Enmore woman is walking miracle after pacemaker implant
By Iana Seales
Stabroek News
August 3, 2004

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The sleepless nights and sudden blackouts are over for Ziboon Nesha Mohammed who recently became the first patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital to have a heart pacemaker inserted.

The medical breakthrough in local cardiology, about 40 years after the first ever implant, has opened a door for other patients in need of such surgery.

The pacemaker is a battery-operated electronic device which is inserted under the skin to help the heart beat regularly. When the normal heartbeat of 50-110 beats per minute slows down, the pacemaker with a battery life of about 7-10 years sends electrical impulses from the top of the heart (the atria) towards the bottom(the ventricles). When the electrical signals reach the chambers, the heart contracts and then relaxes.

Mohammed's case was particularly urgent given that she was frequently fainting and short of breath. She recalls that her problem had begun one morning when she felt dizzy and fell dislocating her shoulder. The shoulder later healed but her health never improved. A visit to the doctor revealed 'heart block' requiring urgent surgery.

But at US$15,000 to US$18,000 it was far from her mind. Still she prayed and asked the members of her church to pray as well. Several days later she was told that the Georgetown Hospital would do the surgery free of cost.

American cardiologist, Dr Minlee Plipin performed the surgery and told Stabroek News that there was some divine intervention in the operating room that day because the surgery was done without fluoroscopy. That meant she was forced to insert the pacemaker without actual imaging.

Tallying the number of attempts she made in fitting the pacemaker at eleven, the doctor suggested God had been guiding her hands. Fittingly Plipin was part of a visiting team of medical specialists from the Church of Christ in the US.

Plipin said Mohammed's heart rate was alarmingly slow. In such cases patients soon end up dead. In Mohammed's case, she had a condition called `heart block', that is diagnosed when the heart beats at around 40 beats per minute.

The pacemaker has two parts, a pulse generator and the leads. The pulse generator contains the circuitry and battery that generates the electrical signal while the leads are the wires that carry the electrical signal to the heart.

An electrode is located at the end of the lead. Plipin said that through this, the pacemaker's monitor senses the heart's electrical activity and sends out electrical impulses (paces) only when needed.

Mohammed was given a local anaesthetic to freeze the area where the pacemaker was inserted. This relaxed her and she was conscious during the surgery. Plipin said a small incision was made on the left side of her chest just under the collarbone.

For about 10 to 14 days after surgery, Mohammed was not allowed to do any heavy lifting.

Stabroek News visited Mohammed at her Enmore home five days after the surgery and found her in high spirits. The once inactive woman was moving around and proud to announce that she has not fainted since the surgery nor felt any kind of chest pain.

Now Mohammed feels like a new woman and `Sister Frida', as she is known, is now being called the village miracle.