Monthly Archives: June 2013

Long Day (FD +0)

Sunday was a day of shock and discomfort.  My first experience of hospitalisation.  Given my extensive experience of “House” I was hoping I was well prepared.

I was rigged up to a heart monitor and therefore unable to leave my bed.  Every movement, every distraction effected my heartbeat… 80, 75, 90, 100…  I became keenly aware of it, resting with one eye open to check the positive impact on the rate.  A single palpitation sent it shooting up… alarms and flashing red lights brought the doctors running to my side… it quickly reverted back to normal… to be expected apparently.

Tired.  Not the best night’s sleep.

Not feeling great.  Silly to say perhaps given I’d just had a heart attack, but it felt like I’d been beaten up from the inside… a gentle / moderate ache I guess (still not good at translating to a pain scale of 1 to 10), but certainly not comfortable.  Again, to be expected.

My head was spinning.  So many thoughts running through my head… I was certainly not in control.  I had no real idea about what the future might hold.  Louise was there to support me, but equally, if not more, in a spin.

The nurses were fantastic, seen it all before, able to answer my questions and provide comparisons.  For them it was a normal day.  I’m glad it was for someone!

Don’t think about work.  Relax.  Take it easy. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about work.

I could only hope that a couple of hours of Champions Trophy Cricket and the US Open Golf would help me to chill out.  Fingers crossed!

Lucky (Part 1)

I am very lucky…

  • We recognised my symptoms and took action quickly
  • I live close to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where both the facilities and the medical team are top notch
  • The facilities were available when I needed them… I didn’t have to wait
  • A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to have my procedure when I did – it has only been open 24 / 7 for about 6 months
  • Things went smoothly, no complications, in and out.

I’m a gambler, happy to take a chance, but I wouldn’t want to have to rely on the same level of luck again.

The Cath Lab (FD ~02:30)

It turns out that Aberdeen’s road network is very efficient at 02:00 on a Sunday morning (shame about the rest of the time!).  We arrived at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in next to no time.

Daughter No. 1 was at a sleepover.  Fortunately, Daughter No. 2 had slept through the excitement.  The in-laws were en-route, thank goodness!  Louise was to follow later so Daughter No. 2 could sleep through.

It was clear that the initial tests performed at the house indicated that I was having a heart attack… when we arrived at the hospital the Catheterisation Laboratory (Cath Lab) was already fully prepped and buzzing.  I was wheeled in, transferred onto the bed and the team went to work…

There were approx. 8 people in the room… electrodes were applied to my chest together with defibrillator pads (in case of more emergencies!) and my right wrist was prepared for the procedure.  (I’m sure there was a lot of other stuff going on too!).

Coronary AngioplastyI was awake throughout… a small incision was made in my wrist to gain access to an artery into which guide wires, balloons and stents were eventually inserted.  Having had a look around, the cardiologist identified a severe restriction in my Left Anterior Descending (LAD) artery – it wasn’t completely blocked, but was getting there.  The balloons were inflated to expand the artery and two stents were inserted to keep it open.  While they were there, they checked out my other arteries too… no cause for concern.

The whole thing was quite surreal.  It’s obviously not something you can prepare for.  I just had to try to relax.  I was in the hands of professionals, they knew what they were doing, and I had to let them work.  The fact that it was my heart they were working on was almost incidental.

I had the occasional sense of something happening inside me, but I’m not sure how much of that was in my head… it certainly didn’t hurt.  The only real sign of action from where I was lying was the camera moving around my chest, a robot whizzing around to look at my heart from different angles.

Within about 40 minutes it was all done.  Fixed (at least as much as I could be).

I had had a heart attack and an invasive cardiac procedure (“we don’t call it surgery”).  Things were going to be different.

Transferred back to a standard bed, I was taken to the recovery room ready to be moved to the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU).  I rolled past Louise and John (Thanks John!) who had recently arrived having successfully navigated the abandoned shell that is ARI at 3 am on a Sunday…

“I told you I was having a heart attack!”

Not the best brag ever.  I was right, but nothing to be proud of.  What do you say to your loved ones when you’ve just been saved from a heart attack?  Hopefully you’ll never need to answer that one!

Father’s Day (Approx. 00.30)

Deep breath… as loud as I could manage…
“I think I’m having a heart attack.”
“Don’t be so stupid, you’re not having a heart attack!”

I’ve done some research subsequently and it turns out that many, if not most, female nurses in Aberdeen would have responded to their partners in exactly the same way. Similar conversations:

(While cooking) Male: “I think I’m having a heart attack”
Female: “Are you hungry?”
M: “Yes”
F: “You’re not having a heart attack!”

M: “I think I’m having a heart attack”
F: “Do you have shooting pains down both arms?”
M: “No”
F: “You’re not having a heart attack!”

M: “I think I’m having a heart attack”
F: “Did you put the bins out?”

You get the idea!

The bottom line is, it’s difficult to get your head around the fact that your partner might be having a heart attack.

We had gone to bed together at about 11pm. Tired. We were looking forward to Father’s Day Lunch and a bag of balls on the driving range at Donald Trump’s new course near Aberdeen.

I guess it must have been around midnight when I awoke feeling a little strange – some tightness in my chest that seemed to come and go (lessen at least) as I raised my left arm above my head. I had cooked my “Killer Chilli” (poor name in hindsight!) for dinner, so indigestion was the obvious initial diagnosis.

After a few minutes I got up and went to the bathroom. I started to feel worse fast. More tight. More discomfort. An unfamiliar feeling. I laid on the floor and called for help.

“I really think I am having a heart attack. Please, call an ambulance.”
“You’re not having a heart attack… let me check…”
There then followed a serious of questions to compare my symptoms with those of a “typical” heart attack.
“Please, just call an ambulance.”
“I’ll call NHS 24, they’ll know what to do…”
Within 5 minutes, an ambulance was dispatched.

I couldn’t get comfortable. I would even go so far as to say I was in “extreme discomfort” (although I’m still struggling to translate this onto a “marks of out 10 pain scale”).

If I was having a heart attack, we knew “time means muscle” (“minutes mean myocardium”). We knew aspirin was a good idea… we didn’t have any aspirin. (Doh!)

Thankfully, the ambulance arrived quickly.

The Paramedics were calm, methodical and professional. They were everything you’d want in my position. They performed a variety of tests (including the 1st of many ECGs), and administered some basic medicines (to slow this, reduce that, etc.) before packing me off.

Finally I was dispatched into the balmy heat of an Aberdeenshire night (I shivered like I’ve shivered before) and on into the ambulance for some oxygen and morphine (“to take the edge off”).