A year in the life of a Blue Creature... 2006 - 2007
01 January 2007
Tell me why” “I don’t like Mondays” © Boomtown Rats
Okay, I’ll tell you why I don’t like Mondays.
Sit back and read on…………….
Firstly, let me tell you that Fridays used to be my least favourite day of the week. Friday 13<SUP>th</SUP> to be exact. Not for any superstition, but because I almost drowned twice on that date, around 8-9 years old and again at 14.
The first time was because I was trying to obtain a swimming certificate and having successfully completed the distance, tried to do the next one immediately afterwards. It was a bit too far and I suffered the ignominy of being rescued by a bloke with a metal ring on the end of a long pole. (anybody else remember them?)
The second time was when I was fishing from a boat at Emberton Park with my best friend Simon. We were larking about and capsized, not realising that just under the surface, the whole lake was covered in bindweed. We were barely able to get our heads above water to gulp down air before the wretched weed dragged us down by our legs. Gods alone know how we escaped, but I know I got 2 broken fingers in the struggle and Simon lost half a front tooth as we fought to get hold of a paddle. That’s why I didn’t like Friday 13<SUP>th</SUP>’s.
But now they’ve been replaced by Mondays. Monday 27<SUP>th</SUP>’s to be precise.
Life was good. The Estate Agents had rung to say they had a couple who wanted to see the house in daylight and so we tentatively agreed to 1pm the following day. As we haven’t had any interest for a while, this was excellent news and being the kind, altruistic husband that I am (June has just read that and whapped me round the head), I decided to clean up the kitchen to make things a bit more “presentable”.
All was going well – so well in fact that I decided to clean the ceramic hob. I even managed to find the right cleaner in the cupboard! (June wonders how I managed to find the right cupboard even…) The sun shone, Fatboy Slim played on the CD and than WHAM. (no, not George Michael and Andrew Ridgely…)
Someone swung a breezeblock on the end of a fifty foot rope and just at the point of maximum momentum, it hit me square in the chest, right on the breast bone. I hit the floor like a sack of spuds, sweating heavily. I tried to remove my sweatshirt and found that my chest ached – A LOT. Still sitting down I wondered what the hell had happened. After 10 minutes or so, I was able to finally collect my thoughts and crawled upstairs to get a polo-shirt, (the sweatshirt was too hot and I didn’t want to frighten the kiddies) and hoiked myself back down to grab my keys and walk the 20 yards to the doctors surgery. (n.b. I do not go to the doctors willingly, despite previous predilections for medics tent). As I stumbled through their door, the receptionist took 1 look at me and said (I think) SHIFT (I maybe mistaken)
Within 30 seconds I was lying down on a couch in the Nurse’s room with 4 female hands (2 nurses, we’re not that deformed in Gloucestershire) divesting me of my recently acquired polo-shirt and attaching sticky-back metal nipples all over my lithe, god-like torso. (cough)
The door opened and in strode a colossus of a doctor – 5 foot 6 inches in his stacked boots. He looked at the evidence, , asked 2 questions and than said “MI” “ambulance - and tell them not to hang about”
“Drink this,” said Alison (one of the nurses). Unfortunately it was not brandy, just 300mg of dissolved aspirin. A beige box the size of a ‘Milk tray’ box (1lb size) was attached to my metal nipples and pretty lines got drawn on a scroll of paper.
By now, I was a little perturbed. How had I managed to see a doctor without waiting 3 weeks for an appointment? Fortunately, the good doctor came to my rescue. “I think you’ve had a FARC” well he was close. “It looks like a heart attack, so you’re gonna take a trip to Gloucester. Fortunately, the ambulance men had bought one of their Mr Whippy vehicles with them and so we agreed to use it as it would have been churlish not to.
Stretchered out through the surgery I sought in vain for a familiar faces. Then the world appeared outside the door and I felt spectacularly alone and more than a little frightened.
Inside the ambulance Ryan (the medic) confirmed my details, checked and double-checked everything and then told Martin (the driver) to “go for it”. Apparently “Martin” is a pseudo-nym of Jenson Button as we hurtled along country lanes, B-roads – A – roads and dual carriageways at speeds that seemed impossible. Luckily, “Jenson” had blue flashing lights and a nice two-tone siren to help ease his way. Not only did Ryan stand up the whole journey, but he kept talking to me and giving me drugs (PRESCRIBED!). Soon we were on the outskirts of Gloucester, so Ryan radioed ahead to Gloucester Royal Hospital(GRH) and confirmed they were ready to receive an overweight, unfit, middle-aged man with silvered hair who was scared shitless and wondered why this had happened on a Monday 3 days after his 46<SUP>th</SUP> Birthday.
"It’s Like a Medics Tent, but with solid walls and roof…”
GRH is a sprawling place, but surprisingly the Emergency Room (or Acute Assessment Unit as some bureaucrat has decided it should be called) seems very intimate – perhaps because of the hustle and bustle as up to 4 serious cases are seen by teams of (thankfully) medically qualified people. Sheesh, and I was one of them!
My AAU doctor was a youngish east-asian guy called Venay (Vinnie). He was brilliant, - making sure I understood what was happening and why they were taking bloods & dolling out some medicine for immediate pain relief. Ahhh…… Morphine…….. Also a strange drug – Glycerol TriNitrate (or GTN) which is sprayed under your tongue. This widens the arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle and they relax the veins that return blood from the body to the heart. Together these actions allow more oxygen to reach the heart muscle and reduce the work of the heart. It also gives you the most horrendous ( and INSTANT) headache, but frankly I didn’t care. With all the various drips and taking of bloods, within half an hour I had 4 canulas and another 3 sites from bloods. I had more tubes coming out of me than Mornington Crescent. I felt like that If I’d taken a drink, I would have been a human garden sprinkler.
It was now about 2.15 pm – less than 2 hours since the breezeblock hit. Although heart attacks are never the same for any 2 people, on the scientific (and professionally used) “1 to 10” scale for pain, mine was a 9. And life wasn’t funny anymore. Lots of thoughts passed through my fervoured mind – everything from “did I close the kitchen window?” to “I wonder if anyone would come to my funeral?”. Was I scared? – more than at any other time in my life.
About this time June arrived, having been phoned by my local nurses. Well, at least that was one less thing to worry about. Vinnie took her to one side and explained that I was certainly going to be admitted for a period as there were still loads of tests to do. A porter arrived and soon I was being wheeled along white-walled and white-ceilinged corridors to the lift, then up one floor to the Coronary Care Unit (CCU). Looking back, I realised that the last 2 or 3 hours had been dominated by the colour white:- white coats, white ambulance, white walls, white ceilings, and on the 1 brief glimpse of myself in a reflective surface, my white face. (don’t even think about mentioning my beard and hair).
In the CCU I was hooked up to an electronic box of tricks that kept a constant track of my heart function. A blood pressure cuff was put on my left arm, and an O2 sensor on a finger of my right hand. Stands were found for the still-present drips, and finally an oxygen mask was placed over my face hooked up to the building’s in-built feed rather than the bottles I had been on. 3 of the 4 canulas were now occupied with drug infusions. And the over-riding thing was that I was on STRICT bed-rest. That means NO walking. At all. No. None. Not even to the loo (which was a whole 12 paces away). So I lay down, smiled at June and told her to go home as I wanted to rest.
After the ensuring “discussion”, “we” agreed that she would go home after I had dozed off. Looking back, I’m glad she, sorry “we” made that decision. I didn’t know it at the time, but there are 2 critical times if you have a heart attack. The first is the “golden hour” – as I’m sure you will know if you’ve watched any medical daytime drama – the hour immediately after the attack. The second, less well-known period, is the first 24 hours after the attack. Apparently, if you are susceptible to another event, it is most likely to occur within 1 day of the first.
So I started to doze but was interrupted by what would become one of several common questions – “Do you mind if we take some more blood?” Nice of them to ask though I suppose. The other interruptions were (in descending order of frequency:-
“Can we take your blood sugars please?”
“Can we take your temperature please?”
and “How are you feeling – any pain at all?”
After the first round of questions I nievely thought that would be that for a while, but to my dismay they were repeated with (at least) hourly frequency and were supplemented every 15 minutes by the pressure bandage cuff automatically inflating and deflating again, recording my systolic and diastolic pressure readings for prosperity. Finally, I must have dozed sufficiently for June to feel secure about going home. I vaguely remember being asked if I wanted food and turning it down – boy I must have been ill!
There is little to be said about the next 12 hours as it was a case of pressure bandage inflate, deflate, question? repeated ad-infinitum. The knowledge that this cycle was repeated every 15 minutes precluded any meaningful sleep, so I was always waiting for the torsion on the arm cuff to be applied like Pete Large gripping his wallet, but unlike him, to be relaxed again.
Various staff appeared and disappeared as the shifts in the CCU changed. Without exception, they are professional, caring people who enforced the bed-rest rule with a rod of iron. The nurses in the NHS do not get paid enough for what they do! Write to your MP and demand they get more instead of the current pay scales which has effectively given them pay DECREASES over the last 2 years.
What do you mean, there’s a 6 o’clock in the morning too?
At 5.59am a hospital is a wonderful, serene, almost ethereal place.
At 6.00am, it’s like a scene from M*A*S*H (although probably with less mud and golf). Ancillery staff descend noisily, and the tranquiity of the night is banished tomemory. Someone, somewhere, invented that particular type of wheel that gets affixed to all NHS trolleys. Its characteristics include squealing/squeeking , an inability to turn without introducing a reverberating low-frequency rumbling, and a marked inability to travel in the same direction as the other 3 wheels on any given trolley. I would like to meet that particular inventor and choke the living crap out of them. /personal rant
The drinks trolley makes it’s first tour of the ward for the day. Diabetes means that only tea, coffee and cold milk are sensible options. Vying for second place is the morning medications dispensary – conscientious checking of each patient’s details ensures that the nurses deliver the correct medical needs of all their patients flawlessly. Usually in third place (although sometimes beating the medicines trolley by the use of judicious blocking of the double doors) is the breakfast trolley. From this, the choice of several cereals or a slice of bread and butter is available. Every day I hoped that someone had had the ingenuity to install a toaster. And every day these hopes were dashed, and so it was “muesli please, no sugar…”
For the 2 days after my admission the doctors administered a cocktail of drugs in order to get me totally pain free and to ensure my chances of a second event were reduced. This was great mentally because it gave me a series of targetsto reduce the number of tubes going into me via the canulas. Also there were unexpected surprises and events. Warren (a lapsed knotter) works in the Imaging (X-ray for old farts like me) Department of GRH and had been contacted by Claire Farrow of Slannings (thanks Claire). He came to see how I was progressing and offered any help he could give. Also, Karen and Jaz, a couple of beautiful Slannings women (they’re ALL beautiful) popped in. They bought flowers (first time I’ve been given flowers in my life!) and a card and messages from several members of the regiment. This buoyed me up enormously and at the same time made me feel more than a little humbled. They left with my profuse thanks ringing in their ears, taking with them a message from me for anyone attending the Slanning’s banquet the following Saturday that I was alive and relatively well.
Misty (Mr Reynolds) also put his head in to check that I was breathing. We talked about everything and nothing, so no change there then. On Friday evening Ann and Ewok from Slannings arrive from Somerset bearing messages from a thread they started on the MOA Beer Tent and games to keep me occupied. I am genuinely amazed at the kindnesses of people, some of whom I only know by their nickname. It was only in reflective moments afterwards that I realised just how much it meant to see friendly faces and read messages left for me.
On the technical side I had an echocardiogram which is a scan of the heart using ultra-sound (much like imaging a baby in the womb). This confirmed I indeed had a heart attack and that the heart muscle in the “top left hand front corner” had been irreparably damaged (heart muscle does not regenerate if it loses it’s blood suppy). The doctors and consultant discussed the results with me and advised that I should have an angiogram about a week later. This is a procedure that is used to obtain more detailed information about any narrowing and blockage of the arteries feeding the heart muscle itself by passing a tube up from the groin to the heart and injecting dye whilst looking at a constant X-ray. A couple of booklets explaining the procedure were left for me to read in the times I was not dozing, or having blood tests, or eating etc.
On Saturay 2<SUP>nd</SUP> December a couple of knotters from Nottingham “popped down the road” to say hello. Dave and Zoe from Blewes arrived like a whirlwind and quickly made me chuckle. They also gave me a Thomas the Tank Engine book to read to keep me occupied. I’m currently on page 7 and managing to understand most of it. Saturday evening and I watche my first TV in a week. I switched on MoTD just as Arsenal scored/ The doctors tell you not to get too excited , and as a follower of Chelsea I switched it off in case they scored again.
MoTD made me think, however. Do you realise that some professional footballers in this country earn more in 1 WEEK than most nurses do in 4 or 5 YEARS! Where is the sense or justification in that?
On Monday 4<SUP>th</SUP> I was taken to Cheltenham hospital for the angiogram. This showed that I have 1 (of 3) artery completely blocked. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, the consultants decided that they would keep me in GRH and schedule an Angioplasty to try to open up the blockage. Basically, they stick a tube in your groin again (deep joy) into a main artery and pass it up to the heart. They then use a hook to try to get through the blockage, and then if successful inflate a small balloon which forces the blockage tissue back against the artery wall, so freeing up the blood supply again.
n.b. It’s Friday 8<SUP>th</SUP> December and I’m still in GRH awaiting the theatre appouintment in Cheltenham. The days are all melding into 1 as the routine of trolleys, meals, drinks and drugs continues unabated. June, on one of her regular visits, has continued to bring me get well cards from family and friends, and I read every line, savouring this contact with the ouside world. To those who have sent messages of support to June and myself – THANK YOU.
For a week, nothing of any importance happens. – I still need that appointment for Cheltenham. On Saturday 9<SUP>th</SUP> the sudden appearance of Lol (Ballards) and Jan, Nev and Felix (Stamfords) bring light relief, a chance to laugh, and for me, gifts of Thud! (T.Pratchett) a flashing xmas badge, and most crucially, a Thomas the Tank Engine colouring book and crayons. WHAT THE HELL IS IT WITH THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE ? Whoopee – another source of entertainment to kill the long hours of boredom.
On Thursday 14<SUP>th</SUP>, my heart decides to have a little flutter (no, not a bet), just to remind me why I was still under medical care. An ECG machine is is quickly produced, and the familiar metal nipples are stuck on my chest (nurses use “Ride Your Green Bike” to remember the sequence for the attachment of the ECG leads.). Yet another relief map of the Himalayas swews from the machine and a doctor pronounces that it is symptomatic of my blockage. Ok good. No real cause for concern then…
The weekend arrives with news that I was to be sent to Cheltenham on Monday 18<SUP>th</SUP> on the off-chance the surgeons can “fit me in”. This date marks my 3 week anniversary since admittance. I bask in the knowledge that this would mean yet another blood test on Sunday, and, (my personal favourite) a fresh canula “just in case anything happens on the table” June also returns, bringing frest supplies of essential, but most importantly, her smile and soft voice. Zoe and Dave also reappear on Saturday evening, again lifting my spirits. Zoe admonishes me for not finishing the TtTE book. I promise to pay it more attention, but secretly know that Thud! Will continue to occupy me until it’s finished.
My feelings were thrown into sharp relief however, as on the Saturday, two families were devastated with the news that loved ones had passed away on the ward despite the best efforts of the cardiac staff. The mood of the ward was noticeably more sombre, yet the care of the patients continued with the professionalism you would expect. God(s) alone know how the nursing staff are able to be so resolute and so caring, given the potential seriousness and consequences of the people under their care.
Monday 18<SUP>th</SUP>. Angioplasty fails – they can’t get through the blockage. I hadn’t given even the mearest thought that it would be unsuccessful, so feel down and at a loss, not knowing what the future might be.
24 hours later, and the Registrar outlines the possibilities for the future. Either another attempt at Angioplasty in Oxford or Bristol (they must have sharper sticks there), Heart Bypass, or, if I’m lucky, nothing. Further test are to be done over the next day or so to provide the necessary information for the decision. This includes a treadmill exercise test. Deep Joy. Finally, on Wednesday evening (the 20<SUP>th</SUP>), the Registrar and Consultant advise that they are confident that I do not need any further immediate treatment although I will need to go back in a few months for a fresh scan of the heart to see if there are any further problems. This means that I can be discharged on Thursday morning – home in time for Christmas! Deliriously happy, I phone June and a few friends to tell them the news. The next 12 hours passes so slowly that it’s a wonder time is not travelling backwards, then finally, the nurse confirms my medicines are ready and that I can be discharged. June arrives and I walk out into the fresh air for the first time in 25 days. Now the hard work starts to obtain a healthier lifestyle and eliminate some of the factors that can cause heart attacks. The first thing to work on is Smoking. Ironically, I had stopped a week before the attack, but I will not smoke again. So, no more cigars under your awning Mr Beeson J I am not going to become a health zealot, but I am aware that I can do things to reduce the potential for future problems, and I would be a complete arse if I didn’t make a few changes.
And the moral of the story is….
Don’t clean Halogen cooker hobs
And now , a few “Awards” (no cash prizes, not little trophies even)
Favourite message on SK Website
Kelvin Craig – “You’re only attention seeking”
Honourable mention to Nick Bacon who would have been joint first except that he keeps beating me to Mornington Crescent
Favourite thing said to me in GRH
“I’m going to give you morphine until you can’t feel any pain”
Okay, I think you can go to the toilet on your own now”
“Your meds are ready, you can go home now”
3 way tie again.
Beth, Tasha, and Alyson. (Every bloke will understand…)
The 22:00 drinks Trolley. (This meant no more disturbances for 8 hours)
Morphine (although replaced 5 days later by Senacot)
Most Common “Get Well” Message
“Don’t think this will get you out of housework in the future” ( written by EVERY female well-wisher)
“Tell the old bugger to get better”
Things Phlebotomists like to be called
Things Phlebotomists do NOT like to be called
Professional Bloody Vampires.
p.s. I find myself sitting here and re-reading so many messages of support for June and myself with a film of water developing in front of my eyes. (must be the change in air from the hospital…)
I know that I’ll never be able to fully thank so many people who have written text’d, rang, passed messages, or even said a quiet private word on our behalf, so believe me, this is from June and my (still beating) heart: THANK YOU ALL SO VERY, VERY MUCH
p.p.s Despite my best efforts I never did get connected to the machine that goes “Ping”
December to November. Stuff happened, none of it worth talking about.
WOO HOO - Finally, a date with DEATH
Slightly misleading title, but I'm in a good mood! Oh, and sorry for the long gap between entries, but so little has happened until now ( apart from another suspected attack in May/June (it wasn't btw) and various too-ing and fro-ing to the specialists in Gloucester Royal and John Radcliffe (Oxford).
The John Radcliffe have just rung and told me that they want me in on the 26th of November to operate on the 27th. This is scary - it will be exactly 1 year since the heart attack, and June has been saying ever since last month that she had a feeling that that would be the date they operate!
So, I get to spend my 47th birthday at home 2 days beforehand, and my new 1st Birthday (I've decided to have 2 - Liz Windsor can do it, so why not me? ) on an operating table
Now all I have to do is wait 10 days, fingers tapping in impatience!
Hopefully, will only be in hospital for 5 days or so (give or take, and assuming it all goes OK) The first 36 hours after the op are in the ICU, then it's back to the cardiac ward and the start of physiotherapy! Oh how I love those exercise hitlers!
Then it's home, with a convalescence of about 12 weeks - can't drive anything for the first 6 weeks, and nothing heavier than 3.5 tonnes for 13 weeks.
The convalescence will be to enable me to get the heart pumping a little harder each week without overstressing it too early ( I don't want the new feed to rupture ). So for the first week, I can't lift anything heavier than 6 pounds, then week 2 ten pounds, and so on. Slightly concerned becuase my winter leather jacket weighs more than 6 lb....... so I can wear it, but will have to have June dress me and undress me in it!
Lets face it, having survived the attack last year, the best possible result DEATH can get now is a draw!
Monday 26th November.
Don't Go Breaking My Heart
Well, that didn’t start too well! I phoned the JR at 9am to see if there was still a bed available for my scheduled admission, and at 2:40pm they finally confirmed that there wasn’t. So, now they will need to discuss with the surgeon which day NEXT WEEK he wants to try and get me in again.
I know that emergencies take priority ( lets face it, been there, done it, worn the pyjamas ), but you don’t feel that rational when something that you’ve waited a whole year for is put “on hold”, even for the comparatively short time of a week or so.
At least I know I’ll sleep well tonight (Monday), because I was awake until 6:30 am this morning wondering why Morpheus would not wrap me in his comforting arms.
I feel disappointed, let down, and I want to go and kick small furry animals. ( Grey Squirrels for preference ). Even a week or 10 days delay has had quite an impact on my positive ness – I know it’s selfish, but I defy anyone not to be affected ( a bold challenge I know ) under such circumstances.
Oh well…. BUGGER.
Take 2 Mr De Mille
Another phone call this morning from JR. They want to try and admit me on Sunday with a view to operating on Monday 3rd December. I feel a bot more positive that I did yesterday, but Grey Squirrels are still on the endangered list.
It's difficult not to imagine the same thing is ikely to happen again - particularly as Saturdays in the month before Christmas are rife with cardiac problems as people suddenly realise the Chrismas shoppping needs doing, and needs doing NOW!
Hopefully, people will wait until January to have a Heart Attack when they get their credit-card bills.
AH... Fresh Crisp Sheets
Well, it appears that not too many people have keeled over in Oxford so far this weekend, and therefore I should have a bed at the John Radcliffe for 2pm today!.
If all goes well, I'm first on the list for tomorrow (Monday), and should be on the ICU for maybe 24 hours afterwards before going back to the Cardiac Ward for about 5 days (give or take). Then the exercise nazis get to work (physiotherapists) and pummel me back into shape (They could have a long job there...) June has given me permission to chase the nurses, but ONLY if they are holding my medication.
So, those of you who have been "Hoisting Grey Squirrels" on my behalf can stop now. Hopefully, they can now go back to playing with their nuts.
Sunday 2nd December
The Final Diary
The NHS has adopted the SK tradition of “Hurry up and wait”. After confirming at 09:00 that I as ok to be admitted at 14:00, it took a further 90 minutes after arrival for the previous occupant to be evicted! Carefully I unpacked my small blue suitcase and carrier bag and filled my bedside locker. The Senior Ward Sister (A guy called Wilf, originally from Germany) came over and did a few basics tests (temperature, bloods, bp, swabs etc.) and explained what would happen over the next 36 hours. Part of this includes being moved around different recovery areas in the Cardiac area after the operation so that they can pay the right amount of attention to you. For example, in the cardiac ITU , you are the Nurse’s only patient! This however means that my possessions would travel too, or be stored until I was back on the normal Cardiac Ward so I packed my suitcase again….
The Cardiac Registrar came round about half an hour later and we went through the necessary forms and compiled a list of my various medications. He checked that I had been advised of the predictive mortality rate for the Op (98%) and of the other possible but unlikely outcomes (Stroke 1%, DEATH 1%)
He also made sure I was aware that when I was anethatised (Pre-op)that various tubes, drains and wires would be put in my neck, chest , bladder , and pneumo-thorax , and that when I woke up I would also be Intubated (A breathing tube down my throat so the machines could do my breathing for me) and that I MUST NOT try to pull this out myself. This is because of………….wait a minute!….. BLADDER!! Apparently there is no need to make another wound in the skin as there is an existing route “engineered in” on the human anatomy.
Not only am I going to be cut open, but the nursing staff are going to laugh themselves unconscious at my shrunken manhood.
Like I said, Deep Joy :Sad:
My operation is first on the list for Monday morning, and so I shall be woken at 06:00 to shower and to be pre-medicated before they insert tubes of various sizes. As long as they are not as large as a radiator top-hose I expect to feel nothing but shame….
At 18:20 this scruffy looking guy wombled over to be and introduced himself as “Dave the Anathetist”. He asked a few questions and checked every answer to ensure it tallied with any existing data he had. Unsurprisingly, it all tallied, so there should be no big surprises. He confirm pre-op should start about 06:30 the next morning when he would dose me up before tubes were inserted “whever you can think of a place on your body”. I liked his sense of humour and so told him I had wanted to meet him so that if I woke up before I was meant to, I would know who to terrorise for the rest of their life.
He grinned and assured me “You’ve got NO chance of waking up before time”. It’s why you’re in the ICU after the op as the anaesthetic is about the strongest there is, and that for 4 or 5 hours after the operation (which will take about 5 hours itself), we couldn’t wake you if we wanted too!
Anyone want to buy a case of unused Molotov Cocktails?
Talking to my near neighbours on the ward, it seems amazing that despite the significant trauma of heart surgery, it’s only a maximum of 48 hours later that the physio-terrorists will expect you to be up and about, at least once an hour to start mobilising yourself to start to recover your strength and to help promote healing of all the wound sites. You could also tell who had reached this landmark as those that had, had started to complain about the food.
Just a thought. Is a male ward sister a “Ward Brother” even if he’s Caucasian?
Sunday Night was mostly sleepless - you can’t avoid thinking about what might happen. Then at 6am I was taken to the shower where you have to wash with “surgeon’s soap”, particularly on the chest and around the groin. Then after donning the obligatory back-to-front-bum-freezer-one-size-fits-nobody gown you are given the first injection to help you relax. Soon, you are “Comfortably Numb” (QWIZ bonus point – a track by who?) – the edge is taken off the world. Then you are wheeled down to the theatre where they double / triple check who you are, then give you another drug that put’s you out faster than a Ricky Hatton left hook.
About 10 hours later I regain the first rumblings of conciousness and immediately started chocking on the breathing tube (ironic really) down my throat. It’s all very well being told that someone will remove it as a matter of priority but nonetheless I tried to hoick it out myself, panicing wildly. After maybe only 2 seconds, my arms were pinned to my side and expert hands quickly removed the now-redundant tube. Still incredibly drowsy, I remember 2 over-riding feelings – one physical recognition that my chest hurt, no HURT, no, HURT a lot, and the other was the mental relief that I had been in the 98% of successful operations.
Then sleep overwhelmed me again and I had some of the worst nightmares since I was a kid, and funnily enough, they were all about drowning and choking!
Tuesday 6 am – woken by the ICU staff and told that I was well enough to be downgraded to the High Dependency Unit (HDU) before going back to the cardiac ward hopefully later that day. The HDU was down 1 level, both in terms of dependency and physical location, and I arrived just as the morning drinks trolley hit the ward. Although I could have had anything, I opted for a simple orange juice and I can’t recall any drink tasting sweeter than that morning.! I also can’t recall being in so much pain as I coughed and realised that although it had been expected to perform the surgery via “keyhole”, this had been possible in the end, and so like the vast majority I’d had the full “Spread Eagle” I also realised the secondary wound sites were still full of tubes, drains, and that 4 more had been added to allow wires to be attached to the heart to the outside. Fortunately, it was only 4 hours or so later I was sent back to the cardiac ward where, a grinning nurse said “breath in and hold it whilst I remove each tube”. There is no comparable feeling to having plastic pipes pulled out of holes in your skin, and my relief was wonderful, disturbed only by a cry of “whoops almost forget” as the catheter was removed.
The rest of the day was spent trying to sit or lie comfortably – an almost impossible task given the location and number of trauma sites with e body having been pulled this way and that, not to mention that someone has looked at your sternum, said “that’s in the way” and so has spilt it lengthways to allow access to the squishy bits. Even Tuesday evening was too soon to get comfortable. Sleep was non-existent and every movement was painful
Wednesday 5th December
The day flowed in seamlessly from Tuesday. Visits from the doctors, diabetic team and physio-terrorists punctuated the day and a regime of drugs both short-term and long-term was developed. This was amended fairly frequently as the pain in my pneumo-thorax and chest refused to abate , and so incresasingly stronger drugs were tried. None ever reached the parts that the “Morphine on demand” I’d had access to in the HDU had, but you can’t keep taking the levels that had been acceptable the day before. So, despite best efforts, I was still unable to get comfortable, everything I did (including and in fact especially breathing) hurt, and so my sense of humour was non-existant. The “comfort factor” meant I’d had very little sleep since the operation, and consequently I was feeling more that a little “down”.
Then, for no apparent reason, thing changed very slightly. I could find a comfortable position to sit, and to lie down, and so I was able to doze off for an hour or so before being woken for blood tests etc. This was my best day so far. My outlook took on a new perspective and the world was a cheerier place. Even the evening meal tasted horrible!
The diabetic team suggested that it would be wise to remain on insulin post-recovery, but on a different regime to that on which I’d been placed after the heart attack and which had failed to do anything for me.
This means that owning an RV will be out the question as insulin-dependant drivers cannot have C1 or C licences. I was more than a touch annoyed. My reasonably firm plans were suddenly in tatters. However, by better half and I had discussed the possibility and we have a plan B (probably a Rapido 7090+) which can be driven at 3.5 tonnes. I phoned June and broke the news. Her reply really put things into persepective. “Not a problem, besides I’d rather have you around for a few extra years anyways”.
Wednesday left as it has arrived – full of the noises of the night – or rather of the disturbed in the night.
By 04:30 I had planned how to assassinate my next-door bed neighbour. I had ruled out a clinical shot to the head and had instead opted for beating him to death with a slice of lemon wrapped round a brick. That way, the lemon juice would get into any skin cuts or abrasions and cause increased suffering.
By 05:30 I was wandering the ward actively looking for a lemon. Fortunately he fell asleep just as dawn’s rosy fingers pulled the blinds apart and a pale sunlight fell across one end of the ward. Unfortunately, I didn’t, and I don’t think the doctors were prepared for the tirade they got at 8am on their ward round!
Note to self. When asked if there is anything you WANT to say, it is NOT obligatory to reply.
I did feel better afterwards, - not “I don’t miss 8 hours of sleep” better, but clearer of thought and
Thursday 6th December
A slow day. No targets to achieve, no “memorable incidents”. Just a day of expectorating following by whinging. I did get to doze occasionally, and I treasured these brief moments of peace. Unfortunately (OK, I’m lying) they had to re-jig the bed positions on the ward to make best use of monitoring equipment, and so I was asked if I would mind moving to a quieter area of the ward? I think I was over there before they had finished asking the question. Even better news was that the “disruptive neighbour” was able to be moved to a Psyche ward where he would receive better treatment. You could tell just by looking around the ward that the world was a better place….
Friday 7th December
The stair-test. The psysio-terrorists require that you have to be able to climb 2 flights of stairs beforfe you will be allowed home. This is so that they are sure you stand a reasonable chance of excape in an emergency. The thought on not achieving the standard was too awful to contemplate, and to my relief, I passed with flying colours. Tip. If you’re not sure you can manage 2 flights, convince the PTs that you live in a bungalow….
More coughing, more releasing of Sputem Plugs (A good name for a support act to Cradle of Filth IMO). Every expectoration makes breathing just a little easier and every cough makes you wince just a little less each time. You can almost feel yourself healing (if you ignore the 16 inches of chest wound, sternum held together with wire, and numerous bruises from canulas over the week.)
In the afternoon, the consultant confirmed that I would be able to go home on Saturday. Everything was arranged, and all I had to do was phone June about an hour beforehand so she could drive over and pick me up.
Saturday 8th December.
Phoned June at 9 am. By 10:30, we were on our way home, together again after 6 long days apart. Even a 75 minute car journey was painful… Life will not be totally rosy for a few weeks yet, but it’s gonna be better every day J
Well, that about wraps up this diary. The tone of this diary is different to when I had the attack, and I think I know why. 4 days after a Heart Attack, you feel a fraud – you feel as healthy as you ever did, and you’re not in pain. 4 days after a cardiac operation, and you are in a lot of pain, and you know you will be for some weeks yet. So your judgement is affected by your mood. For me, some things have changed that are an annoyance, but at the end of the day, ONLY an annoyance. The trick is to be around longer to enjoy life.
Roll on a healthy New Year for 2008
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