LCHM Winter18 - 6
BY JAMES REX, MD
6 Lehigh County Health & Medicine | WINTER 2018
n today's technologically advanced medical world, insertion of a pacemaker has
become almost "routine" surgery, if such a thing exists. Nearly a quarter million
Americans benefit from the electrical impulses generated by a pacemaker, which
normalizes the beating of their hearts, often alleviating symptoms like fatigue
and providing a better quality of life for patients who require such assistance. But
the pacemaker is a relatively new medical intervention, the first wearable pacemaker
having been developed only about 60 years ago.
I am honored to have inserted the first pacemaker to be installed in Allentown during
the early 1970s, at what was then known as The Allentown Hospital, now, Lehigh
Valley Hospital 17th and Chew. I'd been in practice for about a decade at the time.
The first pacemakers were rather crude affairs contrasted to the later refinements.
Initially, they were used in patients who had a very slow heart rate, less than 40 beats
per minute. In such patients, there was always the danger of sudden death when the
heart rate slowed further or cardiac standstill occurred. Our Mrs. E, who was in her
60s, was such a patient. She had a very slow heart rate and it was impossible for her