Thursday, 13 June 2013

Psst! Want to see my arteries? Heart Attack Part 2

Don't worry. It's only a black and white photo, nothing gruesome. As you know, I had a heart attack on New Years Day and had stents fitted.

When I arrived in pre-op I was questioned about my symptoms and lifestyle. Had I ever smoked? No. Did I drink? Very occasionally, and not many. What was my diet like?  Much better than his I replied looking at Mark. (I'd had porridge for breakfast and he'd had a massive fry up).  Did I exercise? I've got 2 children I said, cleverly evading this question, because the answer was No. Diagnosis: Bad luck on your part, said the consultant, we'll need to have a look and see what's going on.

But I became so panicked about the thought of surgery and dying on the operating table, that I initially refused to sign the consent form. This obviously wasn't going to plan for the consultant and I got a very stern talking to from him and Mark, who pulled out the big guns, Amy & Thomas.  It was decided I would need heavily sedating as I was in a bit of a state. Apparently general anaesthetics aren't required for this type of surgery. I didn't know whether to be relieved or not. On the one hand I didn't want to be aware of anything but I was scared as hell that if I went under I'd never wake up again.

I was in surgery for 1 3/4 hours and came out wired up to all sorts of machines and clutching a momento of the whole thing; a photocopy of my arteries, before and after.  It was a bit like going on one of those rides at a theme park where you get to take home a souvenir photo.

I arrived on the cardio critical care ward at about 3.45pm and by 7pm I was eating a sandwich and texting my sister.  I was OK but I was scared. I cried when Mark left me that evening, telling him I didn't want to go to sleep in case I died and never saw him or the kids again. I needn't have worried, the bed and pillows were so uncomfortable I hardly slept at all. I was also in a lot of pain and had to be given morphine.

The following morning after breakfast I was given a bowl of water and washcloth to freshen myself up with, (no such thing as mollycoddling these days).  The consultant came to see me for a few minutes, then a nurse came and did an echocardiogram which showed my heart had suffered moderate damage. Later that afternoon the cardio rehab nurse popped by, had a quick chat and left me with an information booklet. Apart from that I was pretty much left alone.  At 4pm I was unhooked from all the monitors. I'd made it through the first 24 hours, the time when I was most at risk of having another heart attack.  

One of the most bizarre sights I saw on the ward was a family who arrived with a McDonalds take-out for a patient. The woman was on a cardio ward, wired up to monitors and obviously obese but the nurses didn't say a word.  Probably not allowed to - human rights and all that.

On Wednesday morning, I was discharged. I'd been in hospital 44 hours. I was taken to a room where I sat for an hour waiting for my medication. I'd arrived in my PJ's and assumed I'd be in hospital for at least 3 or 4 days so bringing clothes in hadn't even crossed my mind yet and Mark was already on his way in to visit me. When he eventually found me I had to walk across the car park in the rain and freezing cold in my PJ's, dressing gown and slippers. 

I was glad to be home, but I wished somebody had visited me to talk through all the physical and emotional side of things. I was in a lot of pain and constantly had what felt like cramp in my chest.  I was also permanently terrified that at any minute I would have another heart attack.

I'd received excellent medical care but the whole discharge process and lack of advice regarding the range of emotions and symptoms you experience after a heart attack was a big let down.

Still, I'm here to tell the tale and I'll be talking about these in a future post. It may be of help to someone, somewhere.


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