My friend Rick has an ICD. He’s had it about seven years. It’s a small device, maybe an inch and a half square, implanted under the skin of his upper left chest. It uses electrical pulses, or shocks, to help control his heart rhythms.

An ICD is a lot like a pacemaker, and in fact can function as one if needed, but it carries a lot more kick to it in case of emergencies. It’s like having a built-in defibrillator, but without the paddles.

Rick’s ICD has saved his life several times. When the electrical impulses in his heart aren’t communicating well, his device winds up and gives him a good hard jolt to restore the natural rhythms. Afterwards, he immediately feels much better and goes on about his business. It’s kind of scary when it goes off, but you just have to consider that it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to do, and be very grateful for the technology.

Tomorrow Rick has his old ICD replaced with a new model. This one has two wires, or leads, instead of just one. The lines will be attached to the top and bottom of his heart, helping the two parts work together even more efficiently.

He’s looking forward to having this new device swapped out for the old one. As for me, I’ll just be happy as hell to get this five-hour surgery over with. Guess I’ll have a chance to walk that darn sky bridge between the VA and OHSU a few more times while I wait.

Please send good thoughts!