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MLA recuperates after health scare
NWT Speaker Jackie Jacobson undergoes surgery to have device implanted in chest after experiencing irregular heartbeat during flight

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Monday, August 17, 2015

The speaker of the NWT legislative assembly fully expects to run for re-election in November despite a health scare late last month.

Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson had been in B.C. for meetings and was on his way home to Tuktoyaktuk on a flight from Victoria to Edmonton on July 25 when he said he started to feel unwell. He said he told his wife but didn't alert any of the flight attendants.

"I didn't want to disrupt the flight so I rode it out for about an hour," Jacobson said. "My breathing was really short and shallow. When I got off the flight in Edmonton, I told a worker at the gate that I needed a medic."

Officials at the gate called the nearby Leduc Fire Department and paramedics rushed to the airport and used a defibrillator on him, Jacobson said.

"I had an irregular heartbeat. It was beating at 256 beats a minute. I had to get shocked to get my heart back into rhythm. But as soon as they shocked me, I was back to normal and feeling good," Jacobson said.

Jacobson wanted to be absolutely clear that he did not have a heart attack, but did have an irregular heartbeat.

Jacobson was taken to hospital where the doctor told him that because he lives so far north that he should get an implantable cardiovascular-defibrillator (ICD) put in his chest. The ICD is able to perform both fibrillation and pacing of the heart. The device is capable of correcting life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia.

The surgery to implant the device took place three days later at the University of Alberta Hospital.

"If this happens again, I'll be protected. They put it right above my heart. It has two lines going into my heart. It's about the size of a Zippo lighter and it's now buried in my chest," Jacobson said. "I was a little sore from the surgery but now I feel good. I'm getting my strength back but it takes a lot out of you."

Jacobson said he spent five days in hospital in total before flying home to Tuk.

He said he had a previous scare back in 2011 when he contracted pneumonia and had fluid around his heart.

Jacobson said when one comes through a health scare such as this, it helps put things in priority.

"I know that all I have in the end is my family. To me, my family is everything and I need to be here for them," Jacobson said.

Jacobson and his wife Jenny have seven children, according to the legislative assembly website.

Jacobson said he wanted his constituents to know that he is still on the job.

"The doctors said to rest up and slow down a bit but my phone has been ringing non-stop since I got home. I don't need any pity. I was working even while I was in the hospital," he said.

"I am going to run again. This is not going to stop me from doing my job. It's just another hurdle I have to deal with on a daily basis. When I do something I get it done."

Jacobson, a former mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, was first elected as an MLA in 2007. Jacobson said he is unsure if he'll try for that position again if he is elected.

The territorial election is scheduled for Nov. 23.

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