It wasn’t until my first ‘re-birthday’ that I (or rather a bunch of my friends) decided that we should get matching tattoos as a sign of solidarity, friendship, strength and for me, survival. So off we all went the day after my first ‘re-birthday’ and got matching permanent ink stamps on various parts of our skin.
I had never had a tattoo before so I was a little nervous. I have an ICD and I take anticoagulants but I did my research before I went and explained everything to the tattoo artist who said I would be fine. I did sign a disclaimer but as the tattoo was only going to be small (about the size of a 10p coin) we both weren’t worried about bleeding. Had I have been having a larger tattoo this would have been a concern for me and I would have sought advice from my anticoagulant team (see below). The tattoo itself felt like being poked with a hot stick for about 10 mins and was a little sore afterwards but the discomfort soon passed and I was left with the artwork etched forever on my right ankle.
About a year or so later I decided that I wanted something to commemorate my arrest date so took myself off for another tattoo at a different studio and had Roman numerals along the edge of my left foot. This time the tattooist didn’t ask any questions and I didn’t sign any paperwork but as it was only a small tattoo and I was fine the first time I didn’t even mention any health issues.
Another year passed and I got another one on my right wrist of a doodle that my son had drawn a few months previously. This was the same studio and again no paperwork and I was fine. Then I was tattooed again in September 2020 with a doodle my daughter had drawn and I had it placed next to my son’s doodle. This was again at a different studio and I did sign paperwork and of course, at that point, Covid restrictions were in place and the studio was great and extremely professional.
A trio of hearts
Fast forward to September 2021 and I got myself inked again. With a pattern of three different love hearts. This time it’s to mark my 5th re-birthday (or as I now call it, my royal birthday). None of the others bled but this time it was quite weepy for a short time after which isn’t unusual as, after all, something is scratching and penetrating your skin for several minutes!!
I love my tattoos and they are all part of my survival story in some way. All my tattoos have been small, but I would highly recommend that you talk with your doctors and the tattoo studio and do your homework about the studio before going ahead. Different medications can have an impact on bleeding and healing times and sometimes even affect your pain threshold.
It is also worth mentioning precautions having an ICD (internal cardioverter defibrillator). It has left me with a scar from the implantation surgery. I know lots of people like to cover up scars with tattoos but after doing my research it is strongly advised against this on an ICD scar. The scar will be opened again at such a time of a device replacement, therefore, ruining your lovely tattoo. It is also strongly advised not to tattoo over the top or too close to your device. This is because the device or wires could be damaged or affected by the tattoo process and the skin over the device could be compromised more than a tattoo usually would. (If you haven’t already had one, the healing can be as uncomfortable and sore as the tattooing process itself, healing usually lasts 2-6 weeks dependant on size).
So, if you’ve been thinking about it, check it out with your doctor and hopefully you can go ahead and do it!
Ed: The general NHS advice on tattoos and anticoagulants states…
“It’s not usually recommended to have a body piercing or tattoo while you’re taking warfarin because of the increased risk of bleeding and infection.
If you still want go ahead, talk to your doctor about your specific risks in case you need antibiotics or adjustments to your warfarin dosage.
And let the tattooist or piercer know beforehand that you’re taking a blood-thinning medicine.”
Sudden cardiac arrest survivor with an ICD, sharing my story of recovery and raising awareness