It’s been over two weeks since Steve started the ECP Heart Treatment to treat congestive heart failure, so I want to give you an update. He’s had nine one-hour treatments.
The first ECP (external counter pulsation) treatment made his legs sore from the constant pumping of the cuffs. He was exhausted the rest of the day, but this is typical because it’s passive cardiovascular exercise.
Before each treatment, Steve is weighed. This is important because a large increase of weight indicates fluid build-up around his lungs…a side effect of congestive heart failure. If there’s too much fluid, the treatment would be suspended for the day because it would cause too much pressure around his lungs.
After he’s weighed, he goes to the bathroom. It’s important for his bladder to be empty, because when the top cuff around his buttocks starts pumping, it will add pressure on his bladder. And once the treatment is started, it’s really a hassle to stop the process and undo the cuffs and hoses to go to the bathroom.
Steve is taking a blood thinner, so his cardiologist ordered an INR blood test done once a week to monitor the blood viscosity (thickness). If it’s too thin, bruising would occur from the cuffs.
To protect his legs from being chafed by the blood pressure cuffs, he wears a pair of blue tights. The cuffs are placed over his calves, thighs and buttocks. Then air hoses are connected. Electrodes are attached to his chest so every heart beat can be measured, which in turn is synchronized with the inflation of the cuffs. A blood pressure cuff is placed on his right arm and his BP is taken right before the treatment begins. When everything is ready, the machine is tuned on.
It makes a popping noise from the continuous inflation of the cuffs. It took a few times to get used to it, but now Steve sleeps through the rhythmic popping. He can rest for one hour or visit with the technician. His blood pressure is taken again, and all the hoses and cuffs are disconnected.
During this time, I go to a very relaxing and quiet atmosphere in the hospital and wait until he’s done. I look forward to this one hour of alone time to read, journal or pray.
This daily routine takes about 3 hours, starting from the time we leave home at noon until we get back home at 3:00. We go four times a week with Tuesdays off so Steve can spend time away with his brother, which also gives me some respite.
The ECP heart treatment requires 35 visits over a 7-8 week period. With the holidays interfering with the schedule, it may take a little longer. We were told that Steve could expect to feel some change within the first two weeks. So far, his legs have been feeling better. When he gets up off the treatment mat, he can walk without pain or a cane for a short distance, so this looks very encouraging to us.
Bellin Hospital in Green Bay acquired the ECP machine 6 months ago, and the results so far have been very promising for the patients enrolled in the program.