“I Do Feel Really Lucky Just to be Alive."

In for a "routine" heart procedure, Mary Darby came out of a coma with a new zest bolstered by her Gallant ICD.

Healthy Heart|Nov.15, 2021

Her eyes heavy, vision blurring, the world around Mary Darby slides out of focus. It's all going dim. Surrounded by people charged with her well-being and with her best interests top-of-mind, she can feel her conscious self letting go as she slips into the darkness.

She is leaving this moment.

But she is not worried.

She is calm. Relaxed even, at peace with the confidence that not only will she return but when she does, she’ll be better than she is right now.

When she finally does join us again — three weeks later — she awakes to a world that has change for her in ways she never imagined and with no idea of all that she and those who care for her have endured.

"I do feel really lucky just to be alive," she said. "When I went in for surgery (to repair a weakened mitral valve that was failing to close correctly), I knew there was going to be a risk, but I honestly didn’t think anything was going to happen."

These are the weeks of Mary Darby's life that she will never know.

That they led to days she’ll forever cherish and the return of a calm, relaxed even, that comes with the reassurance that her doctors can see how her heart is working thanks to her Gallant ICD — a small implantable cardiac defibrillator in her chest that monitors the heart's ebbs and flows — sharing important data through her myMerlinPulse app (available for iOS and Android) via Bluetooth.

And so, it turns out, she was right not be worried after all.

Her Heart Stopped. And Her Ordeal Began.
Mary Darby, 60, was born in Queens. She lives in Washington, D.C, working for a non-profit that focuses on health and social policy. Pepper, her 60-pound pooch, is her constant companion. Surrounded by two dozen vaccinated family and friends, she celebrated a birthday in July that seemed perhaps more than a little unlikely when this all started more than a year ago.

What was supposed to be a relatively routine procedure — it's always "routine" when it's someone else on the table — to repair a congenital heart condition in her mitral valve turned out to be anything but.

Her heart stopped for nearly two minutes.

Her subsequent coma lasted three weeks.

When she awoke, there was a lot to catch her up on.

"I always tell everybody the worst part happened while I was asleep," she said.

She had no recollection of any of it — "Like Rip van Winkle or something. It took me a while to accept that this had happened, because it's so weird, when people ask me about what happened to me, because I don’t remember it. I have zero memory of it." — and while her mitral valve had been successfully repaired, her heart's overall condition had deteriorated.

"After the surgery, her heart muscle was weak. And we know there is a risk for sudden heart arrythmias (irregular heartbeats) that may be life threatening," said Dr. Elaine Y. Wan, her cardiac electrophysiologist. "An implanted cardiac defibrillator — very similar to a pacemaker — like the Gallant ICD, with its integrated app into the smartphone, would be perfect for her."

A Stronger Connection
Now months into her recovery, Darby is getting stronger every day.

"I just started getting back into working with my personal trainer," she said. "I wasn't able to do that for a while. I wasn't strong enough. But I'm doing really well, doing circuit training and getting some weights in there, and that's going great. I'm tracking my heart rate and my personal trainer has been really pleased with how my heart is resetting after I elevate it."

Everyone in her life is pleased with how her heart is performing. It’s confidence that comes from the reports her Gallant ICD is sharing with her medical team.

"My first thought was that it would be like a pacemaker, but it's really more than that," she said. "I got a call from the heart center just to tell me that everything was OK: 'Your device is working properly.' It's like this reassuring call that I get a few times a year, 'Everything's going fine, everything's going just fine.'"

That remote connection is critically important in the time of COVID. Its availability means people like Darby living with congenital heart disease or heart failure can be monitored remotely around the clock thanks to her Bluetooth-enabled device linked to her cell phone. It lets her rest easy.

She's more in tune with her heart and her health than ever. And, yes, she takes heart that her doctors are as well.

"After something like this happens, you're just sort of more aware of your body and what's going on with your heart."

The Days She'll Never Forget
Her eyes wide open, vision crisp, all that the world has to offer Mary Darby is perfectly in focus. It's all going as she'd hoped. Her life full of people concerned for her well-being who have her best interests ever present, she's making conscious choices to grab fast to life’s possibilities as she slips out the door to take Pepper for a walk.

She is living this moment.

And she is not worried.

She is calm, at peace with the confidence that not only will she return fit as a fiddle from this trip around the block with Pepper but when she does, she'll be able to share her heart's performance with her doctors if she wants to.

"I really want to say is just how grateful I am for the people in my life," she said. "I never knew how lucky I was until all this happened, really."

These are the years of Mary Darby's life that she will never forget.



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Rx Only

Intended Use: The Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) devices are intended to provide ventricular antitachycardia pacing and ventricular cardioversion/defibrillation.

The myMerlinPulse™ mobile application is intended for use by people who have an Abbott Medical implanted heart device and access to a mobile device. The app provides remote monitoring capability of the implanted heart device by transmitting information from the patient’s implanted heart device to the patient’s healthcare provider.


Indications: The ICD devices are indicated for automated treatment of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias.


In addition, dual chamber ICD devices with the AT/AF detection algorithm are indicated in patients with atrial tachyarrhythmias or those patients who are at significant risk of developing atrial tachyarrhythmias.


MR Conditional ICDs are conditionally safe for use in the MRI environment when used in a complete MR Conditional system and according to instructions in the MRI-Ready Systems manual. Scanning under different conditions may result in severe patient injury, death or device malfunction.


The myMerlinPulse™ mobile application is indicated for use by patients with supported Abbott Medical implanted heart devices.


Contraindications: Contraindications for use of the pulse generator system include ventricular tachyarrhythmias resulting from transient or correctable factors such as drug toxicity, electrolyte imbalance, or acute myocardial infarction.


The myMerlinPulse™ mobile application is contraindicated for use with any implanted medical device other than supported Abbott Medical implanted heart devices.


Adverse Events: Possible adverse events associated with the implantation of the pulse generator system include the following: Arrhythmia (for example, accelerated or induced), Bradycardia, Cardiac or venous perforation, Cardiac tamponade, Cardiogenic shock, Death, Discomfort, Embolism, Endocarditis, Erosion, Exacerbation of heart failure, Excessive fibrotic tissue growth, Extracardiac stimulation (phrenic nerve, diaphragm, pectoral muscle), Extrusion, Fluid accumulation within the device pocket, Formation of hematomas, cysts, or seromas, Heart block, Hemorrhage, Hemothorax, Hypersensitivity, including local tissue reaction or allergic reaction, Infection, Keloid formation, Myocardial damage, Nerve damage, Occlusion/Thrombus, Pericardial effusion, Pericarditis, Pneumothorax, Pulmonary edema, Syncope, Thrombosis, Valve damage. Complications reported with direct subclavian venipuncture include pneumothorax, hemothorax, laceration of the subclavian artery, arteriovenous fistula, neural damage, thoracic duct injury, cannulation of other vessels, massive hemorrhage and rarely, death. Among the psychological effects of device implantation are imagined pulsing, depression, dependency, fear of premature battery depletion, device malfunction, inappropriate pulsing, shocking while conscious, or losing pulse capability. Possible adverse device effects include complications due to the following: , Abnormal battery depletion, Conductor fracture, Device-programmer communication failure, Elevated or rise in defibrillation/cardioversion threshold, Inability to defibrillate or pace, Inability to interrogate or program due to programmer or device malfunction, Incomplete lead connection with pulse generator, Inhibited therapy including defibrillation and pacing, Inappropriate therapy (for example, shocks and antitachycardia pacing [ATP] where applicable, pacing), Interruption of function due to electrical or magnetic interference, Intolerance to high rate pacing (for example dyspnea or discomfort), Lead abrasion, Lead fracture, Lead insulation damage, Lead migration or lead dislodgement, Loss of device functionality due to component failure, Pulse generator migration, Rise in DFT threshold, Rise in pacing threshold and exit block, Shunting of energy from defibrillation paddles, System failure due to ionizing radiation. Additionally, potential adverse events associated with the implantation of a coronary venous lead system include the following: Allergic reaction to contrast media, Breakage or failure of implant instruments, Prolonged exposure to fluoroscopic radiation, Renal failure from contrast media used to visualize coronary veins. Refer to the User’s Manual for detailed intended use, indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions and potential adverse events.

No potential adverse events have been identified with use of the myMerlinPulse™ mobile application.