The Expected Second Heart Attack
Well, it took about eight years but it finally happened, I had another heart attack, or did I? Because I am starting to wonder now, something may not be quite right. See what you think.
Wednesday 8th January 2020
Starting in November 2019 I was having tooth extractions at my dentist roughly every three weeks or so.
I am terrified of the dentist, like so many other people of my generation that had gas at the dentist when I was a kid. I believe that gas leaves you psychologically scarred for life, I don’t know if there is any science to back that up or not by the way.
My teeth have had it to be honest. After 46 years of heavy smoking, drinking stupid amounts of sugary tea, and a bad diet, I finally conceded that I had to have the fricking lot out, and by chance I had found a brilliant young NHS female dentist called Sunita.
She and her assistant knew exactly how to handle me and my illogical fears, so I kept going back for more while I still had the courage.
After fourteen extractions and with just five teeth left to pull (leaving me with 9 good ones after that) I asked to take a break from the schedule as it was getting to me. I wanted my gums to heal up properly before the next round of extractions. I was living the fear day and night waiting for each appointment and my stress levels were definitely through the roof. Sunita understood, and agreed.
On that Wednesday afternoon I had four teeth out as a sort of going away present!
Two days later
Friday 10th January 2020
I had been quite stressed all week anyway, mostly about silly little things, like you do. I was smoking heavier than usual, I was exhausted and frustrated with a program I was trying to write in Python.
My gums were slowly healing but were very sore and it was hard to eat. The dentistry work had also set off various other toothaches, so I wasn’t feeling all that great.
I had also experienced some pains in the left side of my chest, they were a bit worse than usual. I used Nitroglycerine spray under the tongue and the pain went away, so I ignored it.
If I called an ambulance or doctor every time that I had a chest pain the NHS would of gone bankrupt by now.
Saturday 11th January 2020, 5.29Pm
I know the exact date and time because I was waiting for the Tottenham V Liverpool match on the TV.
The match Kick-off was 5.30pm and I was just putting the finishing touches to my Python programming project, I think it was my BBC Downloader that I was working on.
I had been struggling with the program all week and I had finally got it right, just in time for the start of the match.
But with about a minute to kick-off I found another problem with the program and I was really frustrated and pissed off with myself. I really wanted it all finished before the match started, but that was now impossible.
OCD Didn’t Help Either
I can be a bit OCD like that sometimes. Uneven things make me uncomfortable, things like price tags of £1.99 in shops and unfinished crosswords. I would be furious if someone saw an unfinished crossword or puzzle of mine, if I can’t finish it, destroy it, etc, crazy etc.
On top of that the chest pains returned all of a sudden, but this time they were at least double the pain that I had previously had, this worried me, especially as it wouldn’t stop.
The match had started on TV, but I was now doubling over with the chest pains and the spray didn’t touch it. I gave it another few minutes or so and decided to call 999 for an ambulance. Considering I had already had a heart attack it would of been stupid not to.
Fuck The Footy
Fuck the football I thought, even though I had been looking forward to the match all week. It was going to be a really important game for Tottenham as well. I suppose I was a bit stressed about the match, maybe that was the straw that broke the camels back?
Hazy Double Bubble
What happened between now (5.32Pm) and when the ambulance arrived is all a bit hazy to be honest. I don’t recall anything much except that I called my sister to let her know what was happening. She (Karen) arrived a few minutes after the ambulance crew I think.
My next memory is when the paramedics slapped on the portable ECG machine leads on my chest. I don’t even remember opening the door to them. They confirmed that I had in fact had two heart attacks, well that’s what they said, I don’t know how they could know that, but they must know what the are doing?
The paramedics were the usual one bloke and one woman. Both quite jovial and uplifting. Much to my disappointment though the female was the driver, nice looking girl too, while I was strapped in the stretcher thing in the back of the ambulance with the geezer ;-). After consulting with Karen she says there were actually two women paramedics and a bloke.
Blues And Twos
To my surprise the ambulance roared off at great speed with sirens wailing, blues and twos they call it don’t they? We were traveling at breakneck speed to the Lister hospital in Stevenage, about an hour drive away at normal speed, we did it inside 40 minutes. My sister was driving there too but obviously couldn’t keep up not being able to jump red lights and break speed limits.
There were no dramas on the way there except me clinging on to the stretcher as the slightly crazy driver threw the ambulance around corners at what seemed like unnatural speeds.
By now the word had spread among my immediate family. My nephew Chris let my son Jack know what was happening. I wish he hadn’t though as Jack lives in Newton Abbot in Devon, which is over 240 miles away from Stevenage, and he doesn’t drive.
I knew Jack would go into panic mode and try to travel up to see me, even though he had a job and family to look out for. I was going to call him after the operation and let him know that all was good, which I was certain it was going to be, I wasn’t in the least bit worried about the forth-coming op.
As we pulled into the Lister my mobile phone rang, it was Jack, bad timing. I was being taken out of the ambulance on the stretcher surrounded by doctors, I told Jack I felt fine and it was nothing to worry about and then the cheeky ambulanceman took my phone off me and talked to Jack, I couldn’t hear as I was whisked into the reception area of the hospital. I only found out a week later what he said.
“He’s going straight into surgery, if he is able to he will call you afterwards, if he can.”
And he rang off. That was not a particularly good way to deal with it mate. I was quite disappointed and surprised that he did that.
Groggy In Reception
In the reception area I had to blink twice, there was my other nephew Craig and his girlfriend Lucy waiting for me, it was nice to see them. I then remembered that of course they lived across the road from the hospital! It was then that I realised just how groggy I was, I had hardly registered seeing Craig until we had passed him.
Straight Into Oblong Surgery
The operating room was weird, it was oblong shaped for a start, cramped and not very wide at all, it was long though! I also noticed that since I had arrived at this hospital I hadn’t seen one white person, that didn’t bother me as such, I just wondered why. I will reveal later what I found out.
My surgeon was a short-ish guy. He was unshaven, looked tired and pissed off, maybe he was a Spurs or Liverpool fan and was missing the match too?
A Filipino looking nurse removed my shoes and trousers, I had to fight her to keep my underwear on (like you don’t in real life). I don’t know if that was the reason but the surgeon, who looked of Eastern European descent decided to go through a vein in my wrist instead of the groin, that suited me just fine thank you very much.
To add to this weird atmosphere nobody spoke a single word, not to me or each other. Something was up. What could I do? I just laid there and waited to see how different the op would be via the wrist, last time they went through my groin and it was near painless.
I laid there, with the camera thing swooshing around my face and head about 1cm away. I couldn’t move or I’d get a camera hitting me on my not inconsiderably sized nose.
This went on for what must of been 10 minutes and I was starting to get restless and very uncomfortable. Still nobody had said anything. No words of comfort to keep me calm or focused, it felt very weird and unfriendly.
On top of that the surgeon kept chucking “things” straight onto my love tackle. I couldn’t see what it was, though it felt like tubes or wires with heavy things attached to them. I grunted in pain each time, and the next time I swear he threw them harder, not funny, I was now certain this bloke had it in for me.
Then without any warning a searing sharp pain shocked me from my right arm and because I was so surprised I shouted out,
And at last a voice (of an Indian guy) from far away down the oblong room shouted,
“Do you want Morphine?”
I tried not to sound too sarcastic in my reply, but it came out they way I think,
Ice Water Effect
At least 3 or 4 minutes passed before I got the shot. I felt a coldness, like ice water moving up my arm. I don’t think I’ve ever had Morphine before, weird shit man.
The surgery seemed to take a lot longer than the last time, but maybe it was because I wasn’t comfortable and didn’t feel at ease with the room, the people or the atmosphere, in fact I felt myself starting to get the hump with these people that were for all intents and purposes trying to save my life [probably], I guess.
I felt no more significant pain after the Morphine shot. It was more about being restless and uncomfortable that bothered me.
Finally it was all over, with barely a word spoken, I was being pushed out into the corridor where my sister Karen, her partner Dave, and Craig and Lucy were waiting.
Let Me out Of Here
It might have been the Morphine, or it might have been that I had gone into one of my moods, but I found myself saying, “Fuck this, I want to go home now” this throwaway remark finally forced the miserable surgeon to speak, in a head-masterly manner he spat, “Don’t be so ridiculous, you’ve just had heart surgery!“.
My sister asked him some questions and then he buggered off somewhere. Then I asked nobody in particular, “Can I have my own room then?“, already knowing the answer, but you gotta try because you never know with the NHS.
My Own Mini Ward
Well, I kind of got lucky. I did indeed get a place to my self, but there were 5 other empty beds in the ward, so it was all mine, at least until others were shunted in. My bed was next to a window in the corner which suited me fine.
I was feeling happier now and the nurses started chatting to me when they asked me to take some tablets every four hours, I didn’t ask what they were, I just assumed they were my usual tablets, but supplied by the hospital.
After my family were satisfied that I was okay they all trotted off home and I took the opportunity of what I hoped were to be some nice long sleep sessions.
My son Jack called and I put his mind to rest that all was good. He still wanted to come and visit and bring my grand-daughter Gracie (5yo) whom I have never met in person yet, only on video. In the end he had to cancel that due to work and other difficulties that I won’t go into here. I appreciated the sentiment though, he obviously cares and that’s all that matters to me.
The only problem with that was that when my long-suffering sister Karen heard that Jack was to visit me with Gracie she decided that my [disgusting] flat had to be cleaned before a 5yo girl could stay there, quite right too.
So Karen and Dave spent the day cleaning it for me only to find out the next day that Jack wasn’t coming after all. Doh! I did alright out of that deal though 🙂 Sorry Karen!
Sunday 12th January 2020, 3Am (approx)
I awoke some time in the early hours of the next morning panting for breath. I couldn’t breath. I was sucking in air but it didn’t seem to make any difference. I was about to panic when it stopped and I fully recovered. Now that really was weird.
I assumed this was a panic attack or something as there were no chest pains, so I went back to sleep. What I think was a few hours later, I woke up again in the same way, gasping for air, this was really distressing and there were no nurses about at all that I could see.
I can’t remember if the monitors I was attached to were ringing alarms or not, even if they were most alarms are ignored anyway as they go off all the time.
By the way, there were now two more patients in MY ward, ruddy cheek!
Monday 13th January 2020
The same pattern ensued on and off until about 9am when nurses started doing the rounds checking on patients. When I finally got to talk to a nurse I told her what happened and she seemed concerned, but offered no opinion or advice as to what the malady was.
As long as I was awake my breathing was fine, but as soon as I fell into a deep sleep I was awoken breathless and unable to breath for a minute or so, it was quite scary to be honest.
I was also still in a lot of pain with my teeth and gums and couldn’t eat without some pain. I did eventually get some strong painkillers off the ward nurse, which helped a bit.
No Concerns Here
The sleep -gasping routines carried on until late Monday night when it suddenly stopped and I could finally get a proper sleep. Really weird, especially as nobody seemed interested in my symptoms, surely this should of been a cause for concern?
It was on Monday that the reason the hospital was staffed by non-whites became clear to me, and it wasn’t pretty. On Monday there was a sudden influx of white doctors and nurses. It is obvious. They let the foreigners work weekends. I’ve never encountered that before. Is that racist? Or is it just how things worked out I wonder?
I am unclear on what day it was but my happy surgeon visited me with a load of student nurses and doctors in tow. As seems to be the norm in the medical industry, the surgeon tried his best to look the big man. As he approached me he said, quite loudly and with a smirk on his face, “this is the guy that wanted to go home straight after surgery, ha-ha“. I had no real come-back, so I lied, “No I didn’t, I asked for a single room.” and gave him my best dirty look. What an arsehole. Him , not me!
Tuesday 14th January 2020
By Tuesday I had forgotten all about that, and my sleepy-no-breathy symptoms had fully gone. I was recovering fine and raring to go home so I could smoke a cigarette.
Craig and Lucy visited and brought me a ton of goodies to eat (all healthy of course) and newspapers to read, awesome. Craig said they will drive me home when I get released. He’s a good lad.
Karen and Dave visited as well, bringing my clothes and just about everything apart from the kitchen sink. I have now written a list of things I will need in hospital next time and pinned it to my kitchen notice board to save this happening again. 🙂
The Ticagrelor Conspiracy
It was then, on Tuesday afternoon, that I got a visit from a very nice looking young lady in a suite. She was a rep for either a NHS study group or a drug company, it wasn’t really clear. She was far too nice and I immediately felt a little suspicious about her intentions.
She claimed they were interested in me because I had survived two heart attacks and they were trialing a drug called Ticagrelor to see if it had a better outcome for the likes of me than the regular drugs that they usually used like Clopidogrel.
I said I’d love to help if I could, but when she said I had to come into the hospital every fortnight I soon cancelled that decision, much to her disappointment, I can’t go out remember. Later a nice young man came by and tried to win me around.
If a classy hot young chick couldn’t do it, then he had zero chance of changing my mind. It wasn’t even a decision anyway, I couldn’t do it, full stop.
Unknown to me I was already taking Ticagrelor since immediately after the operation. But nobody had told me this.
In the list of side effects for Ticagrelor, the number one common serious side effect is Dyspnoea, a shortness of breath, which ironically is like having a small heart attack or panic attack.
It is also know to stop the heart for around 3 seconds at random intervals. Which is kind of coincidental as I already have that condition, my heart stops at random for 3.3 seconds, usually when I’m asleep.
So I would guess that if the two met it may not of been a good outcome for me? I don’t know. Maybe that is what was happening in my breathless attacks. maybe they were triggered by my heart stopping for up to 6 seconds at random during sleep?
If they had explained to me that this is common and usually passes quickly then I would have probably been okay with it, but a complete lack of communication caused me considerable distress. And were they even aware of my heart stopping condition?
On doing some research on this later I realised it is actually a very serious side-effect.
I didn’t find all this out until I got home and looked at the drugs they had given me and read the inserts of the new ones. I immediately got my GP to change back to my old medication, which has no side-effects [for me], as far as I am aware.
I Do Smile Humour
Just about the only time I smiled during my stay at the Lister was when a pretty young nurse was rigging me up to a drip feed of some chemical. I was telling her about the sleep thing and I described that my heart felt like it was “fluttering”, the exact same feeling I got when she walks into my cubicle LOL, it was corny as hell, but we both laughed. I think she said something like, “everyone’s a bloody comedian around here.”
Wednesday 15th January 2020
I forgot to mention that I had a guy whom I named “Listerman” watching over me. Well, kind of. It was a creepy combination of dead tree branches and a little imagination. I could see him outside my window from my bed.
Something Is Not Quite Right!
The opening lines of this post said that I had felt something was not quite right with this heart attack stuff. Here’s my thinking.
First of all why were my two supposed heart attacks so completely different? I know there was an 8 year gap between them, but a heart attack is a heart attack, surely? I would expect the experience to be vaguely similar, wouldn’t you?
My first heart attack (H-A from now on as I am getting tired of typing in “heart attack”), was terrifying. My blood literally ran cold, I couldn’t breath, I was dizzy and I thought I was definitely going to die.
My second H-A was simply some really bad chest pains.
Yet both times I was assured I had had a H-A and it was so serious that I needed surgery both times.
It was claimed that I had actually had two H-A’s this time. Hmm, I’m sceptical. After all, I keep reading about people having H-A’s and dying, why not me? Am I not deserving enough or something?
The outcome of my first surgery back in 2012 left me feeling fantastic, on top of the world, a new lease of life (see photo below), but this latest one had no positive effect on me at all. I even wondered if that miserable surgeon actually did the operation properly as I felt zero benefit from it. If my arteries were that clogged why didn’t I feel better after the unclogging?
I have the feeling the first one was a genuine H-A, possibly mixed in with a panic attack which could have been why it seemed so extreme, but the second was simply Angina.
The only problem with that theory is the claim that I had some damage to my heart tissue this time, and that is why one doctor told me my third H-A could be my last.
It’s The Smoking Innit
All said and done I don’t have a clue what is really going on and nobody that understands medical science is telling me the facts, all they want to do is bang on about smoking, FFS, Yes I get it.
What they don’t get is that I have been smoking for 46+ years and I am a hardened addicted smoker that has tried every treatment on the market, including Champix, the newest and most advanced treatment you could get at the time.
That turned out to be life threatening for me, so they took me off it. All the rest like patches, sprays and gum may help some people, but they have little or no effect for me.
Anyway, to finish this story up, I was told by some doctor that I could go home at 7.30pm that night, Wednesday.
Craig and Lucy turned up early ready to drive me home but of course there were long delays as we had to wait for my medications to be processed before we could go.
First Stop is…
I think we left the hospital about 9pm and we stopped at the first petrol station to get some tobacco. I was gasping for a smoke as I hadn’t had a single drag of a fag since Saturday evening. I know what you are thinking, I managed to not smoke for four days why can’t you stop now?
Don’t Stop Me Now…
Well, I don’t really know is the honest answer. The environment in the hospital was perfect to stop smoking, there was nowhere I could go for a smoke, I didn’t have any tobacco on me as Karen had confiscated it, grrr, and I was using strong nicotine patches, which may of helped a bit, though I’m not sure.
But the fact there were no visual triggers about really helped. There were no smoke smells, no ashtrays, no packets of fags laying around or other people smoking giving off triggers etc.
Maybe I would respond well to a live-in smoking rehab centre, if there is such a thing? In reality though I think I would come out of there and go straight to the nearest shop and buy a pack. There is no hope for me.
Place Your Bets
I sometimes wonder, what will get me first, H-A, cancer or stroke, all have enhanced chances because of heavy smoking. But my life being what it is I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if I died of a hilariously stupid accident.
- A stupidly weird accident 1\20
- H-A – Evens
- stroke 6\4
- Cancer 9\4