I wasn’t anticipating writing another part to this blog quite so soon, but the last 24hrs have been a bit of a challenge!
Yesterday I had a visit from the first person on the scene when I had my heart attack. Leon (in white) – owner of Functional Fitness, and Project Manager for Active for Health Rotherham (COPD; Cancer; Stroke; MSK; Falls Prevention) – was the only other person I managed to contact after phoning 999 for an ambulance.
If you’ve read my initial “Attack!” blog, you’ll be aware that I don’t remember anything from the Wednesday morning when I had my heart attack, through to the Saturday when I woke up in Coronary Care Unit.
So, when Leon asked if he could come and visit, I was keen to quiz him on what exactly happened during those first few minutes. I had called 999 at 6.56am, and then at 7.04am I’d texted Leon saying “Ambulance coming, think I’m having a heart attack”. Obviously for any boss to get this kind of text message from one of his staff first thing on a busy morning is not a good start!!
Leon rang me back in a daze of disbelief. Apparently I was tearful. Leon got dressed, jumped in his van and rang me back, trying to keep me talking while he drove over to my house. He arrived at the same time as the ambulance. Straight away the two paramedics started working on me while Leon tried to keep me calm. I was sat on the sofa and wired up to the ECG.
While the paramedics were working on me, Leon was getting a bag packed for me. I asked for my blue bra to go into the rucksack, and gave Leon directions as to where it was (“on top of my white chest of drawers in bedroom”). Leon wasn’t keen on rummaging round, and struggled to find it. He shouted down to me that all he could find was something like a blue swimming costume, and was that it? I apparently said yes! Which solved the mystery of why I had my swimming costume with me in hospital!!!
(Just in case you’re worried… mum brought my actual bra to the hospital a few days later! Phew.)
I was deteriorating, and the concerned ambulance crew were in contact with Northern General Hospital as my ECG was not showing a ‘standard’ heart attack pattern. The plan was to blue-light me over to Sheffield. I was put into a wheelchair and taken outside. As soon as I was out of the front door, Leon said I started having what looked like a spasm. He assumed that was me going into heart failure. I became unconscious.
The crew didn’t hang around. I was lifted onto the bed inside the ambulance and the doors shut behind me. Leon, left standing outside, could only stand, wait and listen.
For 10 minutes, the crew – now joined by another ambulance and two paramedics – worked on me in the ambulance on my driveway. Leon heard them charging up the defibrillator, shocking me, then shouting “Sharon, come on Sharon”. This went on for FIVE rounds, along with CPR, shots of adrenaline and amiodarone. Leon felt helpless. He thought he was going to lose one of his staff right there in front of him!
Eventually my heart started beating again and I was rushed to Rotherham hospital where I was stabilised. From there I was taken to Northern General Hospital to begin investigative work (which is where my first blog picks up the story).
Hearing the story from Leon was moving. It somehow made it feel very personal – up til now I’d seen the picture of me in ICU, but it didn’t feel like it was me. When Leon arrived yesterday he gave me such a big bear hug and a kiss! He was amazed at how well I looked – he was expecting me to be lying down and looking quite ill. It made me realise just how scary it must have been to watch and listen to the paramedics working on me. He also presented me with a lovely bouquet of flowers (and cheeky card!!) from Functional Fitness and the Active for Health Rotherham team. Thanks Team 🙂
Tuesday evening I started having panic attacks. My strong, brave, inspiring self had deserted me! I’d spent the day thinking about my heart attack, and all the different elements that I was now piecing together. I’d also thought several times that I could feel my heart ‘fluttering’ and started convincing myself that something was going wrong. By the evening I was tearful and dreading the prospect of it all happening over again.
My thinking was that as I’d not had any warning of this first heart attack, then it could easily happen again without warning. I was getting anxious that my next medical appointment wasn’t until 27th Sept – I felt very vulnerable. I had lots of questions but no-one to provide any specific answers.
I decided I had two choices: I could sit up all night panicking and getting nowhere… or I could calm down, think rationally, pray, and get some sleep. I chose the latter. I prayed and asked God to help me. I texted three close friends and told them what I was going through – they all replied. I distracted myself by playing cards. I tried reading. I reminded myself of all the drugs I was on to keep my heart relaxed and my blood pressure down. I measured my pulse and confirmed to myself that it was still strong, regular, and at it’s usual speed of 48 bpm. All was ok. Eventually I went to sleep.
When I set up Big Picture Living, it was to emphasise the importance of all three aspects of life: physical, spiritual and emotional. The NHS has done (and will continue to do, I’m sure) a fantastic job of my physical health. I have a strong personal faith, so the spiritual side of life is going well. I have a good support system around me… but still I struggle with doubts and fears. I sometimes feel scared and alone. This is normal!! It is no reason to beat myself up. I write this to encourage anyone else out there going through similar things.
My plan is to contact the Heart Failure Team (with whom I’ve got my appt on 27th) tomorrow and just have a brief chat with them on the phone. Whatever situation you find yourself in, you always have a choice. You can sit and think the worst… or you can turn the situation around, be positive, take control, and do what you can to improve the situation.