NCIS AND MY PACEMAKER – Marilyn Armstrong

EPISODE: Need to Know (2012)

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.

ncis-need-to-know

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 in March 2014), 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.

RBB-pacemaker

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 would beat on its own, I wouldn’t need a pacemaker.

In the beginning, they used to stop my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is a very unpleasant — and indescribable — sensation.

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.

And no matter what, I will always have that Pacemaker because, after all those tests, my heart absolutely will not beat without it.

27 thoughts on “NCIS AND MY PACEMAKER – Marilyn Armstrong

  1. My implanted cardiac defibrillator gave me pause in regards to the always on wireless state and the remote membership next to my bed. You and Garry are not alone in being concerned. Former VP Disk Cheney had the Wi-Fi in his pacemaker disabled to prevent assassination https://abcnews.go.com/US/vice-president-dick-cheney-feared-pacemaker-hacking/story?id=20621434 I have heard of international travels concerned when crossing the borders of “sensitive” countries. Thanks for another illuminating post Marilyn. Best, Babsje

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    • IF I were still traveling internationally, I’d worry, but we aren’t going anywhere … and I am EXTREMELY careful at airports and in hospitals. But what the guys at Beth Israel proved was that it IS possible and they changed the way they make pacemakers because of the work they did. I’m supposed to get fitted out with a Blue Tooth thingie that will make it possible for them to read my pacemaker by telephone. It will save me three trips to the cardiologist every year. But it makes me very twitchy, too. Not that anyone is out to get me, but still … as creepy things go, that is VERY creepy.

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      • I think you will love the convenience of Bluetooth. Beth Israel and the Boston area have the best physicians and we’re fortunate to live here. That said, the other commenter’s quip about a tin-foil vest wasn’t such a bad idea.

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  2. That is horribly creepy. You’ve perhaps inadvertently crossed into Fandango’s FPQ #47 in a weird way with this post. I’m glad that pacemaker has been rendered impenetrable…

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    • I have five separate implants, all numbered in various databanks. 1 pacemaker, two breast implants, and a piece of bone added when they removed a non-malignant growth on my right leg. I will never be an unidentified corpse in a morgue. I’ve got lots of ID! And I forgot the two implanted valves. Oops.

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