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TECHNOLOGY

'I'd be an invalid without this device'

By Michael Conway for CNN

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Mike and his wife Pearl. He says that without the implantable defribillator he would be an invalid.

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(CNN) -- Michael Conway, 62, is a musician and singer from Swansea in south Wales. Three years ago he had an implanted defibrillator embedded in his chest, which ensures his heart beats at a regular rate.

I was on holiday with my wife on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean six years ago and I felt a bit unwell. When I returned home I continued to feel ill so I went to my doctor who shrugged it off as flu.

But I work out and I know my body fairly well so I was pretty sure it wasn't flu. It turned out I had a rare virus that had attacked the muscles in my heart and as a result, I ended up having major heart surgery -- bypasses of five arteries.

For a couple of years I had no problems but one night, about three years ago, during a particularly big gig, I began to feel quite ill.

Most people's hearts beat at 70-80 beats per minute, when they exercise it's about 150 bpm. That night, mine was up beating between 240-265bpm.

My wife, who was with me, took me straight to Morriston Hospital, where I'd had the original surgery.

There are lots of different treatments you can have to fix the problem of an irregular heart beat, which is called tachycardia.

In milder cases you can have a small electric shock to get the heartbeat to return to normal, or like British Prime Minister Tony Blair had last year, a procedure called catheter ablation.

My condition was too severe for any of those so they suggested I have an implanted defibrillator fitted inside my chest. It's about the size of a computer mouse and if I touch my chest, I can feel it. It shakes my heart when it beats out of control.

It has kicked in to action twice -- and you get quite a thump when it happens. It's a bit like the pads paramedics put on people's chest if they are having a cardiac arrest.

Every six months I go back to the hospital and the check it's all in good working order and that the batteries are OK. I call it a "magic toy." I have to be careful and observe the same restrictions as anyone else with heart problems.

But this monitors my heartbeat all the time -- keeping it above 60 and giving me a shock if it goes too high. Tachycardia doesn't go away but without this I would be an invalid.

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