Sunday, October 04, 2009

My Heart Attack

I'm new at this. Well, there's a first time for everything, I suppose. At one time the very thought of a computer would bring me out in goose-bumps. But here I am, using the internet, writing letters on my Mac, sending emails and now writing a blog! Whatever next?

Why am I at home, in the middle of the day, you may be asking, which allows me time to write this? A fairly simple answer (if anything is simple!). I had a heart-attack on the night of 17th/18th of May 2006 . Not something I was expecting, but it happened. If I hadn't rung the '999' emergency number for an ambulance, I might not be here now.

I worked as a carer for a young man who had cerebal Palsy. I 'lived-in' with him, and did two-weeks at a time. The pain started on the Saturday at the middle of my two-week period. I felt quite awful, but really thought that it was no more than a chest infection as I had had a bout of bronchitis the previous week and imagined that this pain was associated with that. I had to walk to the local shop to get milk and also got mint tea as I thought that the pain might be a sort of heart-burn or indigestion and this would help to relieve it. I knew that it would be really difficult to leave to go home as I have to remain with David as he can't look after himself (the whole point of being a live-in carer, of course.) If I'd rung the agency whom I work for, I very much doubt that they would have been able to send a replacement at short notice. So, unless things improved, I would just have to remain with him and wait until I went home to deal with things. I went to a chemist and got some linctus, thinking that this would relieve things. Of course, it didn't. On the day I was due to leave and to hand over to the next carer I rang my doctor and made an appointment for later that afternoon. I went to the doctor and I was given antibiotics, as the doctor wasn't sure what the pain was. When, by the end of a week, the pain hadn't gone away, and I taken all the tablets, I returned to the doctor's surgery. I saw a different doctor this time, and when she said the word 'angina' then things started to make sense and I got slightly scared (to say the least.) She told me to ring '999' if the pain kept on, and gave me a prescription for a red spray which I had to spray under my tongue if the pain didn't stop.I really thought, when the 'thing' first happened, that it was a chest infection. I'm not the sort of person who makes a fuss about things. I usually just 'get on' with things, which is basically because I'm a carer. I'm used to looking after OTHER people, and I suppose I haven't looked after myself, hence the surprise when I was in need of care and attention.

The following two days I got some chest pain, so I used the spray. It happened several more times. By the Wednesday evening it didn't go away. At around 7.30 I decided to settle down to watch some television, and the pain started, but this time it didn't go away. I used the spray, but it didn't seem to help. I thought to myself, 'I may need to ring 999 for an ambulance.' But I decided that I wouldn't need one, and continued using the spray. I thought to myself 'I don't want to bother anyone at this time of night! If I need an ambulance, I can ring after 9 in the morning!' I even prepared a holdall with clothes that I would need for a hospital stay. That's the sort of person I am, as a carer, I have to be organised to look after someone else. As the night progressed, the pain didn't go away, in fact it got worse. By 6 in the morning I had to ring 999 as the pain was really bad. Within 20 minutes the paramedics arrived at my flat. I was getting stressed and was hyperventilating, so they had to calm me down and used oxygen which was given to me through a mask over my face. They eventually walked me down to the ambulance which was drawn up to the front entrance of the block of flats. Well, I thought, if I can walk, I can't be too bad. As we left the flat, one of the paramedics told me to bring some cash with me as I'd need to pay for a taxi to bring me home, so I imagined that I'd be at the hospital for an hour or so and then come home by taxi. How wrong could I be! My hospital stay lasted a week.

We got the the hospital and I went into the Accident and Emergency department. I was told to lay on a trolley in a curtained-off area. A tablet was put in my mouth and I was told not to swallow it but to hold it under my tongue. An X Ray was taken of my chest. Doctors and nurses came and went and a canular was put in the back of my hand. I was left alone for what seemed like ages. Nurses came and went, but they wouldn't tell me anything. I really wanted to know what was causing the pain. No answer was forthcoming. After what seemed quite some time I was informed by one of the nurses that I was going to be moved to the Acute ward. I wasn't sure what that meant. Why couldn't I just go home? Why couldn't someone just tell me what was causing the pain?? I was kept on the trolley and pused rather unceremoniously out of the Accident and Emergency department and through the corridors of the hospital until we arrived at the Acute ward. I seem to remember that a doctor did come and speak to me, and the words 'heart attack' were actually mentioned. I didn't stay on the Acute ward for long as I was evenutally moved to the Coronary Care Unit which is several floors up from the Acute ward, and by this time I realised that if I was in the Coronary Care Unit things certainly weren't too good for me! All during this the pain in my chest was continuing.

I had to give one of the nurses my daughter Chloe's phone number, as none of my family knew what had happened to me and where I was. She turned up later in the evening to visit me, which was a real surprise, as she was in Worcester, where she is at university. Also, someone I know through my church, Steve LePage, was also telephoned, and he and his wife visited me during my stay in hospital.

I haven't spent a great deal of time in hospital. I had my appendix out when I was 12, but I haven't spent any length of time in hospital more recently. I had never realised what a noisy place a ward could be. At night there is always the sound of something or other. I was connected to a monitor, for heart-rate, pulse etc. Other people on the ward were also on these things, as well as drips etc. I had several of these, connected to me via a canular in the arm. When the drug or whatever that they administer runs out the machine automatically sounds an alarm, and these keep going off all night, and the duty nurse will come and replace the drug. Also, as part of the on-going observation ('obs') you have an E.C.G. attached to your chest by way of electrodes and this measures your heartrate etc. I am also somewhat impressed by all this modern technology, as well as the blood-pressure monitoring system which in some cases can automatically take your blood pressure, for example, at night. The thing automatically inflates and takes your blood pressure. One poor man had one which took his blood pressure every hour on the hour all night. I doubt very much whether he actually got a good night's sleep.

It took three days for the doctors and nurses to get the pain under control and at one time I was on morphene and warfarin, which is also used as a rat-poison! It is used becuse it helps to prevent blood clots, but as a result of this I was advised not to shave for several days, because if I cut myself it would be difficult to stop the bleeding. I don't like going without shaving, so as soon as I was able, and after I was taken off the Warfarin, I shaved again. There was a time when one of the canulas was taken out of my arm, but the nurse who did it forgot I was on Warfarin and there was quite a flow of blood when the canula was taken out. Not nice.

As I write this I've been for an angiogram at Bedford Hospital and have also had a Stress Test and two M.I.B.I. scans at Papworth Hospital. I expect that I will get an appointment within the next week or so with one of the heart specialists at Bedford Hospital and from that I will learn what they have discovered from the scans. I'm not too worried about all this as I know that they know what they're doing.

Well, the reports eventually came back from all the tests and I was told that I wouldn't need any sort of surgery, and that the medication I was put on is sufficient to manage my heart problems. I don't need any sort of surgery.

The medication I was originally put on was Clopodogrel, (which I have since been taken off by my doctor.), Bisoprolol, Pravastatin and Dispersible Asprin. I have been on several types of Statin tablets, but they have had severe side-effects. When I was in hospital the Statin drugs I was on gave me flu-like symptoms, and it wasn't until I talked to one of the nurses that I discovered that this was that particular statin drug which had that side effect, so it was changed to another type. I have since been on several other types of Statin drugs, all of which have side effects, usually upsetting my stomach, causing me to run to the toilet a great deal, stomach and muscle cramps, sleeplessness and tiredness. This seems to be fairly general with these drugs, but I have found that Pravastatin has the least side effects. The statins are for lowering the level of cholesterol in my blood, which is what causes blood clots and leads to heart attacks and strokes. Asprin prevents blood clots.

I have had two emergency visits to hospital, one when I had a really bad angina attack and another similar one in May 2007. On both occasions I had to stay in over-night as they wanted to keep an eye on me. After the May 2007 attack I had to undergo two sessions of tests, one done on a treadmill, to test my heart's strength, and another where they put a drug into my blood stream which made my heart beat faster, as if I had been doing strenuous evercise, and they used an ultra sound scan to see my heart working. On both cases it appeared relatively healthy. I have not had any really severe angina attacks since then, but if I do get an attack I use the red spray, which helps to relieve the pain.
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