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Thread: pacemaker issue

  1. #1
    Very Active Member Sumorunner's Avatar
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    pacemaker issue

    This will sound odd to most of you, but it's a serious question. A friend on the Cardiac Athletes forum asked recently whether anyone with an ICD (pacemaker) has ever been jolted while swimming open water. ICDs are set to give you a shock if the pulse gets too slow or too squirrly. You know like, "CLEAR! ZAP!", except there's no one shouting "clear", just the unannounced zap. The jolt is like a punch in the chest and takes the wind out of you for a few seconds. He's a bit nervous about swimming in a lake with this thing. I have an artificial aortic valve, but not an ICD.

  2. #2
    Very Active Member flystorms's Avatar
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    Re: pacemaker issue

    Jack are you talking about shocks from the pacemaker or from some unknown electrical source? I've heard about ungrounded wires on a dock electrocuting people. I can't imagine the pool being any different from an open water swim. I dunno.
    "If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to meet it." - Jonathan Winters, actor and comedian

  3. #3
    Very Active Member Sumorunner's Avatar
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    Re: pacemaker issue

    No, not from external electrical wiring. The pacemaker itself has a built-in capacitor that will jolt the heart nerve bundle if it detects certain abnormal rhythms. It does feel like a horse kicked you in the chest though. Or so I've heard. I don't have one myself.

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    Re: pacemaker issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Sumorunner View Post
    This will sound odd to most of you, but it's a serious question. A friend on the Cardiac Athletes forum asked recently whether anyone with an ICD (pacemaker) has ever been jolted while swimming open water. ICDs are set to give you a shock if the pulse gets too slow or too squirrly. You know like, "CLEAR! ZAP!", except there's no one shouting "clear", just the unannounced zap. The jolt is like a punch in the chest and takes the wind out of you for a few seconds. He's a bit nervous about swimming in a lake with this thing. I have an artificial aortic valve, but not an ICD.

    He really needs to ask his cardiologist this question. It would be unwise for anyone else to provide an answer.

    Lyn

  5. #5
    Active Member Mark Usher's Avatar
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    Re: pacemaker issue

    An ICD, is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, a somewhat different animal from just a "pacemaker". It is designed to go off because it senses that the heart is out of rhythm. From what I am reading in your post, it sounds like it hasn't gone off while he is swimming, just that he is worried that it might.

    The only and best advice is to go back and talk to his cardiologist.

    I got a St Jude pacemaker this past April due to Bradycardia, or slow heart rate. Devices these days are "smart" and can be adjusted based on the individual patient's situation. I've had the auto rate response function fine-tuned on mine a couple of times, based on feedback I've given to the tech at my cardiologist's office.

    Mark


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    Re: pacemaker issue

    There are two questions here: 1. Does the AICD going off present an electrocution hazzard while swimming in any environment? 2. Is Open Water Swimming safe for the person with an AICD? I'm going to speak to #2. I also SCUBA dive. In the SCUBA world - the ultimate open water environment - people with fragile cardiac conditions are told not to dive. Drownings during cardiac events are one of the leading causes of SCUBA fatalities because the person loses the ability to control their actions. If something happens in a pool there are lifeguards nearby; if the person is alert they can also stop swimming and stand up; or they can even plan ahead and choose the lane by the wall for added safety. In Open Water, a person would probably drown if their AICD went off. I am not a cardiologist, but I do work as a hospital based PT with cardiac patients. I have witnessed an AICD going off and the person could barely walk - probably would have drowned in an open water environment. I'm a huge advocate for getting people exercising but Open Water just seems too dangerous.

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