Monthly Archives: June 2013

Emotional Wreck (FD +3)

… and I’ll call her Dignity!

Another average night’s sleep (at best).  I woke early, and put on my iPod so I could close my eyes and listen to some relaxing music… “Dignity” (Deacon Blue) got to me.

I’ve always liked the song, the sentiment and the story, but my reaction is a bit much.  Fortunately it’s early.  There are no witnesses.  No-one will ever know!

I decided to take control.  I set up the Blog.  I’ve done it before.  It’s straightforward.  It only takes a few minutes for the basics.  Immediately it helped me get my head together… do I want to be a “heart attack victim” or “heart attack survivor”?  Even in my current emotional state, it’s a no brainer! (Incidentally, try searching the 2 phrases on Google… I got 2.1m hits for “victim” versus only 111k for “survivor”.  What does that say?)

It was still early.  Going home today.  I needed to rest. How about a film to take my mind off things…

untitled (4)In retrospect, “Saving Private Ryan” wasn’t the best selection ever.  In fact, I may start a petition to have it removed from the options in the cardiac wards.

After the first 27 minutes I was wrecked.  Wrung out.  I hung on for the uplifting finish, but even that’s traumatic and laden with sadness.

Next time it’s Disney all the way!


My days are becoming increasingly structured around the comings and goings of a busy hospital ward…

Wake up.



Making the all important selections from the menu.

Looking forward to the tasty, but slightly non-descript soup… Green Pea, Broth, Lentil, all bearing remarkable similarities to their culinary relatives.  Hearty and wholesome.

After lunch, a snooze.

Visiting time.



Visiting time.


A nice cup of tea

It’s lovely to have visitors, but nothing quite beats the peace on the ward when visiting hours are finished.

The quiet anticipation of the tea round… a lovely cuppa!

I’ve managed to resist the biscuits… another step towards the slippery slope.

Everything runs like clockwork.  The faces change (and the quality of the tea!), but the routine remains the same.

Safe.  Comfortable.  Normal.

Should I stay or should I go? (FD +2)

I was at the point where I wanted to go home, return to some sort of normality, but slightly concerned it may be a little early. What would happen if something went wrong?  Will I be tempted to do too much?  Will we all cope without the nurses?

untitled (3)The one test I still had to have was the Heart Echo – critical as it’d provide an insight on how much permanent damage had been done to my heart.

Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long… my number came up first, just as my toast and marmalade was being polished off.

It was strange being able to see my “broken” heart working away inside me.  I knew they were measuring different dimensions, capacities, throughput rates, pressures, etc. I could see everything on the monitor, but I had absolutely no idea what anything meant.

imagesCA3T6FW3I couldn’t stop thinking of people I’ve known at work that were “OK” at their jobs, or new to their roles, learning as they went.

It felt to me like the Sonographer had quite an important role for me at that point in time.  I hoped she was good!

I didn’t have to wait long for the results…

The diagnosis was that the permanent damage was  low to intermediate, “to be expected” apparently.   This meant that I would not be able to drive for 4 weeks (there was an outside chance it could have been only 1) and, if I wanted, I could leave hospital today… but leaving tomorrow was fine too.  My call…

Right… decisions… (I’m getting out of practice!)

  1. If I can, I will stay an extra night.  This will give us all time to get our heads around the idea of having a cardiac patient in our house
  2. Given it’s 4 weeks till I can drive, I may as well tie-in my return to work.  It had been bothering me.  Initially, the tendency was towards “the sooner the better”, but I don’t have to rush and I want to be able to do a proper job when I return.  I could start after a couple of weeks, but who knows what shape I’d be in.  Being able to commit to a date is important.  14th July it is!

Having made the decision, I’m told they need the bed.

“We need the bed.  Could you leave today?”
“Oh, OK.”
“This afternoon would be good.”
“Oh, OK.”

I texted Louise.  Much excitement (panic?!).  Arrangements to be made (school pick-up, snacks, etc.).  As soon as everything had been sorted…

“It’s alright.  I’ve spoken to the doctor.  You are staying another night.”
“Oh, OK”

Thank goodness for SMS and understanding relatives!

Sleep (FD +2, Early Hours)

Both of the wards that I called home were in a recently developed part of the hospital.  They were both clean and well maintained, housing state of the art technology.  Being cardiac wards, there was activity at all hours of the day and night – I could hardly complain given the time of my own admission!

InstitutionalisedIt did appear however that while a lot of care and attention had been paid to the medical aspects of the facility, some of the finer details of the joinery had been overlooked.  As a result, the doors were noisy.

Very noisy!

So noisy in fact, that I could have sworn that they had been specifically designed to be entered into the European Door Slamming Championships.

Given the doors were in use to provide access and / or privacy during normal waking hours, practice for the Championships appeared to be restricted to the early hours of the morning.

Practice makes perfect I guess.  I have high hopes of a medal for Scotland!


One of the few benefits of being hooked up to a heart monitor is that you can be monitored untitled (2)from afar.  As I was now “free”, it was necessary to “physically observe” me during the night to make sure I was still breathing.

Given the shock caused by the door banging, this sounded like a prudent approach to me.  The routine was a simple one… as soon as I had drifted off, a nurse would shine a small torch, three times brighter than the sun into my face.  I would jump, sitting upright in my bed. “What the #*%£!!!”.  And the nurse would leave, satisfied.


Let me sleep!  PLEASE!

Changing Rooms (FD +1)

My time was up!  I was freed from the heart monitor.  Able to make my own way to the bathroom.  To lie on my side.  To move without getting tangled.  Result!

This also meant it was time to move to the Cardiac Ward, a more general ward for heart patients (consider it “Business Class” in comparison to the “First Class” CCU).  I had only been in hospital for 36 hours, but I had got comfortable with my surroundings, the nurses, the comings and goings.

The move up one floor felt like a big deal.  Practically, it just meant that I had less pillows (I’m sure I could have asked for more) and that I had to pay for my TV*, but psychologically it meant more.  Change is difficult!

Despite this, I still knew I was lucky.  I was becoming increasingly aware that I was in better shape than most people on the ward.  There were few physical signs of my condition, and I was feeling better all the time.  I was beginning to feel a little bit of a fraud.

TV* I say “Pay for the TV” however the Trust were kind enough to provide it free between 10-2 every day.  It says it’s for a limited period, but in my opinion, removal of this basic human right could cause unrest… all those quality programmes that would be denied to the residents!

You are what you eat (FD +1)

The Rehab Nurse reminded me of Gillian McKeith (“You are what you eat”).  Friendly while being knowledgeable and firm.  She had the difficult task of running (Louise & I) through what had happened, why, and helping us to start thinking about “What next?”.

We already knew I scored quite high on the heart attack risk factors:

  • Smoking  – I wasn’t smoking but had been up until about 9 months ago
  • High cholesterol – A family favourite
  • High Blood Pressure – Certainly stress has been a feature of my work life for years
  • Being overweight / obese – Certainly room for improvement
  • Lack of exercise – Check
  • Alcohol – Check
  • Male – Check

See the full list:

Addressing any of these, together with the medication would help me prevent recurrence.

The most difficult one for me is work (which leads to Stress, which leads to High Blood Pressure).  I can see me making major changes to other areas of my life, but I need time to get my head around what changes I might be able to make at work.  Hopefully addressing some of the other factors will make me fit enough to do what I do, and help change my approach / attitude to it.  Let’s see.  (The Rehab Nurse sees “one or two like me” every week… I’m sure we’ll come back to this!).

Our vacation plans in Florida have been scuppered!

The only “Life Decision” we were ready for related to our holiday.  The ladies had unselfishly decided that two weeks in the summer heat of Florida, chasing thrills and spills at the Theme Parks and bargains at the Mall probably wasn’t the best recuperation for me.  Swimming with the dolphins would have to wait.  It would be cancelled immediately… thank goodness we took the insurance!

As far as physical activity is concerned, I could start walking gently as soon as I’m free from the monitor.  As soon as I leave hospital I should start walking 5 mins, twice a day, and then add a minute on each day, slowly building strength and stamina.  We were also informed that we could re-start “bedroom activities” after a week… this information was as useful as being told at Ante-Natal classes not to have any “intimate relations” after the water’s have broken… yeh, right!

Settling In (FD +1)

I awoke early having slept OK.  Feeling a bit better.  Things seem to be settling down following the procedure.  My insides feeling more normal.

I had a headache though… dehydration?  caffeine withdrawal?  medication?  something else?  I’ve always resisted taking painkillers except for the most debilitating of hangovers, but it seems that painkillers are OK and there’s little to gain from “just battling on”.  Fortunately they work.

I’m still rigged up to the heart monitor, so essentially tied to the bed, wires hanging off me feeding the machine that charts every heartbeat.  It’s amazing how quickly you get used to peeing in a cardboard receptacle and engaging in discussions on “output” volumes!

The level of care is fantastic!  Certainly VIP treatment in the CCU.  I think I’m already less of a concern than others…  conversations start to turn to what I might be able to do, and when:  Change wards (possibly today).  Leave hospital (Tuesday or Wednesday), Drive (maybe 1 week, perhaps 4), Back to work (2 weeks, 4, maybe more), holiday (let’s see!).

I really haven’t started to get my head around any long term implications.

Before we can start to plan anything, I still need to have a echocardiogram (echo) to see the extent of the permanent damage to my heart… time is muscle… there is always permanent damage.

Carlsberg Recuperation

If Carlsberg* did Recuperations, they’d probably be the best Recuperations in the world…

  • Royal Ascot (18/6-22/6)
  • British Lions Tests (22/6 – 6/7)
  • Champions Trophy Final (23/6)
  • Wimbledon (24/6 – 7/7)
  • Tour de France ((29/6 – 21/7)
  • British Grand Prix (30/6)
  • Ashes (10/7 – 25/8)
  • The Open (18/7 – 21/7)

Timing is everything!

* No alcohol will be involved in this Recuperation.

Forty Two

Before performing observations (obs), dispensing medication or further tests, medical staff needed to confirm I was who they thought I was… Name, Date of Birth & Patient ID… checking against the details on my wristband.

There were a lot of new faces, particularly over the first 24 hours.  Each time some quick mental arithmetic was performed, sometimes out loud… 38, 39…

“Only 42!”
“Wow, only 42 and you’re in here”
“42.  This’ll be a wake-up call for you!”

Not a great conversation starter, and not the best way of keeping the heart rate down.

It was clear this was not going to stop soon, while I was in hospital or after.  There were many things I couldn’t control, but I needed to get my head around this.

I decided three things:

  1. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from looking backwards…  It is what it is, I am where I am.  I can think about how I’m going to live going forwards, but the past is just that, past.  Yes, I had a heart attack at 42.  So what?
  2. It’s better to have happened now than in 10 or 15 years time…  There is obviously never a good time to have a heart attack, but if I have to have one (which I did), I’d rather it was in the past than in the future.  At 42, I have an opportunity to use this experience as a springboard…  priorities, health, focus, etc.  I didn’t choose now, but now’s good.
  3. Switch off for today…  I’ve done enough for today.  I need to switch off.

Fortunately sleep came easily.  Too easily – I missed Justin Rose’s US Open victory.  Still, priorities… I can catch up on a replay later in the week.