EPISODE: Need to Know (2012) – SHORT SYNOPSIS:

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade his info — which he says is about national security. It concerns Agah Bayar, the arms dealer. Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.


Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked in and jacked his heart rate up to 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.

What does this have to do with me?

Well, glad you asked. This episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston (where I had all that heart surgery last March), that they decided to find out if it really could be done. One of the people that performed the experiment was my surgeon.

They did it. My surgeon did point out as far as they could tell, to actually hack a pacemaker you had to be no more than a couple of feet from it. Nonetheless, they made the manufacturer change the programming.

In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker.

I find this comforting. Garry finds it disturbing and I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek.


I find the technology sufficiently interesting to overcome its inherent creepiness. It is creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart beat on its own, I wouldn’t need the pacemaker.

Every time I go for a pacemaker checkup, they use a little machine and briefly stop the pacemaker to see if my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is a very unpleasant — and indescribable — sensation. Anyone with a pacemaker knows what I mean.

The blue tooth remote functions still work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were a couple of years ago, before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious about it. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would still rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It sits on my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. I find it impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.

Categories: Computers, Health, Humor, Medical, Personal, Software, Technology, Television

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16 replies

  1. You sent shudders through me describing them even briefly stopping your pacemaker. It’s good to see you are safe from international terrorists with computer hacking skills, though…


    • It is not a pleasant sensation. Knowing my life depends on a battery-operated device in my chest is not cheery. On the other hand, I’m alive and without it, I would not be. Every time I see the pacemaker tech, I ask nervously about battery life, how they know if it’s okay, and what if it isn’t. Then I go home and put it out of my mind. Not thinking about it is my best defense. I’m also glad they made it un-hackable — or at least less hackable. I wouldn’t want to be accidentally killed by a random remote signal.


  2. You know I adore NCIS. I remember that show well. I’m thrilled you can’t be hacked 🙂 I agree with you may as well be amazed.


    • I was kind of tickled when I learned my own surgeon was one of the guys that set out to prove or disprove the episode. I might as well be amazed and interested because this is the stuff that keeps me going. Engagement with the technology is a better choice than pretending it isn’t there, for me, anyhow. Regardless, it would be very difficult to pretend it isn’t there. Nothing subtle about it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You know I’m a NCIS addict. But it’s obvious why this particular episode is a bit off setting as the plot begins to reveal itself. I usually glance at you wondering whether it’s okay to watch. You usually smile, tell me how you can be tracked and, so, it’s back to Gibbs and crew. On your 6.


  3. McCoy: I’ll tell you one thing, Spock: You never cease to amaze me.
    Spock: Nor I, myself.


  4. Oh. I find this so unsettling. I know this will be in the back of my mind all morning. I had no idea that pacemakers were accessible via bluetooth. Yes, I think it is creepy but glad it is keeping you alive!
    P.S. I love the background photo today and wonder what the flower is in your header. Beautiful!


    • That I can feel the whole thing through my skin is the really creepy part and sometimes, it hurts. But when they turn it off for 15 seconds and my heart stops, I am once again willing to put up with a lot of discomfort rather than stop living 🙂


  5. It is kind of weird and a bit on the creepy side to think about, but sure is an important piece of “hardware”, if you don’t mind my calling it that. Perhaps years from now you will notice it less, it will have truly become “part” of you. I almost fainted when I read that the Drs stop it to test your heart…. oy!!


    • The turn me off for less than a minute — 20 or 30 seconds — and the world fades to black. Apparently they can see my eyes going dark too. How nice. Totally creepy. Life is rather fragile, isn’t it.


      • yes it is, but the advances in medicine are truly remarkable I must say. A friend of mine at age 50 developed a virus that attacked her heart- she received a heart transplant after months of waiting… it still amazes me when I think of it.


  6. You find it comforting and Garry finds it disturbing….. Perceptions but anyway it is keeping you alive and that’s more important.


  7. I’m with Garry. A little on the creepy side. I think it’s easier when it’s your own body and not the body of someone you deeply love and care for. When I worked as a case manager, I had a client with a pacemaker and they would check it over the phone. Now that was weird, or so I thought.


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