Tag Archives: pacemaker


The ball rolled slowly over the goal-line, and a two-point deficit became a one-point lead.

Eighty thousand voices rose, some in despair, some in joy. Seconds later the referee blew the full-time whistle. Pigs had not flown, Hell had probably not frozen over, but the county of Wicklow, for the first time ever, had won the All-Ireland Gaelic Football Championship.

Sean’s heart leapt in delight, though he wasn’t sure it was meant to do that. He felt a bit bitter, though, as he watched the TV. He should have Been There, he’d had his ticket for weeks, but then this had come up and so it was his neighbour (who had whooped and embarrassingly kissed him on the forehead when he gave him the ticket) who was witnessing history.

Sean went to roll up the left sleeve of his pyjamas, his hand slipped off and he punched himself in the chest, right where his new pacemaker was. The astonishingly sharp pain assured him that he wasn’t meant to do that.

It had all started a few weeks ago, when he’d suddenly begun to black out for no apparent reason and in every possible embarrassing situation. He had slid off a bar-stool in his local. He had keeled over in Tesco, his runaway trolley noisily toppling a a Ferraro Rocher-like arrangement of bean tins. His head had bounced via the chest into the lap of a girl beside him on the bus.

Tests had revealed that his heart-rate kept dropping to zero. He had been placed in a hospital bed, a pacemaker had been placed in him, and Wicklow had marched to glory without him. He was only 39, he hadn’t Been There, and he was feeling very sorry for himself.

He hadn’t noticed that it was visiting time, and started (he wasn’t sure that he was meant to do that) when his wife and daughter appeared at the door of the ward.

His wife smiled, though with tears of relief in her eyes. “Hello, Tinman,” she said.

His daughter handed him a card made from a folded sheet of A4 paper. “Get Well Soon, Daddy”, it read. One of the two inner Ds was the wrong way round.

“Is your heart better now, Daddy?” she asked.

On TV the Wicklow captain had accepted the cup and was now thanking the manager, the fans, the squad and quite possibly the Unitarian Church Organ Restoration Committee. Sean didn’t care. As he looked into his daughter’s troubled little face his heart melted, and this time he knew it was meant to do that.

“Yes, darling,” he said softly. “It’s better than ever.”


It’s ten years ago today that I got my pacemaker, a small change to my body that has meant a huge change to my life, and this story is its birthday present.

The story itself is mostly fiction – my name is not Sean, I was 50 and not 39, Tingirl and her two brothers were much older than the girl in this tale.

Also, the All-Ireland Football Final takes place in September, not in January, and my home county of Wicklow are no closer to winning it than ever.

Six Today

Today marks another birthday in the Tinhouse.

There will be no cake, no candles and no presents. It’s not really that kind of birthday.

My pacemaker is six years old today.

It’s six years since they made me part android by inserting a small metal box into my chest, protecting forever me from the blackouts caused by my heart-rate dropping, and protecting forever me from the X-ray machine at airports (though this has condemned me to a lifetime of being patted down at airports instead).

It works happily away, 24/7, possibly singing “hi-ho, hi-ho” as it goes about its work. It probably does deserve a present, so perhaps I’ll stick my finger into a light-socket sometime today, just to give it a bit of a thrill.

It’s earned it. It’s keeping me alive.

Tried And Tested

There are disadvantages to having a pacemaker and a history of a dropping heartbeat.

I do realise that as “well, duh” sentences go it’s pretty hard to beat the one above. It’s right up there with “if you stand in the rain you will get wet”, “the Pope is a Catholic”, and, of course, “Homo locum frustra ponitur in oratione Latina capito proiecto sit amet” (A man who puts a sentence in Latin into a post for no reason is just a big-headed twit).

It’s just that when you have a pacemaker, like I have, sometimes you’re not allowed to just be sick.

Suppose you’re at work on a Monday morning and you start to feel this strange catching sensation in your breath. You go home early but the sensation wears off. On Tuesday morning it’s back, so you don’t go to work at all, and on Tuesday night you suddenly, for no obvious reason and for the first time in about fifteen years, throw up.

On Wednesday you feel fine, and you decide that it was some sort of bug, and that the sickness of the night before was its last hurrah (actually, a pretty accurate description of the sound you made). You have, however, already made an appointment to see your doctor at ten. You tell him your story, he listens with his stethoscope, puts that strange wooden stick on your tongue, gives you a lollipop and a note to take the following day off, and sends you home.

That’s because you’re you. Because I’m me, and because of my heart, he gives me an ECG, which he says looks perfect. He calls in his colleague, she studies the printout and agrees that it looks perfect. So they do what any doctors presented with evidence of good health would do in the circumstances.

They send me to the Emergency Department of St Vincent’s Hospital.

I went there by train. This is rather like James Bond finding out where the baddies have planted the thermonuclear device, and conveying this information to M by second-class mail.

I arrived and presented my letter, and the printout of my ECG. They took this and gave me an ECG. They agreed that this matched the first one, ran tests on my pacemaker, took blood samples and checked my heart and lungs. Then sent me home.

I know it’s great that these wonderful people are taking so much care, are so willing to err on the side of caution, and put so much effort into making sure one person is well.

It’s just I feel like such a drama queen.


On each of my pacemaker’s first four birthdays I have marked the day here on my blog, wishing it a Happy Birthday and thanking it for the work that it is selflessly doing on my behalf. A fifth birthday is different, a bit more special, so it only seems right that I do something different.

Which is what I did. I forgot its birthday altogether.

Pacemaker day is January 22nd, and went by uncelebrated. I thought about its imminent arrival in the days coming up to it, but not once on the day itself did the significance of the date sink in.

Since we are as close as it is possible to be, practically joined at the hip (though if that were true it would mean that the doctors had put it in wrongly) I imagine that this is the equivalent of forgetting one’s Wedding Anniversary.

The pacemaker is probably not speaking to me, and may maintain a frosty silence for the next few days.

Or not. As a general rule, hearing nothing from your pacemaker is a Good Thing, since that means that the heart that it is meant to kick-start should the heart decide it’s time for a quick nap is behaving itself. So perhaps the pacemaker will do the opposite, turning on at random times of its own accord, giving me the sudden inner jolt that I feel on the occasions (thankfully, very rare occasions) that it has to leap into action, like a metal Batman summoned by the Batsignal. This usually causes the muscles around it to go into spasm for up to an hour afterwards, and is a thoroughly unpleasant experience. It may, if it is feeling particularly offended, time these jolts for when I am deep asleep, or on a training course (I have one tomorrow, I’m sorry I have just given it that idea) or sitting, as I am now, on a crowded bus.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to my pacemaker. I hope it can forgive me for being late.

I wonder should I buy it flowers.

Outside The Kitchen At Parties

Tinson1 and his class were yesterday given details of the graduation ceremony that they will enjoy next year, an oddly optimistic move considering they have yet to face exams both this year and next.

Anyway, on the day he will turn up, looking like the Hogwarts’ Master of the Dark Arts in his mortar board and cloak, in the Great Hall of Trinity College. We will watch proudly as his name is read out in Latin (Tinsonnus Maximus) and he is presented with a piece of rolled-up parchment in a red ribbon, informing the world that he now has a degree in Physics and therefore officially has the ability to calculate the density of a black hole, invent warp drive and switch off the Large Hadron Collider if he‘s the last one leaving the lab in the evenings.

When the formalities (formalitae) are over there will be a reception in the class’s own Science Block where there will be refreshments (vino veritas) and music (pro bono), and it is here that I reach the point of today’s post. It seems that a sign at the entrance of this building informs All Ye Who Would Enter Here that since there are experiments going on all the time there are a number of strong magnetic fields emanating from the labs, and that anyone with a pacemaker should basically feckius off.

It looks as if I will have to settle for sitting outside, with the occasional cocktail sausage or pineapple-and-cheese-on-a-stick being passed out to me through a window.

Since I know little about Physics (ignoramus) I’m not sure what might happen if I went in anyway. Perhaps I would stick to the ceiling. Perhaps all of the walls would act as repelling magnets and I would be pinned by an invisible force to the very centre of the room, well away from the champagne. Perhaps (a long shot probably, though I have the same hope if I’m ever struck by lightning) I would develop superpowers.

Or perhaps I might simply explode.

Tinito ergo boom, in fact.

Different Lives

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “an alternate reality”. I haven’t come up with a story for this yet (though in an alternate reality I have, of course, already written it) but I promise that I will, though when it might appear may stretch the definition of “weekend” about as far as it will go.

Because today is today, though, I want to write about alternate realities anyway.

In an alternate reality somewhere my heart is fine. I would not have gone through 18 months where my heart-rate would drop suddenly to zero causing me to drop suddenly to the ground, invariably hitting my head or face against radiators, corners of walls or any other hard surface available on the way down (though falling forward to the ground and having my face land on something soft would probably have involved dog-shit in some way, so on balance I came out of it pretty well).

Alternate Me does not have no feeling on the right side of my forehead and scar tissue on the left side that will not tan, though since I live in Ireland this is rarely a problem (though Alternate Me probably lives in Bali and is the colour of caramel).

One theory about my derealisation (which incidentally is really bad at the moment)  is that it started as a defence mechanism to protect my mind from the fear that must have been going on inside it during this time, while on the surface I was quite calm and even joking about it. If that was true then Alternate Me does not suffer from it, though we will give him depression since that started before any of the blackout episodes (in an alternate alternate reality there is a Me who doesn’t even suffer from that but we’re going to ignore this Me, since there is no way that I can get to him to punch him in the face).

To sum up, Alternate Me is as fit as a fiddle (why “fiddle”, by the way? As fit as a chair, or a lampshade, or the left-rear door of a Nissan Micra would make just as much sense), tanned and fully mentally alert. He is a smug , jammy git.

But is he a blogger? Or is he too busy running in-and-out through the X-Ray machines at airports just because he can? Would he have been able to think up a suitable blogname? Does he have blogger friends all over the world?

Does he have a Tinman tattoo on his arm? I think not.

My pacemaker is four years old today, and I’m happy with the life that it has given me.

A Mug’s Game

Laughykate said it first. She turned to my post on Saturday and said “I read this post and all I saw was FORTY-THREE comments!!!” This now stands at 52 (one of which was simply replying to her) and is by far the most that I have ever received.

There are a couple of reasons for this, of course. One is that it was part of Six Word Saturday, in which an increasing number of people participate each week and we all comment on what each other has written, so I will always get more comments for these posts than for others.

Another is that I got up at 7am on Saturday, mostly because my friend Goldeneyes is on holiday in New York and I was anxious to see how the hurricane was affecting the city and her (she’s fine), but by posting at that time I got to be second on the 6WS list (what time do you get up at, Tilly?), so obviously more of the others read it than would have if I had done my post very last thing on Saturday night.

The third reason (“couple” is a word that can mean anything) is that, as you may have noticed, I am trying these days to reply to comments. The fact that I rarely did this before has always been a source of guilt to me, when people go to the trouble of saying something they deserve the recognition of a reply. The problem is that people rarely come on here and say “this post sucks monkey nuggets” ( a phrase from this Six Word Saturday post which I swore I would use sometime), everyone tends to be very kind and complimentary, and there are only so many ways in which you can reply “thank you, glad you liked it”.

Anyway, I am trying. This means that 26 of the 52 comments are mine, which does take some of the gloss off it. It’s like friending yourself on Facebook.

Fourthly (“couple” is a word ….) the real star of the post was the mug. I defy any blogger not to love it, and not to comment profusely about that love.

But it does make me wonder if this blog is going in the wrong direction. Perhaps there is a huge potential readership out there desperate for a blog devoted to tableware. I may test this over the coming weeks, whenever I can think of nothing to say. I can post pictures of my Yellow Submarine mug, my United Nations mug, my Betty Boop mug and my Monk mug (my family think I act like him sometimes). I can post pictures of the china tea-set that we were given for our wedding (assuming that I can find it, since of course it has never been used). I can post a picture of Tinson2’s Hogwarts mug, my “I Love My Daddy” mug and Mrs Tin’s “World’s Greatest Mum” mug.

I can then move onto our plates, our bowls and our saucers (of which we only have one or two, since we are a mug family and we don’t have a cat).

After that it will be on to cutlery, which will give me a chance to show once again this picture, from a post from nearly three years ago:

It’s what happens to a knife when you try to unblock an office shredder with it while the shredder is still running.

Considering my heart is run by a small metal box full of electrical impulses, it may not have been the brightest thing I ever did.

Same As Usual

Today I’d to go to the hospital so my pacemaker could get its half-yearly check-up.

As usual I stood up from my desk mid-morning and announced where I was going, and as usual the management said that’s fine, take your time, hope it all goes well. When you’ve a history of blacking out and toppling over spectacularly and messily in your office, and when a device has then been found to stop that happening then most companies will be pretty keen to let you go to whatever check-ups are necessary to ensure that the device keeps devicing.

As usual I turned up, was hooked up, and a pretty young woman played with my heart, turning the pacemaker up and down, raising and lowering my heartbeat to see what will happen. You don’t even have to take your top off, you lie on the bed fully clothed, shoes and all, and to be honest it’s hard not to feel a bit like Frankenstein’s monster.

A little machine chattered out a ribbon of paper with data on it (surely it’s called “ticker tape”, if it isn’t it should be) and she informed me that all was well, that once again it’s actually very rarely that it has to turn on.

As usual she noted that I have opted to have its thrice daily battery check turned off, as usual she asked was I sure, and as usual I said yes, it used to hurt each time it turned on and used to make all the muscles around it go into spasm for about an hour afterwards.

And that was that. The whole thing took less than eight minutes.

I used to hear about pacemakers, associating them always with overweight people in their mid-70s, and how they were a sign of heart problems, and about how they meant you couldn’t go through the X-ray machine at airports, and how they could explode at altitude (that’s ok, I’m only five foot five) and I used to imagine that life with one must be a real drag.

And now I can sit on the bus wearing mine, start four paragraphs with “as usual” and reflect on how routine it has all become for me.

It’s amazing how we all adjust to stuff.

Keeping Track

I’ve read about the controversy that has arisen because it’s claimed that Apple can track where you are via your iPhone.

I have to say that if it stops people yelling “I’m on the train” into their phones then I’m in favour of it.

But the reason I mention it here is because of something that happened today. I was at work when I suddenly felt a severe jolt for a second or two. Obviously something had gone briefly wrong with my heartbeat and my pacemaker had switched on to correct it. It took me quite by surprise since it’s a long time since it’s happened (the last time I got it checked I was told that it hadn’t had to turn on at all during the previous six months) and I was a bit shaken by the whole affair. It soon passed though, and I felt fine again.

I’d pretty well forgotten it by the time I got home, where I had received a letter. This letter:

It’s making an appointment for me to have my pacemaker checked.

Coincidence? It seems that anything Apple can do, St Vincent’s Hospital can do too.

D’Ya Wanna Be In My Gang

I read today that the Reverend Ian Paisley has been fitted with a pacemaker.

My overseas readers may not have heard of Big Ian, as he is known, though wherever you live in the world if you’ve ever sat with the window open you may well have heard him. He was a loud, fiery, hectoring preacher-cum-politician during Northern Ireland’s darkest days, before mellowing and joining with those who had been his bitterest enemies to help lead to peaceful government up there.

His new part-android status entitles him to membership of that most secret of societies, the CIA (Cardiologically Inept Association). He will be given our membership card, to carry with him at all times (it has this -> picture on it, of our founder). People think we carry them for medical reasons, but it’s actually a swipe card that gets us access into our exclusive pub, the Tainted Ticker, where we sit and make plans for the invention of longer-life batteries and the abolition of magnets.

He, like the rest of us, will be able to skip airport queues, being led through our own special door to be greeted with our equivalent of the secret handshake, the full-body pat-down. (I bet we’re exempt from the full body scanner too, it’s just as well, no-one wants to see me naked – I‘m not saying they shouldn’t , I’m just saying no-one does). He will learn the secret hand gesture by which we can all spot each other, in other words he will find, when talking to a pretty girl, that he will have raised one hand to his chest to cover where his pacemaker is, as if subconsciously afraid that’d she’ll be able to spot the bulge through his clothes (I’ll really have to think sentences like that through more carefully in my head before I write them down).

He will learn our secret anthem, Fergal Sharkey’s A Good Heart is Hard to Find (I hate that song and will now have it stuck in my head all day, I hope you all appreciate the sacrifices I go through to produce this stuff).

He will find membership exempts him from things he doesn’t want to do. I’ve been able to opt out of paintballing, golf and softball at various times just by saying “sorry, I have  a pacemaker”. No-one ever questions you, I could tell someone I’m not allowed play dominos because I’ve a pacemaker and they’d just apologise profusely for having asked.

There is one possible problem. I know that a couple of you found this blog because you have pacemakers yourselves and were searching the internet for information. Well, he’s bound to google for information as well, unless he just shouts his questions directly at God.

What if he ends up here?

As founder of the Free Presbyterian Church he’s unlikely to be impressed. He won’t like the bulge joke above. He won’t find the Jesus picture at all amusing. He’ll frown upon my recent version of the Tin Commandments.

If he goes back seventeen posts to the one where God meets Eve for the first time his pacemaker might explode.

So, Doctor Paisley, if you do come here you’re very welcome to join my happy band of readers (and you’ll fit right in), but I do hope you have a sense of humour.

Otherwise, it might not be good for your heart.