Saturday, August 07, 2010

On April the 23rd, I went to the Doctor with breathing difficulties. An hour later I was in the back of an ambulance, an oxygen mask over my face. That was the start of it. I was kept in overnight, my blood pressure was checked every couple of hours. In the morning they let me go. More tests followed, I was given medication that didn't do the slightest bit of good. In the meantime, I went downhill fast.
Unable to sleep lying down, I had taken to sleeping in an armchair. Trips to the shop became an ordeal; in the end, I could hardly take a shower. Finally, I had to ring the surgery and tell them that I couldn't make it to a blood test. The Doctor came to see me later that evening. I don't know how bad I looked, but he wrote a letter and sent me straight to Llandough Hospital. By then he was using the term heart-failure, which didn't sound good. Four days later I had a scan, and the full problem was revealed. My heart was beating at less that 35% than normal; worse, a blood-clot had developed over my heart and they had to reduce it before I could have a full heart scan (one that would involve dropping a probe right inside my heart!).
I was put on a drip-feed for the first five days, which practically chained me to the bed for 22 hours a day. During this time I was given pills, injections and blood tests. My one bit of pleasure came when they finally took me off that drip. However, they had attached a heart moniter to me and I wasn't allowed to take it off for a minute (not even to wash, which turned that activity into an obstacle course!)
After 11 days, I was finally transferred to The University Hospital of Wales. The blood clot was still there, but they could work the scan around it. So they told me everything that could 'probably' go wrong, but 'almost certainly' wouldn't (the possibility of a heart-attack being mentioned) and then asked me to sign a consent form (presumably to abrogate responsibility should I be unfortunate enough to kick the bucket!)
An hour later (wearing a hospital gown) my bed was wheeled into the theatre where they finally deigned to to let me know that - should they be unable to get into my heart through a vein - they would insert the probe into my groin. Thankfully, despite being virtually bled dry after a series of blood tests, they managed to insert the probe into my right arm. Later that day I was given the first bit of positive news I'd had during my 2 weeks in hospital; there were no serious problems inside my heart, hopefully the medication would be enough (although a pacemaker might still be an option at a later date).
The treatment continued, then one day I was visited by the doctor. The hospital had done all it could, the course of medication seemed to be working; I could go home when I was ready. That night, for the first time in more than six weeks, I slept in my own bed.
Obviously, that wasn't the end of it. I'm still on a course of medication - Spironolactone, Ramipril, Carvedilol, Furosemide and Warfarin (one of them slows down my heart rate, which you might think would be the last thing I'd need!) - and I'm reporting to my local clinic every week for a blood test. The only bugbear is that I can't drink any beer (or Cranberry juice, for some reason; but I can live without that).
Otherwise, I'm in reasonably good shape after losing nearly four stone. With luck, I'll never have to take up residence in a hospital again.
Don't get me wrong, the doctor's did a marvellous job and I'm grateful; but for those three weeks I was confined to my ward, unable to move out of range with my heart-monitor. I did once, to get a newspaper from the ground floor shop in Llandough; a male nurse wasted no time in letting me know, in no uncertain terms, that I really shouldn't do this.
So my daily routine was restricted. Up in the morning when the nurses came clattering through the ward; have breakfast, wash; head off to The Day Room for a read.
Return for tests, have dinner, then return to Day Room to watch some telly. (As I was there during the entire period of the 2010 World Cup, this consisted of football, football ... and more friggin' football!) Watch the afternoon match, return for tea and whatever the doctors or nurses wanted you for, then back for the evening matches and whatever followed them.
Return at 10:30 for a late night cuppa before lights out at 11:00. Start the whole tedious process again at seven the next morning ... which is slightly better than spending 22 hours on a drip, I admit, but those 23 days I spent in hospital didn't exactly fly by.
Now my life is getting back to normal. I've returned to work, and I'll always remember the help and support I got at that time.
My brother, who came down with his wife Sue and his son Andrew, and made my home habitable in between visits.
My Aunt and Cousin, Audrey and Fred, who brought in a change of clothes when I needed it (and came to the hospital at a moment's notice when I needed a lift home). Even my Facebook friends, who posted so many messages of support on my homepage.
But it's not over yet. I will have to go back to the hospital for tests and scans, the Warfarin (an anticoagulant drug) is going to be needed for quite a while, and I still have to give blood samples. It's not perfect, but at least I'm leading a reasonably normal life. Wish I could have a few beers though!
Until next time ... take care.