Monthly Archives: December 2013

In sickness and in health

I don’t know any of these people, do you?

Today is our 15th Wedding Anniversary.  A lot has changed since two fresh-faced, fun loving, enthusiastic youngsters got together and formed our very own Anglo-Scot alliance.

Most of the changes have occurred slowly and comfortably, as we’ve drifted into new habits over time.

Some changes have been sudden and life-changing;  parenthood was thrust on us with the arrival of two beautiful bouncing babies (in reality they arrived one at a time with a little gap in the middle!).

Other big changes have taken courage, preparation and effort;  amongst other things, we’ve upped sticks to live in a new country twice.

We have been very lucky together.  We are fortunate that most of our marriage has been “for better” rather than “for worse”, and “in health” rather than “in sickness”.

Just the one glass, thanks!

***

Looking back on it, the events of the summer already seem like just a minor blip.  They did however result in accelerated change… I guess Heart Attacks have a habit of doing that.

The obvious changes relate to my lifestyle.  I am physically a very different person to 6 months ago.  Mentally I guess I’ve changed too… some things that were very important in the past just don’t matter so much.  I like to blame my medication for not getting so wound up about things, but it’s also down to the fact that I’ve developed a new perspective on life.  Some might call it “balance”, but it still doesn’t always feel that natural to me.

Less obviously, the whole experience has changed Louise and “us” too.  We don’t talk about it much, but I think we’re still in the “lucky to be alive” and “things could have been different” phase.  This might fade in time, but it’s definitely a big factor now.

Louise has been great throughout the whole experience.  I even got a bit of sympathy for the first few weeks of my recuperation.  (A very rare occurrence!)  She has been incredibly supportive throughout, and has even started to come to terms with my early morning swimming (although alarms at the weekend are strictly forbidden!).  Again, I am very lucky.

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The gifts we exchanged this morning summed up our current situation well:  Flowers, Chocolates, Festive Liqueur & a pair of Swimming Trunks.  Can you guess who received what?

***

Health scares change things… and they should, but we look forward to many more years of gentle, drifting change with the occasional moments of excitement… but only on our terms of course!!!

Changing treatments

I heard about two more Heart Attack Survivors at work recently.  Apart from the fact that there seem to be more cardiac emergencies around today than in the past (probably more to do with me than everyone else!), I was struck by the way they had been treated… the two gentlemen had received 8 and 12 stents respectively.

Apparently the guidelines for treatment have changed recently…

When I had my Heart Attack, the approach was to just treat the blockage that was causing the immediate problem.  For me that meant fitting two stents in my Left Anterior Descending or LAD artery.  During the procedure they identified that another of my arteries (Right Coronary Artery or RCA) was partially blocked, but as it wasn’t causing any distress so it was left untreated.

Apparently now the approach has been revised so that they address any blockages during the initial procedure.  As a result, the patient leaves hospital safe in the knowledge that they have no blockages.  I guess it maximises the value of the angioplasty procedure, and reduces the chances of having a repeat performance,

There is a point of view that stents aren’t great for you.  Yes, they are helpful in an emergency situation like mine, but many people are treated with stents as a preventative measure.

The argument is that the stent treats the symptom rather than the disease, and in the process reduce the chance that any action will be taken to address the root causes themselves.  In addition, they leave the patient dependent on a concoction of medication and exposed to the side-effects and potential complications (for example, risks associated with future, non-heart related medical procedures).

Personally I haven’t thought much about whether my situation would be significantly different if my other artery had been treated at the same time.  Given the emergency nature of my treatment, I obviously didn’t have an opportunity to think about it in advance.  There was certainly no debate or discussion as I got wheeled into the “Cath Lab”  (See:  The Cath Lab (FD ~02:30)).  I didn’t have an opportunity to weigh up the pros and cons.

There was no cosy chat for me when I arrived at the hospital!

To be honest, it doesn’t feel like a huge deal right now, but I recognise that it could turn out to be a big deal at some point in the future.   It seems strange to me that if I’d had my Heart Attack today I might have been treated in a very different way than 6 months ago.

I guess I have little option but to carry on taking my medication and stay disciplined, it’s up to me to do the work to address the underlying disease (or at least to prevent it from getting any worse).  For me, watching what I eat and drink as well as exercising regularly are the key to my long term health.

I can’t rely on stents to return me to “normal”.  Now it’s all about establishing a new, safer, healthier normal.

Really not so cool…

images (15)Last week Michael Jamieson, the Scottish Olympic Silver Medallist Swimmer, announced that he had to have his heart re-started to get it back into rhythm after a particularly hard training session.

His Twitter announcement (@mj88live) included the comments:

“Not really sure the reasons behind it happening, but I went into an irregular beat after reaching 203 heart rate in a session (max is 193).”

“Specialist said he’s only seen this three times, all Olympic medallists – pretty cool!”

Apparently he’s made a full recovery, and returned to training after just 48 hours.  Personally, I think it’s fantastic news that he is fit and well!

I don’t however believe that it’s “pretty cool” to push yourself so hard during a training session that your heart gets knocked out of sync.  Any suggestion that it’s a good thing has to be nuts!

The fact that the Specialist has only seen it three times would suggest to me that perhaps others may have experienced the same issue, but not been so lucky.  Not cool!

imagesCA475PQPI guess I’m particularly sensitive to the story as I spend so much of my time trying to keep my Heart Rate within reasonable limits.  Personally, one of my biggest challenges is to make sure I spend enough time warming up and cooling down so I take care of my Heart.  Going “from rest to maximum effort as quickly as possible” definitely isn’t an option for me, and I would suggest shouldn’t feature in most people’s exercise regimes.

So, horses for courses… I’ll continue with the gentle build up to my Euro City Cycle.  I wish Michael all the best in his build up to next Summer’s Commonwealth Games!  For everyone else… go easy out there!