Neil Clarke

The Award-Winning Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and More

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Defibrillator Saga, Part Two

A few days after my return from the hospital, my defibrillator once again started beeping. As instructed, I called the Pacemaker/Defibrillator clinic at the hospital and uploaded the data from my device.

They called back fairly quickly and told me to come directly to their office, so I did. They sat me down and activated the wireless connection to my defibrillator and started monitoring the situation. I’ve had this done many times before, but this time multiple people were coming in and discussing what was going on. After a while, the person from Medtronic let me know that the device was now regularly reporting erratic voltages on one of the coils, the same one that has spiked once the prior week. This was an indication that things were getting worse with that coil.

After much discussion, they decided to disable that coil. The device is capable of being fully-functional without it, so it wouldn’t put me at risk, but the doctors wanted to keep me for observation again while they continued to collect more data and discussed things in more detail with Medtronic’s support.

That night, in my hospital room, my electrocardiologist stopped by to give my wife and I an overview of what was going on and the options ahead of me. It was recommended that I have the bad lead removed and replaced. There is an option to leave it, but that carries other risks.

For those that don’t know, the lead is a wire that goes from the device and into my heart. I believe the phrase used seven years ago was “snaked through your artery and screwed into the inside of your heart.” It’s been seven year, so my body has built around that intrusive object, making it rather firmly implanted. I was told that seven years was right at the cusp of when things get more complicated to remove. There are risks that include heart attack during the procedure, the need for open heart surgery (1 in 50), and scarring on the heart, which is higher in my case because at 53, I’m still considered young. This is one of the few cases where my age actually works against me.

It’s going to be like the process and recovery of having the defibrillator implanted in the first place, but with a much longer and more dangerous twist. Given my situation, my doctor is recommending I get a surgeon who has considerable experience with this process. It’s not often this happens, so that isn’t always possible. The hospital I go to is one of the top-rated cardiac hospitals in NJ and someone there was one of three (the others: one in PA and one in NY) that he recommended to me. Unfortunately, the closest isn’t available until sometime in January.

I don’t know if any of these three are covered by my insurance. That’s tomorrow’s assignment. I also don’t know if the other surgeons are available. My device, however, is stable running on one coil. I need it done, but not immediately. I can take the time to do this right and will. I’m thinking it will happen in early January.

I was discharged from the hospital this evening and still trying to process all the frightening little details. I won’t lie, it’s been very stressful and I am worried. This is pretty heavy stuff.

I’m appreciative of the time and effort put in by my doctors and Medtronic so that I can do the necessary prep work (medical and personal) before this happens. I’m also happy to be able to spend the holidays with family instead of in the hospital, which is what would have happened if we couldn’t stabilize the device.

By the way, the latest tech has 18 years of experience. He considered this rare. Not the only he’s seen, but the number was tiny, particularly in comparison to the number of devices he’s seen.

Beeping Medtronic Defibrillator

I am not a doctor and have no medical training.

I’m writing this post mostly because I couldn’t find any information on the internet when I needed it. Seven years ago (next month), I had a defibrillator implanted in my chest. It was recommended after a heart attack left me with a low EF, meaning my heart was damaged and not functioning as well as it should. It puts me at risk and the defibrillator is there to help in those situations.

In seven years, it has never triggered the full shock it can deliver, and next month it is due to be replaced due to a low battery condition. This isn’t about the low battery.

I have a defibrillator made by Medtronic. Every morning (the time can be changed by a tech) it does a check and if there’s a problem it will let you know with a series of tones. When the battery is low, it will generate a warning every morning at that time. Mine started generating that error last month and the technicians turned off that alert in the office during one of my visits so it wouldn’t keep bugging me.

A few weeks later, I was standing in line at the bank and this started:


It’s the same sound as the low-battery warning, so I thought that they may have just snoozed the alarm, but an hour later it sounded again, so I called the pacemaker/defibrillator clinic I go to and left a message. It was towards the end of the business day, so I guess I missed them. I didn’t get a call back. Four hours later, it beeped again. And four more. And four more. I figured the beeping during sleeping hours was probably a sign that this was more serious than I first thought, so I called the electrocardiology office.

Fortunately, my doctor was on call that weekend. He went to his office and had me upload the data from my device. After having a chance to review it, he told me the error was an indication of some irregular voltage readings, that could indicate a break in the leads. He sent me to the ER.

I spent the rest of the day in the ER getting X-rays and waiting for a Medtronic tech to run more thorough tests on the device. The technician told me that he had never encountered this condition in his twelve years of working for the company, but that he had been given a series of special steps to follow that would allow them to figure out if there was a break or related problem with the wiring.

The X-rays and tests didn’t reveal the source of the problem. Everything looked fine, so they decided to reset the error flag in the device and keep me overnight for observation. I went through the night without another alert and was tested again in the morning.

It was later explained to me that the fault was registering in what I think he called a coil. There are two of those and fortunately, the one that was indicated as the source of the problem could not generate a false condition that would trigger a full shock to my heart from the defibrillator. The other, however, could have. (Obviously, that’s quite dangerous and explains why they wanted me there overnight.)

If anything else happened while I had been there (or the beeping starts again while I’m home), they’ll want to move up my replacement surgery. I’m glad that there’s some time in-between. If this happens again, I’d much prefer it to be before the replacement than after, so they can deal with both the wiring and the device at the same time. (Replacing the wiring comes with risk, so I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.)

Anyhow, if your device is beeping every four hours, or even just once has that tone in the video, you should probably call your doctor and upload the data from your device. Don’t wait it out. If your problem happens to register in a different location of the wiring/device, you could be in serious danger. Good luck.

Not in China (again)


I was supposed to leave for the 5th International Science Fiction Conference in Chengdu early last week, but I canceled the trip at the last minute due to concerns about my father-in-law’s health.

Sadly, he passed away early last Wednesday morning. (It’s something I’m just not able to write about at the moment.)

Throughout the week and into the weekend, I kept hearing from friends and acquaintances who wanted to wish us well and send their condolences. Thank you.

I was also treated to notes and pictures from friends I would have seen while in China. It was nice to be a fly on the wall in my down hours. From what I could see the convention was a big success and enjoyed by many. Congratulations to the organizers and I wish everyone luck in their bid to bring Worldcon to Chengdu. I have fond memories of my trip there two years ago and hope to return someday. This time, however, I needed to be home. I was there in 2D spirit though.

Clarkesworld Year Eleven Anthologies

The two Clarkesworld Year Eleven anthologies are now available for purchase. Print copies will be available directly from us–via Wyrm Publishing–after they arrive. (Expected mid-month, but I’ll be traveling so it’s likely they won’t be available for sale in our store until after Thanksgiving.) Amazon has them now.

Clarkesworld Year Eleven: Volume One (contents)

Trade Paperback
List Price: $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-64236-024-0

Ebook Editions
List Price: $6.99
ISBN: 978-1-64236-023-3 (Kindle/Mobi)Kobo (epub)Wyrm (epub/mobi/Kindle) – more to come

Clarkesworld Year Eleven: Volume Two (contents)

Trade Paperback
List Price: $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-64236-026-4

Ebook Editions
List Price: $6.99
ISBN: 978-1-64236-025-7 (Kindle/Mobi)Kobo (epub)Wyrm (epub/mobi/Kindle) – more to come

Relevant stats:
  • Clarkesworld Year Eleven: Volume One – Stories from October 2016 – March 2017, 189,340 words, 417 pages, cover art by Matt Dixon.
  • Clarkesworld Year Eleven: Volume Two – Stories from April 2017 – September 2017, 219,300 words, 472 pages, cover art by Pascal Blanché

Not in China


Unfortunately, my flight to China was canceled after a full day of issues at Newark airport. United Airlines gets points for good communications, but it seemed like chaos in regards to how they dealt with the mechanical issues. Early on, they told us they were considering getting a new plane. They should have. A quick look online revealed that the same plane had been delayed coming to us because of mechanical issues as well. That should be a red flag. (I could also go into details about the hotel vouchers and flight rebooking process–staffed by one–that awaited many of my fellow passengers, but I’m tired of this. At least they weren’t as bad as Aer Lingus.)

I ended up having to cancel my entire trip to the China SF conference. (A 19 hour flight with connections that had me arriving as the conference ended didn’t work for me, oddly enough.)

I am very disappointed not to be there and send my regrets to everyone I hoped to meet. It looked like it was going to be a great time and judging by the snippets and photos that have reached me so far, it look like it has been.

For their part in this mess, United offered me two travel vouchers. The first was laughable, but the second, while not great, was just good enough. I have another flight to China later this month and this might just get me a decent seat upgrade. Failing that, it could cover another flight I have planned in early 2020.

I was supposed to give a talk on International Science Fiction at the convention and had spent some time putting it all together. A few people there have asked about it, so I may record a voice-over for the slides and put it up on YouTube when I have some time.

Philcon 2019

I’ll be attending Philcon in Cherry Hill, NJ from November 8th-10th. Here’s my schedule:

Genre Publications in 2019
Fri 7:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)
[Panelists: Ty Drago (mod), Alex Shvartsman, Dina Leacock, Julie Ann Dawson, Neil Clarke]

Ask a Small Publisher
Sat 12:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
[Panelists: Marc Histand (mod), Brian Koscienski, Neil Clarke, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Alex Shvartsman, Michael Hanson]

Meet the Editors
Sat 10:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)
[Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail (mod), Mike McPhail, Ty Drago, April Grey, Gordon Linzner, Neil Clarke]

Autographs: Sam Delany, Gordon Linzner, Neil Clarke
Sun 12:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Promenade (Gaming) (1 hour)

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