cause any unusual side effects or sensations? Who do you think owns your device? Is there anything about your device that makes you anxious, or does it make you feel safe? Is there anything it stops you from doing? Or maybe it allows you to do things you couldn’t previously? Do you like to keep your device to yourself or are you a loud and proud self-proclaimed cyborg? Anything you’ve ever thought about having a cardiac device, I want to hear it.

Beside a 1p piece to show the tiny scale, a human heart with grey cardiac device (attached by 3 wires) made of polymer clay.
A tiny heart and CRT-D device, made by me using my daughter’s oven-bake clay.

The device I have is called a CRT-D, as shown (in miniature) in the picture above. A CRT-D is a device that combines a three-lead pacemaker that makes the ventricles beat together (cardiac resynchronisation therapy – CRT) and an internal cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) that monitors the heart and administers a shock if it detects a dangerously abnormal heartbeat.

I had my CRT-D fitted when my daughter was 18 months old and described it to her as “a magic machine that makes my heart go boom-boom instead of wibble-wobble,” which is actually a fairly accurate description of what it does! Over seven years on, we still refer to it as my magic machine in our house.

It took a long time, emotionally and physically, for me to get used to having my device. These days I love it – it’s the only treatment that’s ever improved my heart function and I do feel reassured by the defibrillator’s presence. Other than the test shock that’s delivered when the device is fitted, I’ve never been shocked by my ICD. Maybe I’d feel more anxious about its presence if I had.

The only real negative about my device is that it sometimes stimulates my diaphragm and gives me an annoying twitch in my abdomen. Well, that and the anxiety of going through airports, etc. But overall I feel really grateful to have it.

I tell you all this just to give you a bit of context for the device-inspired haiku I’ve written and shared below. Hopefully my haiku will get your creative juices flowing…and reassure you that what I’m seeking is conversation, not necessarily a masterpiece!

A reading from an intracardiac electrogram, printed on paper, showing pacing and the delivery of a shock.
Intracardiac electrogram, Wellcome Collection

Uncertain heartbeats:

I am, I am, I am…not?

Device takes over.


Pacemaker kicks me

in the diaphragm again.

Mortality? Jerk!


Breath lost through kick to

diaphragm from pacemaker –

life-giving device.

On a table sit two clear containers with labels reading, "Starr-Edwards heart valve prosthesis, Edwards Laboratories." The valves sit on the table - four-legged, open-sided domes of metal covered in mesh-like fabric. Inside each dome sits a close-fitting metal ball/ballbearing.
Starr-Edwards artificial cardiac valves, Wellcome Collection

Batteries batter

My wonky heart – a kindness?

Keeping me alive.


Lightning bolt deployed.

Trembling heart responds in kind

while batteries last.

A silver-coloured disc with three tubes coming out of it.
‘Heartmate’ left ventricular-assist device, Wellcome Collection

Although in my heart

I do expect to be shocked,

Your power shocks still.


Defibrillator –

Seven years and still no shock.

I feel unworthy.


Avoiding scanners

“Pacemaker?! But you’re so young!”

Yes, that’s why it sucks.

A white box with handle, covered in dials, lights and switches, labelled as (for example) pulse rate, pulse duration, output volts, replace battery, etc.  Company name: Coats Pacesetter Limited.
Pacemaker, temporary external, Wellcome Collection

My “magic machine”

Makes my heart go boom-boom and

Not wibble-wobble.


You are one of us

If airport security

Pat you down each time.

Video description: my hands turning the pages of last month’s zine about exercise – small pages of text with simple black-and-white images.

OK, so now it’s your turn… Please (please!) share a haiku (or two) with me and with other blog readers in the comments below. Towards the end of the month, I’ll use the comments on this post to put together another mini zine – please submit by August 21st if you want to be included in the zine. Just like last month’s (see video above) the zine will be FREE to download and print at home. If your haiku is selected, I’ll share it and your contributor name (and, if you include the information, the type of device you have) exactly as they appear in your comment. If you would prefer that your haiku was not featured in the downloadable zine, just let me know in your comment.

I’m so looking forward to hearing your thoughts about cardiac devices. Look out for the release of the downloadable zine at the end of August, and a new haiku topic in early September. Happy haikuing! 🙂

[P.S. How great are these vintage objects and pictures from Wellcome Collection’s online image database? I would thoroughly recommend exploring the collection here.]

21 comments

  1. This got me quite emotional, having been paced since infancy & depending on lifelong pioneering treatment. I enjoyed writing these and having the opportunity to explore this creatively, thank you Laura.

    PACEMAKER – Liza Morton

    Every beat, paced
    From just eleven days old
    No choice

    Stay very still
    The nurses and doctors need to fix you
    How much longer?

    Just a little girl
    Just another trip to theatre
    Survival uncertain

    My body, silenced
    Needles, scalpels, tubes, stitches, scars
    It hurts

    Please don’t forget
    Your medical experiment, your job
    Is my life

    I don’t feel well
    You should be feeling fine now
    But I don’t

    Sit and watch
    The other kids running, skipping and playing
    And read a book

    Abnormal, inside
    my body, living as normal
    a life as possible

    Always knowing life, as a gift
    A fragile web, glistening in the rain
    As beautiful as transient

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I think it reads better with the extra words/syllables but I’ve put them in brackets if you want to retain the purity of your format.

    It occurs to me
    My pacemaker destiny
    (Came down) my family tree

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry about the delay in publishing your comment – had missed it somehow. I love the image of the hopeful balloon 🙂 Has it helped you? I hope so.

      Like

    • Brilliant, Ali, thanks! This makes me imagine your device having a fun little life of its own while you’re sleeping… which could be a good or a bad thing? Depends what it gets up to, I suppose! And “pat it down” puts me in mind of the obligatory patting down at airport security 🙂

      Like

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