Life after the heart attack

I’ve been wanting to put up something for a while but haven’t had the words to but down on paper.  

At the moment, and I’m at 2 and a bit months after the main event, the one thing that is still with me is how scary the whole thing has been.  I didn’t have classic symptoms so it wasn’t until the paramedics got to me and said I was having a heart attack that I really realised what was going on.  The only classic symptom I had was a pain in my upper arm that got worse each time they took my blood pressure.  Other then that it was extreme shortness of breath and what I thought was really bad indigestion pain.  

I don’t really remember much of the what happened after the ambulance crew turned up and took over.  At the point I must say that I am extremely greatful that my Mum found me and had called 999.  I was still mid attack when the ambulance turned up.  I remember being shelled out to the ambulance on one of those chair things and thinking that the tailift in to the rig was cool and I wouldn’t mind another go on that.   I remember the guy who was with me trying to get a cannula in to my arm and giving up and him giving me a spray of Glyceryl Trinitrate – GT spray, which is one of the things they arm you with when they chuck you out of the Cardac Care Unit.  Thankfully I’ve never had to use mine since as it tastes foul.  

I do remember trying to work out where I was on the drive to the hospital.  I know we went round the M4 Junction 11 roundabout but apart from that I couldn’t really work out where we where on the way to Royal Berkshire Hospital.  

I remember being wheeled in to the ccu and in to the cardiac lab.  Because your on an ambulance trolley your on a body board and I know I said “weeeee” as they tipped me off the trolley on to the hospital bed in the cardiac lab.  The cardiologist who did the emergency angioplasty chuckled as I slide on the body board going “weeeee” like a 5 year old.  

I don’t remember much of the angioplasty, I know Dr Nicos said the usaual “you’ll feel a tiny scratch” thing as he injected the local anaesthetic in to my right wrist so that he could insert the catheter in to the artery.  I don’t really remember much more of it to be honest.  I worked out the robotic looking arm going round and in to positions over my chest was the x ray machine they use to see which arteries are blocked.  I don’t remember the stents going in eather.  I know I arrested twice in the lab and they had to jump start me twice.   I’ve since worked out it was when they where doing the pressure test…..they chemically induce a controlled pressure on the heart to see how the blood is flowing in your arterys.   My heart at this point said no thanks no playing and stopped.   I think I was unconscious at this stage as I don’t remember being jump started.  I do remember that they had to give me another jolt to get my heart back in to rhyme again.  I know this because they did it as I was coming round and I felt the shock go through my body.  Ever been hit round the head with a metal baseball bat.   It’s worse then that.

I think Dr. Nicos decided that I had had enough by then so he didn’t do the 90% blockage on the left side of my heart.  I was wheeled back on to the ward.  By then I was back with it a little more. Feeling very drained and total wiped out.  I was a little high from the light sedative they had given me during the angioplasty and I was hocked up to a ECG machine and a drip of blood thinners.  

I do not like hospitals at the best of times, they are too hot and too impersonal for me and my stay on the CCU ward was not a good one.  I wasn’t allowed out of bed for two days and peeing in to a paper machete bottle isn’t fun.  I guess as the empath start to take over I was also picking up on the fear and anxiety of the other people in the ward.  I was happier when they left the curtains closed and I couldn’t see what was going on.  The lady in the bed next door was one of those types that was making it clear she was in pain for the whole ward to know about and the lady opposite was also a dementia case, bless her and she really didn’t have clue what was going on or where she was.  I was very sore in my chest and still feeling very wiped out by the next morning.  I hadn’t slept much because of the soreness in my chest and the moaning of her next door

On the second night I was moved to a quieter part of the ward, by this time I had been hocked up to a mobile heart monitor and as long as I didn’t move to far from my bed area I could sit up and at least go to the loo on my own.   But by the second evening my own anxiety level had broke and I desperately need to get some fresh air.  I had my first melt down and one of the nurses took pity on my and accompanied me out side so I could get some air and have a fag.  I was extremely lucky that one of my work colleagues who had brought her daughter into AnE after a bump on the head was walking past at the time and I had another melt down on her shoulder.   It had all gotten much for me.  The soreness in my chest was incredible and I was hating every moment on the ward and I just wanted to go home.  

The old girl opposite me this time was a game old bird.  She was as nice and polite to the nursing staff, almost a modal patent, but as soon as her family turned up she gave them hell.  Clearly making up for them not visiting or dumping her in an old folks home.  

By the 3rd morning I really wasn’t coping with being in hospital and when the Doctors came round that morning and said th wanted me another night to run a test in the morning because it was a bank holiday and they wasn’t anyone available to run the test.  I lost it and asked for the papers so I could discharge myself.  I couldn’t stand another night on the ward.  I just wanted to go home and sleep and rest in my own bed.  They advised against it and the doctor somewhat snottaly said “well where not a prison”  but I was sore and tiered and really couldn’t cope with another night of being in a hot house with things that bleep and buzz and being woken up every 4 hrs to have my blood pressure taken.   I was not in a good place and I just needed to get home.  

So I discharged myself, came home and slept for 8 hrs as soon as I got in.  

They don’t tell you a lot when you leave hospital.  Just a booklet on what to do and advice on how to use your GT spray.  And a bag with your drugs in.   I’ve learnt a lot more from the NHS web site and the British Heart Foundation site has been a God send.  So I was let go with my advice booklet, my bag of drugs and a report on what they had done and what appointments etc I should need and a sick note for 6 weeks.

This is where the fun really starts.   No one tells you about the soreness in your chest, the loss of confidence, the emotional toll the whole thing has on you. As well as trying to make sense of what your body is telling you.  How your jump at every little missed heart beat every new bit of soreness, how you panic at every side effect of the beta blockers and blood thinners.  How easy it is to over do things in the first couple of weeks.  What angina pain is and what it isn’t.  Turns out most of mine was artery spasms not angina.  Your not told any of this.  And I fell for the lot at some stage.  I didn’t work out what where side effects till I read the leaflets in the boxes of tablets.  Bleeding gums are a side effect of the platelet tablets, muscle pain is the beta blockers.  You get paranoid about your heart rate and how fast your pulse is.  Tintenitus is also a side effect.  I couldn’t lay on my left hand side for the first 2 months and I had always slept on my left since my teenage years.  My pulse would feel like an express train.  It wasn’t till i splashed out for a blood pressure cuff and started checking my own that I started to stop jumping at every little twinge and new pain.  Mum brought me a fit bit for my birthday so I know my heart rate is usually well with in “normal” 

One thing I have learnt is that time is the only thing you can use.  It takes time for the heart to heal after a heart attack and I’m talking months not 6 weeks.  The biggest problems I’ve had is with my mental well being.   I’m not scared of passing over, as long as it’s quick and relatively painless.  I’m more then happy to go when spirit calls me.  

The biggest mental health problem has been the loss of confidence.   When I first came it of hospital I followed the sdvice in my booklet and started off slowly and built up the walking and all was going well.  Till I decided to drive down to Winchester.  It was scary because one of the biggest things to deal with is what if it happens again when I’m driving or even worse if I’m on my own.

Being on your own when you have heart condition is extremely scary.  I was in no fit state to call 999 during my heart attack and if mum hadn’t have found me I would have died on the bathroom floor.  So my worry about being left on my own was very real.  I wish I could but in to words how scary it is.  I have no other experience to relate it to.  A 44 year old guy and I’m still weary of being on my own for any length of time. 

That night after the drive down to Winchester I had a very big artery spasm.  It only lasted half an hour but they are extremely scary when they are happening.  Your heart pounds like it’s trying to come through your chest.  You get chest pain like an angina attack.  You really can’t do anything other then ride it through.  Afterwards your so relieved that it’s over and you didn’t have to call 999 or reach for your GT spray.  But they leave you total drained, physically and emotionally.  They are horrible things to go through and all your good for is to sit and cry.

Once I’d put it together in my head that these attacks happened when I over did things, another one a couple of weeks later when I was having a really good day and was feeling good so decided to cut the grass that night I was again laid out with a spasm, I decided to scale back the activity I was doing.  I needed to rest and re group.  

I discovered the basic mindfulness meditation technique.  Which has proved to be a life saver at times of stress and anxiety.  I would really recommend that every one gets to know this basic tool and it is an enormous help.  It’s shaved my heart rate on lots of occasions since.  

Things do get better over time.  But it is very slow progress and I think I’m only about 50% along that path at the moment.  I am back at work now, although on restricted hours.  I can comfortable drive short local distances.  But I still don’t like being left in my own for long periods of time.  Although I did manage to get through a week of being on my own, and that was extremely tough.  I am walking every day, although only about 15 minutes, not the 30 that is recommended for this stage in my recovery. 

As soon as I came out of hospital I changed my diet.  It’s an easy fix and I’ve dropped over processed foods, red meat and I try to keep the fat low.  I’ve lost 2 stone in weight since the heart attack.  I’ve also stopped smoking.   That was one of those moments.  I’d gone out for my morning fag about two weeks after my heart attack.  Got half way through it and thought, I don’t want to do this anymore and I’ve not had a cigarette since.   Although I am now vapeing full time.  Which the doctors seem happy for me to do.  

I recently had to go back in to hospital for another angiogram.   This was to put a stent in to the 90% blockage that was left from the emergency angioplasty.   Once the cardiologist had me on the table and the x ray machine was swinging away doing it’s thing and the wire had been passed up arm to my heart.  It was found that I had a good blood flow in the blockage area and it was decided that i didn’t need the 3rd stent.  It could be managed with drugs and carrying on with the lifestyle changes I had already made.  

Should all be good news and it is but I had 3 melt downs that day.  First one was when i was admitted, 2nd one when i was on the table waiting for them to start and 3rd one once i was back on the ward.   

I had two when i went back to work after the angiogram as well.   Although my physical health is improving my mental health hasn’t.  If anything it’s getting worse but i have confidence that it will improve over time.   Or I hope it will any way.  But i dont think that will happen till the hospital have finished with me and I’m back to being able to lead a life like my old one minus the body fat and cigarettes.   It is happening but it is very slow progress.

I’ve decided to post this as a update and to try and make some sense of my situation at this moment in time.  I am extremely grateful to my mum for calling 999 and for my friend Racheal in coming to see me and giving me tons of support.  Also to work for being very understanding and to my friend Beth who has helped out with her medical knowledge and has kept a carefull eye on me.  

There have been positives to come out of this.  Sam at the hospital when i had my first melt down.  Finding Mindfulness Meditation.  Losing weight and stopping smoking.  It has been very hard going and a heat attack is a life changing event and I know i am a lot better off then lots of other people who have suffered one.  My own father and father – in -law have both suffered from them and i am in a much better position at this stage then they where and for that I am very grateful.  

If you know someone who has recently had a heart attack i would encourage you to go and see them.  Sending out healing is a wonderful thing we can do, but a visit is just as important.  Even more so if they live alone, as that is very scary when you can’t trust your own heart not to misbehave.   

I wish i had some awe inspiring spiritual message other then make sure that you look after your body and mental and emotional well being.   It is true we leave these body’s on this side when we pass over but we have to look after them as well.  Also manage your stress level as well.   Don’t spend to much time at work, it doesn’t love you back.    Make sure you look after your friendships, you’ll never know when you’ll need a freindly face.  

I think Jerry Springer had it dead on when he says “Look after yourselves, and each other”
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