I’ve been off the air for a short while now (3 months!) so I feel its time to write another blog. This one could get a bit messy as it’s very personal!
I’ve been having chest pains for about 6 years, it started soon after hitting 40, nothing too bad, but sometimes I’d have to stop what I was doing and rest for a short while. I could always disguise this when I was with someone, or much of the time I would just ignore it until the pain went away, which, to begin with, it always did. I put this chest pain down to being overweight, then once diagnosed type 2 diabetic, I put it down to that, and just getting older and less fit. I had every intention of getting fit, losing weight etc, that would surely sort it out. As I’ve said in an earlier blog post, I’ve lost a couple of stone, and kept it off. My diabetes is largely under control, my last Hba1c was 6.2, and my Cholesterol is 4, so not bad at all. The chest pain was still there, and getting worse, but I was certain it was still just a general fitness issue. About 4 or 5 months ago Sarah and I started trying to get a bit fitter, this involved doing lots of walking, and generally being more active. This along with my job, I have my own business making and selling Gin and Vodka, suddenly brought things to a head for me. I had continual chest pain, I could not carry out the usual day-to-day aspects of my work as any activity made the pain worse. Every evening I would return home and have to lie down for a long rest as I was so tired.
Mid september 2012 I spent a weekend selling my Gin and Vodka, the whole weekend I was feeling very tired and slow. My mother, who helps me at these events, remarked that I was very grey, and said that I needed to see a doctor. Sarah had already made me an appointment to see my doctor, but that was two weeks away. Tuesday the 26th of September Sarah and I walked into town, from our home to the town centre is all down hill, I had to stop for a rest on the way! We had decided that if the pain got too bad then we would walk to the casualty department at Wycombe General Hospital. The pain got bad enough, and so we walked into casualty. If you want to see the NHS at its best go to a casualty department when you have chest pain. I was seen immediately, I was hooked up to an ECG machine, given some drugs, and had blood samples taken. I was still convinced that the doctor would call me a malingering git, and tell me to lose weight and eat more sensibly. I truly believed that I would be out of casualty within a couple of hours, maybe with a few pills to take and some lifestyle advice, after all I was feeling ok now, I’d been given some more drugs and injections to thin my blood, I was relaxed and feeling better than I’d felt for a few weeks.
After a few hours in casualty I was told that another ECG would be taken twelve hours after my “Heart Attack” when I stated that I hadn’t had a heart attack the doctor said “well what was it then” I explained the symptoms and he was adamant that I could have had a heart attack, and that another ECG would say for sure, either way I was in for the night! I was admitted to the cardiac ward where at 11.30 that evening I had another ECG, which proved inconclusive. Wednesday morning I woke up having slept well, I was given coffee and toast for my breakfast, but the pain was back, in fact I didn’t feel very well at all. A nurse came to give me yet another ECG and half way through applying the stickers to me he looked at me and said “are you feeling ok?” to which I said “no, not really” The nurse started off the ECG and as the printout came off the machine he ripped it off and ran to the nurses station. Suddenly I was surrounded by doctors, nurses and a porter! “congratulations” said the senior registrar, “you’ve just jumped the queue for the angiogram, you’re having an episode right now” The porter along with the senior registrar and a couple of other doctors wheeled me down to the angiogram department. All went well with the angiogram initially, the doctor put in the dye, took the x-ray photos of my heart and then explained that I may feel a little strange when the camera was inserted into my heart. Well it felt strange for a short while then I passed out and my heart stopped, I had to be resuscitated by defibrillator, and was told that I was “Technically dead for 18 seconds” I was told by the doctor in charge that I needed a multiple heart bypass urgently, and that I’d have to stay in hospital until I’d had it!
It was made very clear to me at this point that I was lucky to be alive, and that I would not have lasted much longer if I hadn’t gone in to casualty. When I asked if I could wait for the operation at home I was told that if I went home I would most likely die there, in fact my only option was to remain in bed and wait to be transferred to Harefield Hospital where I would have a multiple bypass. I remained in Wycombe Hospital for a further week and a half before my transfer to Harefield Hospital. During this time I contracted a stomach bug which resulted in isolation for two days for the whole ward, and on the day of the transfer to Harefield I went down with a cold which delayed the operation for a further two days.
I can’t say much about the operation, I went down for surgery on Tuesday 9th October, I was in the recovery room for two days, followed by the Intensive Care Unit, before being sent up to the general ward to recover on Friday 12th October. I caught a chest infection at some point, which was extremely painful, and I was affected very badly by the morphine pain relief that was used. I’m ashamed to say that I was probably a very difficult patient, I was hallucinating or dreaming and believing all sorts of weird things, and I put Sarah and my mother through hell, for which I am both ashamed and very sorry. I stayed on the ward until the 18th of October when Sarah and her dad took me home. I could just about walk, I was very weak and tired, but I had no heart pain. I was taking 27 pills each day, but being home was wonderful, I had seen Sarah’s older sons when I was on the ward at High Wycombe, but seeing the younger two for the first time in three and a half weeks was lovely, for days they were quiet and very well-behaved!
Being back at home, I quickly recovered, I had visits from the cardiac nurse and district nurses and our families were in and out a lot. I was soon able to walk up and down the road, and before long I was able to walk into town again, initially getting a taxi back as it is all uphill. This gets us up to date, I can now walk back up the hill from the town centre, I can drive again. I do get tired very quickly, but otherwise I’m doing well. I attend a cardiac clinic fitness class, run by the cardiac care team at Wycombe Hospital, I’ve been back to the surgical team at Harefield Hospital, where they were able to explain exactly what I’ve had done and what my prognosis is, and I have an appointment to see the cardiologist at the end of January, they will assess me for ongoing treatment.
So, to bring this long rambling saga to a conclusion! The surgeons were not able to do as much as they wanted, I only got a double bypass as the rest of the arteries were too badly damaged to do anything with. This means that my prognosis is not as good as it could have been, I have a 50-70% chance of living for more than 10-15 years. This is assuming that I don’t smoke, eat healthily, take plenty of gentle exercise, don’t get stressed and don’t overdo things. I have to accept that I can’t run about like a kid, I can’t do heavy physical work, I will not be one of those bypass patients who you see completing marathons. In fact if I had been in conventional employment I would be advised to retire, I’ve just turned 48! I feel that my outlook on life has changed deeply, I feel very lucky to still be here and so feel calmer and definitely less stressed. I don’t rush things, because I can’t, I try not to get upset or angry because it could do me harm! On the brighter side, the doctors said that my condition was genetic, my lifestyle had very little to do with it. As there is a history of heart problems in my family both my brother and sister have been checked out, and they are fine. For me however the problem will almost certainly reoccur, hence my 10-15 year prognosis, but if I look after myself etc, there is a possibility that the operation could be repeated. On a further lighter note, my business was taken over by Sarah, my mum and my friend Angie, and it has thrived to such an extent that it is far better off without me! I would like to say thankyou to all the nurses and doctors who helped me, to all the friends, family and customers who sent their good will and love, the facebook and twitter users who sent so many messages but mainly I’d like to say thanks to Sarah and my mum for all that they’ve done for me I would not be here if it were not for you two!
When I read this back it seems a bit like a bald list of things that happened, there was so much emotional stuff going on in my head and so many wierd feelings that I don’t want to get all weirdy beardy and old hippy on you. Maybe I’ll write that when I’m ready!
My only piece of advice would be to please write a will if you have not already done so. I hadn’t so I did one in hospital, and discussing my final wishes with Sarah, and my mum, were the hardest things I’ve ever had to say.