I’ve been pretty quiet about my heart device lately, mostly focusing on GNOME events and other GNOME-centric activities. The whole time, though, my device has been working away quietly in my chest monitoring my heart. Until this weekend, when I was out of town and my heart went into what the device interpreted as a dangerous rhythm, and it gave me two defibrillator shocks over the course of two days. I went to the ER in New Hampshire, and after a long saga of getting the multitude of doctors up to speed, was admitted to the cardiac unit. I don’t know how many doctors worked on my case, exactly, but I can name 13! It was very interesting talking to the various doctors about my heart condition and learning how many of the cardiologists (and even electrophysiologists) hadn’t even thought about the security of the devices at all. Only one of them knew that the devices had been hacked, and he only knew the device manufacturer’s take on it. While I was more worried about getting my heart into a safer mode of operation, it was a good opportunity to do a little advocacy and learn more about the way doctors think about these issues.
It turned out that the shocks were inappropriate, though they weren’t exactly bugs either. My device isn’t set up to deal with the problems that my heart was having, but it interpreted the data it was receiving as a dangerous rhythm and delivered the shocks, even though they couldn’t have helped the situation. I have to admit it was pretty scary, and at 30 weeks pregnant, the hospital went into high gear to make sure that the baby was also ok (luckily, the baby *is* totally fine).
The really troubling thing about this situation is that I don’t really know what exactly brought this on and whether it will happen again. My heart device has been reprogrammed so that it’s less likely to fire in this situation again, and I’m on a higher dosage of drugs to prevent the more dangerous parts of the heartbeat. I’m hoping I can find out more information soon from the specialist doctors I normally work with, and in the meantime I’m just extremely tired while I adjust to the higher dosages.
I took yesterday off from work to recover from the hospital stay, travel and lack of sleep and have been catching up as best I can today. Hopefully I’ll get a better idea of what’s going on this week or soon after. I’m still planning on going to GUADEC, unless the doctors give me a red light – keep your fingers crossed!