Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Nightmare Ends

Friday was another odd day for me. In the morning I had popped down to the city centre, and decidec that - as I needed to defrost my fridge - had lunch in BHS, but was already feeling a bit dizzy. I went downstairs, and one of the staff got me a drink of water and said it was very hot there, and then directed me to a seat outside.

About half an hour later, I felt better and carried on, but then felt dizzy again and sat down in Waterstones, where one of the staff got me a drink of water. I was there about an hour and then went home.

In the afternoon I started the defrosting, and was doing some washing up when I got a sharp pain across my chest. It was worse than any I've had before. It did subside (and spread to my lower back), and I got a marker pen and highlighted the parts of my chest that the pain was worse in.

I left it about an hour, and then felt that I really ought to go to Southampton General Hospital to have this looked at. So I set out and after about 5 minutes I knew I was about to collapse. So I sat down on a wall, and did the one thing I thought I wouldn't do - dial 999.

Now, I don't like drama. I don't like fuss, or people fretting, so it has to be something major for me to call 999 - this was the first time I've done this for myself (when I worked in Basingstoke I did call 999 when I saw a man collapsed in the road).

ABout 10 minutes later, a rapid response car arrived. The paramedic was aware that A&E was very busy and that there weren't enough ambulances, so drove me to A&E. As I got out of the car, banged my right shoulder on the door, and so I said I might go to A&E to have that looked at!

I had to sit down while waiting for a trolley, and so the pin-prick blood sugar test was done, and then a spare trolley was found and I was wheeled into the triage room for an ECG.

Then it was wheeled into a side room and hooked up to another ECG machine, have one of those things attached to my finger to measure blood oxygen, and then waiting. As I was nowhere near any sensitive equipment, I got out my mobile and texted 3 friends to tell them, and got encouraging replies. With hindsight I should have asked for them to mention it on Twitter and Facebook to get others praying for me - up till now, the first friends have heard of it has been when I'm out and back home. I might give my parents a list of people they must contact if I'm ill like this, but I didn't contact them as I knew they would be fretting and fussing, and I simply cannot stand people fussing and fretting. The modern world just seems to be fuss, fuss, fuss.

If you want a fret, buy a guitar.

One of the doctors came to speak to me and I went through what had happened. I explained the green highlighter markings on my chest, and he agreed that was a sensible thing to do. He said it didn't seem that I'd had a heart attack, but I would need a blood test at 4 on the Saturday morning - but first I would need one done there and then.

I am better with these, but they still make me feel light-headed. To make things worse, a cannula was put in my arm where the blood had been taken, in case I needed to be given anything.

I was waiting for the results when two men came in and started taking the sticky electrode pads from my chest, wrists and ankles. When I asked they told me that I couldn't have the chest X-ray with them on, and I walked with them through to the X-ray room, had that done and then went back to the side room. By this stage I knew I was going to recover.

Then the nurse turned up and told me the blood test was negative, but the second one would confirm (or deny) that I had not suffered a heart attack. I was wheeled through to the Clinical Diagnosis Unit and given a bed there.

It was difficult to sleep, as I can only sleep comfortably on my right side, and this is where the cannula was, and the cannula was getting painful. No-one likes having needles in them for hours - except acupuncture fans. And, of course, there is the general noise - of the tannoy, of vehicles, of other patients.

So, I didn't sleep well, and at 4 I was still awake for the second blood test - the results came back quite quickly (about 30 minutes) and showed that I had not had a heart attack. I then had to wait for a doctor to see me, and abour 1/2 past 6 the cannula was taken out and I was free to leave.

I walked home across St James' Park, seeing the Sun rising over clouds, and realising that the previous evening I was not sure if I would ever see the Sun again.

Having had a bad night, I went to bed, and in the afternoon went to a friend's birthday & engagement party up in Bassett. And the walk there and back was amazing. Yes, it was the Southampton I know, but it wasn't just the good weather - every tree and flower just seemed clearer and brighter. When you have momeents when you know that a few hours earlier you didn't know if you would be in those places, seeing those things, again.

And then it was Sunday. I had this thought running through my head that some point this week I really must make a trip to Oxford as it's been a while since I've seen one friend there. And when I got to church, there he was - having moved back to Southampton very recently. We had a chat about how things were going, and he offered to pray for me. Now, there are things to note. One of my pet hates is the self-appointed and self-anointed wannabe prophet who believes they have a right to give you on-the-spot counselling for whatever personal problem exists in their imagination (and then send you a passive-aggressive email when you make clear you have better things to do than to discuss things about you that are only in their mind), or think that praying for someone means praying at them. This was different, as it was him:

  • Asking if he could pray with me - not forcing it on me
  • Praying for the things I had shared - not someone else

Prayer can be answered in different ways - and a key part of the prayer was that doctors would find out what was happening with my heart.

The thing about praying for something is that often something haa to happen. You can't pray for patience and expect it to be just given to you - you will probably be put through experiences where you have to learn patience.

Yesterday my heart was going erratic again, throughout most of the day. And I did think of going to A&E. After a bad night - not helped by a lot of stomping around in the flat upstairs from about 4 this morning onwards - I had decided it was time I got to the bottom of this.

So about 1/2 past 7 I set out, having collected my hypertension and asthma medicines (as I knew I would be asked what I take), my heart still going erratic. Had a chat with the refuse collectors outside and then made my way to A&E.

Unsure whether it was worth bothering them with, but saw there weren't many people there waiting to be seen, so I went in and gave my details and was prioritised when I said what it was. Once in, there was a bit of sitting around and then the ECG.

And they got it - once the results were analysed, it showed an atrial ectopic heartbeat. After 7 months, there was a name for the monster, and it was an OKish name. The nurse had a chat with me - and he noted that the 24-hour Holter monitoring, such as I had in April, often seems to coincide with a symptomless period. The failure to catch it in the act does not mean there is nothing wrong.

Yhen there was a blood test - while this was being done the nurse who had spoken to was on the phone to my GP's surgery to ask them to arrange a 72-hour Holter monitor, which will enable a more detailed study of the atrial ectopic heartbeat. And the blood test results came back - a bit of a potassium deficiency, which isn't something to worry about at the moment but worth keeping an eye on. I could then go.

This is now a huge relief. I have felt life has been on hold as we tried to find out what it was. I have had to learn patience, and trust in God - in addition, having moments when I'm not sure if I'd live or not made me realise what is important to me and what isn't.

I am glad I went through the past few months.

Now life is no longer on hold.

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