HACKING YOUR HEARTBEAT

You thought this was a creepy, personal fantasy.
It turns out to be real. I told’ya, didn’t I?


FDA recalls close to half-a-million pacemakers over hacking fears


Turns out former Vice President (and erratic shooter) Dick Cheney was right all along: Your heart can be hacked. At least if you have a pacemaker, that is. On Tuesday, the FDA recalled 465,000 of the medical devices — the ones that help control your heart beat — citing security vulnerabilities. The pacemakers, which come from health company Abbott (formerly St. Jude Medical), require a firmware update. Fortunately, it can be installed by a health care provider in just three minutes. The models affected include the Accent, Anthem, Accent MRI, Accent ST, Assurity, and Allure.


EPISODE: NCIS – NEED TO KNOW (2012)


Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.
Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

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 information he has — which he claims involves national security and 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 it and raised his heart rate up to more than 400 beats per minute.

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

What does this have to do with me?

Well, I’m glad you asked. This particular episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston where a group of surgeons wanted to see if it COULD be done. Can you “attack” a pacemaker by remote control? One of the people that performed this experiment was my surgeon.

They did it, though my surgeon pointed out you had to be no more than a couple of feet from the pacemaker to do it. But you could do it. So, they contacted the manufacturer who changed the programming to protect it from potential attack. Cool, yes?

 


NOTES:

I had all that heart surgery in March 2014, not 2013 (how soon we forget) — which I now know was 2014 because I have implant cards to tell people what spare parts are in my body. Unfortunately, none of them indicates which part is which — which ones are implanted heart valves and which one is the pacemaker. Just trying to find out if my pacemaker is being recalled. I mean, my car is being recalled, so why not my pacemaker?

I also had one transplant card for each breast, but that one seems to have gone missing. Oh well … I believe that number is imprinted on the silicon baggies, so I’m sure they will find it as needed.


In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker because the surgeons fixed it back in 2012. I am safe from remote terrorists. Which is good, because worrying about it was keeping me up at night.

I find it oddly comforting. Garry finds it disturbing. 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 and can detach from it on a personal level and get into the coolness of the electronics.

It is  kind of 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 an icky feeling. Anyone with a pacemaker knows what I mean.

The blue tooth remote functions work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a remote 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 rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

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

WACKY WEATHER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My ex-husband, Larry, and I had a knack for traveling to places where the weather was uncharacteristic and extreme.

Our first big trip together was our honeymoon, which took place three months BEFORE the wedding (don’t ask!). We spent three weeks in England and France at the end of June. Summer. I packed one long-sleeved shirt, one sweater and one light coat, just in case. Most of the photos of me are in these three pieces of clothing. I wore them almost every day. It was like a blustery, chilly fall day for the entire three weeks.

Me freezing in France on my pre-wedding Honeymoon in late June

My first trip to Disney World, in Orlando, Florida, was in March. Not summer but still warm in Florida. Except when we were there. It was so cold, my only souvenir from the trip was a pair of gloves – which I wore every day!

Me in my turtle neck sweater and gloves in Disney World, Fla. (pregnant)

We’ve been in Florida when the orange tree growers were frantically putting blankets on their fruit trees to try to protect them from the deadly frost. We’ve been in Los Angeles, California when the swimming pools were freezing over. Record cold weather was reported in both places.

We went to Yosemite National Park in Northern California in the fall, expecting nippy weather. It was a record-breaking 95 degrees the whole time. We had to buy shorts and tank tops to survive. We also had to cancel many of the hikes and climbs we had planned because I don’t do well in hot weather.

Me in Yosemite Nat’l Park in the heat

The funniest weather story took place in Florida during one of those record-breaking cold streaks. I flew to Larry’s mom’s condo in Pompano Beach, Florida. Larry met me there from a business trip in Colorado, where he had done some skiing. We were enjoying another uncharacteristically cold snap. Larry called the office in New York City to check in. The lawyer back home asked him about the weather. Larry replied that it was 19 degrees out! The New York lawyer said, “Great! You’ll get in some good skiing!” Frustrated, Larry answered, “Schmuck! I’m in Florida now!”

This wacky weather curse must be attached to me, because it carried over to my second husband, Tom.

We took a canal boat trip around the countryside of England in April. It was over 90 degrees for several days in a row. That would have been an anomaly in England in August, let alone April. One day Tom actually got sun stroke and came home with a wicked sunburn. People asked us how our trip went and we told them about the sunstroke. Invariably we would get a confused response like, “Oh, you were in Florida?” or “I thought you were in England!”

Tom and me on our canal boat in the heat

One of our vacations was actually ruined because of crazy weather. We flew all the way to Hawaii, expecting the beautiful scenery and the consistently idyllic weather we’d been told about by our friends. We went there primarily to go on dive trips in the pristine waters. Unfortunately, there had been a hurricane just before we arrived. The water had been churned up so badly that the ocean stayed muddy the entire week we were there. There was no visibility underwater so all of our dive trips were canceled.

To add insult to injury, it rained every single day and was overcast the whole time. The sun came out for the first time to taunt us as we drove to the airport to go home!

Kauai, Hawaii in the rain

We also lost a day on a cruise because of bad weather. We were scheduled to leave on a cruise to Bermuda from a pier in New York City right near Tom’s office. He had always dreamed of walking to the pier and getting on a cruise ship. We were finally doing it!

Instead, a tropical storm delayed the incoming ship and rerouted it to Boston. We not only lost one day of our trip, but we had to drive all the way to Boston to get the ship. So much for Tom’s dream cruise from New York City.

Weather has not always been my friend in my travels, though overall, I’ve lucked out more often than not. However, the crazy weather stories are much more fun to write about. So, let’s hear it for funky weather on vacations!

YELLOW WILDFLOWERS IN THE GORGE

There were some amazing wildflowers in the gorge … and some amazing and rather huge bees. I assume they were bumblebees because they seems too big for honeybees. Wherever I went, the bees seemed to follow me. Or maybe there were that many bees. If so, I’m glad. There’s no such thing as too many bees!

ENDLESS PAST WITH NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT

I can see the future. So can you.


The first thing I taught my granddaughter — after reading — was telling time. They no longer teach analog time in schools, so I bought a couple of those old wooden clocks we had when we were little kids. The ones on which you can move the hands. I wanted her to be able to read a non-digital clock because who knows? She might be in London, looking at Big Ben … and have no idea what time it was.

It took her just a few minutes to figure it out. From then on, she was on the clock. On her way to school. Hurrying home. Being ready on time.

On time.

Life is all about on time. Looking to the future with hope, fear, trepidation, Ouija boards and clocks.

Really, we can all see our future if we choose to look. We don’t always want to. If you want to see the future, take a look at the present along with a peek at the past. Extrapolate what’s most likely to happen. It’s not magic. Very basic logic — and probably not what you wanted to find out. We want to learn something special. The fabulous places we will go and the exciting things we’ll accomplish. We don’t want to know that our lives will be very much what they have always been, with minor alterations here and there.

The future is the present with the flip of a calendar. Intentions made real. Probabilities aligned.

Chinese (Sui) porcelain musicians. They come from the past. We all come from the past. In case you failed to notice.
Chinese (Sui) porcelain musicians. They come from the past. We all come from the past. In case you failed to notice.

My very old Chinese (Sui dynasty) porcelain musicians are on  my mantel having survived 1000 years of the past to be in my present. We all come from a past and are never in the present because as soon as we notice time, it has moved ahead. We never live now and are forever rushing from yesterday to tomorrow. Everyone tells us to stop and enjoy the moment. How can we? How do we find the now in the endless forward pressure of time?

We should not have invented time.

We can see ahead as accurately as we need to. Seeing more would gain us nothing. If we really saw what our future holds, it would be terrifying. We could waste our lives trying to change the future without stopping to realize that the future will rush past the same way “now” is racing. No one would enjoy anything and the future would look flat and hopeless.

Moreover, every one of us has a history that goes back to the beginning of time. The difference between us and the “blue bloods” who lord it over us with their famed family histories, is that they know more of the names and the rest of us don’t. Your family, whatever their name and rank, is no deeper, longer, or more important than mine. We are the same.

I will make one more prophecy which I can guarantee is true.

We will all die. Of something. Eventually.

Whoever preceded us and whoever follows us? We will all meet the end, one way or the other.