… but it pours.
This English idiom describes the fact that just when you think it can’t get worse something else comes along to make you re-evaluate your thinking. Such has been the past 48 hours or so. Tuesday started normally enough. My daughter headed off to school, my wife headed off to work. One difference is that I had the car that morning, unusual for a Tuesday of late, but necessary as I needed to do the weekly shop, postponed from the usual Monday, as I also thought it a good idea to be able to drop my daughter off at the local sports centre where she works as life guard. This proved to be a serendipitous decision in ways I could not have imagined later in the day.
Having dropped my wife off at work I headed for the local Aldi and stocked up for the week. All done by 10am I returned home, tired and spent the rest of the day at home or at least that was the plan.
About 3pm I got a phone call from my wife’s workplace, from one of her colleagues. This was unusual, they told me she had gone to hospital and could I go there.
It turned out that at lunchtime whilst out on a walk she had developed a pain which she attributed to indigestion. The pain got worse and she sat, then lay down. The pain continued to worsen and an ambulance was called.
On arrival the paramedics carried out checks and as the pain was getting worse offered her gas and air. The pain was intense.
A few minutes later she came round in the back of the ambulance and was asked if she remembered the past few minutes. She did not. It turned out that in the back of the ambulance she had had a heart attack and arrested. The paramedics gave her CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and then used a defibrillator to restart her heart.
She was rushed to MK hospital where she was greeted by 15 medics and rushed into A&E ‘Casualty style’ and further assessed.
I was blissfully unaware of all of this at hone and it was an hour or so later (having finally been contacted by my wife’s work who had not got my number).
I headed to MK hospital with and on arrival met one of her colleagues who told me that she had just been transferred to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. Here she was to undergo a procedure! – still unsure but now fairly certain this was heart related I phone my parents in law who live near Oxford and returned home to pick up my daughter, who following another phone call had cancelled her work shift.
Together we made the one hour journey through the wind, rain and heavy traffic unsure of what would greet us. Phone calls by my mother in law once she was on the scene confirmed a heart attack which was very much of a shock as my wife is in her 40s.
We arrived and made our way onto the Cardio Trauma Unit where we were shown to a side ward. My wife’s heart attack had been caused by a narrowing of one of the coronary arteries (which supply blood to the heart muscle to make it work). Some of this blockage had broken off and a clot had then formed . This narrowed the artery further and stopped blood to the heart muscle which had then stopped causing the heart attack.
By the time we arrived they had already completed a procedure to insert a stent into one of her coronary arteries. This device is a small hollow metal tube (a little like the spring inside a biro) made of mesh. The operation, carried out under local anaesthetic involved passing the stent along an artery in her arm all the way up and into her chest. The doctors had located where the blockage was and then inflated a small balloon to open up the artery before inserting the stent and deflating the balloon again. The stent will act as a scaffold to keep the artery from narrowing again.
My wife was recovering when we saw her, nauseous and sleepy due to the morphine but otherwise well. It was a relief to see her but we were all shocked and disbelieving.
The causes are many and probably a combination of genetics, cholesterol, diet and exercise.
Yesterday she was much brighter and back to her normal self if a little tired. A rehabilitation nurse visited whilst I was there, much of what’s here is gleaned from the consultation we had.
One reassurance is that the chances of a repeat heart attack are very low and once home life can continue normally after a gentle start. She will be home by the weekend, but off work for up to 6 weeks and unable to drive for at least a week (possibly a month). She will be on a cocktail of medication for the next year (joining me in my daily pill popping) and on aspirin for life!
Shocking and unexpected as all this is there are blessings to be found. As a Christian I am certain God was central in this.
Any time in the last 10 months would have been very challenging as my own treatments would have conflicted and made it difficult to support. The fact that I am well and recovering post chemotherapy / stem cell transplant means I can drive , do the shopping, cook etc. Although tired at times I am able to function better than two months ago and much more like normal.
As one person put it to me – “my cancer has saved Anita”. Simply put if she had still been in Tanzania or even the Seychelles, then it unlikely she would have survived. The chances of a medical team on the scene being equipped to deal with a heart attack, especially in Mwanza would have been remote. Our return to the UK for my own medical treatment has meant we have access to the best health system in the world (the NHS).
The fact she arrested in the ambulance alongside paramedics who could immediately deal with things was extremely fortunate. Any other place would have involved inevitable delays.
I could so easily not have had the car, causing major problems in getting to hospital.
Had she had the car my wife might have chosen to drive home and this could have been catastrophic.
Finally I pay tribute to the paramedics, doctors and nurses working in the NHS who worked to save my wife’s life and treat her symptoms. Yet again the underfunded, under-strain health service has pulled out all the stops. These people are heroes!