Eric Robinson of Rumford just has to touch his chest below his left shoulder to recall how close he came to dying on March 2.
An implantable cardioverter debrillator (ICD) is implanted there. It will give his heart a jolt if the device ever senses that he might be experiencing another cardiac arrest
“I’m doing fine now,” said Robinson, 61, a middle school shop teacher for more than 30 years who recently retired. “I just have to go see my electro-physiologist every three months to make sure the device is functioning right.”
“I may never need a jolt,” he said. “That’s what they tell me. They couldn’t find any reason why I had this.”
A cardiac arrest is not a heart attack, Robinson said he has learned.
“My arteries are clear,” he said. “I can eat whatever kind of crap I want. My heart stopped because of some type of electrical malfunction.”
Robinson, a musician as well as a teacher, was making a cameo appearance with his son’s rock band at a bar in Foster. He played “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors.
“They said I sounded pretty good,” he said. “But as I sat down with my fiancé, Kate, now my wife, they also said I didn’t look right.”
He doesn’t remember much before or after that. Everything he says about the experience now comes from other people.
“I slumped over in my seat,” he said. “Fortunately, the drummer’s mother knew CPR. And someone called the Foster rescue.”
The EMTs brought him back to life in the ambulance on the way to Rhode Island Hospital, he said. But he lost the memories of that night because of a loss of oxygen to the brain, he was told.
Robinson’s medical history immediately made him a candidate for the ICD made by the Biotronik medical device company, said Dr. Antony Chu, his cardiologist.
“It’s less intrusive because the one-wire device does the job of two wires in sending signals from both chambers of the heart,” he said. “It’s a unique technology that is the best out there right now.”
Robinson, in fact, became the first patient in New England to get this ICD, known as the DX System, which also requires less time in the operating room to implant, said Chu. The device had been approved by the FDA only a day or so before it was implanted in Robinson, he said.
The device also uses cellular technology to send signals each night from a home monitor that sits by Robinson’s bed to determine if he may have come close to having another cardiac arrest.
“Most of the time I don’t think about it,” Robinson said,” although I had to get used to having the unit in me. I got a little upset at first.”
But now the device only reminds him about how close he came to losing his life. And that has definitely redefined his priorities, he said.
“I didn’t know when I wanted to retire,” he said. “I didn’t know that I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”
The cardiac arrest also came a couple of years after his first wife died from a heart attack. It ended 30 years of marriage to her.
“I had to bring myself back to life,” he said. “Then I met Kate. We got together and started living together. We got married soon after I came home from the hospital.”
Robinson is now living his life the way he wants to, he said. He’s walking a lot more and fixing up a house he built in the woods near Chepachet to sell it. And he’ll start driving again in several weeks. He has not been able to drive a car for 6 months, he said, “and I love to drive.”
There will be only two things he can’t do down the road – use a welder or a chainsaw.
“Their electrical impulses set the unit off,” he said.
If those are the only two things he can’t do, Robinson said, he’ll be able to live with that.