Two weeks ago today, on Wed 16th Aug 2017, I had a heart attack. The story which unfolds below is a collaboration of many peoples’ input, and is accurate to the best of my knowledge and research attempts.
A heart attack differs greatly from person to person. Here is general information and guidance from the NHS Choices website. Below is what happened to me.
My first memories start on Sat 19th Aug as I slowly come round in the Critical Care Unit of Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. I’m exhausted, bruised, have a urine catheter fitted, and shunts in both arms. I struggle to breathe.
My wonderful parents are sitting beside my bed. I have no memory of what happened. Slowly, over the next few days, we all start to fill in the gaps.
When I get my phone out of secure hospital storage on Mon 21st Aug, I look through the log of calls and texts. I made a ‘999’ call at 6.56am on the Wed (no memory of this at all). At 7.04am I text my boss saying “Ambulance coming. Think I’m having a heart attack”. Again, I have no memory of this either.
My boss and the ambulance arrive shortly after making these two contacts. I’m taken away in the ambulance, leaving my boss to lock up my house. En route to Rotherham hospital, I arrest in the ambulance.
My pink top is ripped apart and defibrillator pads are applied to my chest. In total I’m given FIVE shocks, two shots of adrenaline and a shot of amiodarone. This combined with CPR, continues over a period of ten minutes.
The next procedure is an angiogram to discover the amount of damage to my heart. I had a 99% blockage of one of the small arteries on the bottom left side of my heart. The surgeon tries to fit a stent, but is unable to get it in. He decides to end the procedure as I was at risk of a stroke if he continued.
I am then intubated, catheterised, moved on to Intensive Care, and my body is cooled to 35c (for 48hrs) to protect my brain and organs. I’m closely monitored over the next three days. Still oblivious to anything around me, I’m visited by my parents, my brother, and my pastor and his wife.
On the Friday evening – having successfully been brought back up to 37c body temp – my breathing tube is removed and I’m transferred to the Critical Care Unit. I start to come round on the Saturday. Slowly I’m told of what has happened to me. I’m in shock and utter disbelief. Thankful to not be in any chest pain. I comment that I don’t remember a thing after going to bed on Tuesday evening. It’s all very weird and very confusing.
Friends and family are notified of my progress, and further prayers are sought. My mind continues to whirl round, trying to make sense of it all. However, I struggle to stay focused on anything for longer than 20 seconds.
Saturday evening my consultant Dr Nick Kelland comes and examines me. He listens to my chest and diagnoses ‘Ventilation-associated pneumonia’ in my left lung. I’m put on a course of Doxycycline antibiotics. That helps to alleviate my worries that my poor breathing is due to my heart problem… it’s not – it’s my lungs!! My temperature spikes at 38c and slowly drops down again over the next few days.
In the following days I’m blessed by some visitors. The nursing staff are also great. Of special note is ‘Alex’ a lovely nurse who sat with me during one night that I just couldn’t get comfortable and sleep. We talked through how hard I was finding the shock of saying “I’ve had a heart attack”. It still didn’t seem real; and as a Specialist Personal Trainer I felt rather shamed and embarrassed that I myself had now had a heart attack. She told me that it was just “one of those things”, and said that a couple of weeks ago they’d admitted a couple of very keen cyclists who’d also had heart attacks. She also noted that if I’d still been at my former weight of 23.5st and hadn’t turned my life around, getting fit and active over the past few years… I probably wouldn’t have been here now!! Every little effort really does help.
At midnight (!) on Mon 21st Aug I was moved to Chesterman 1 – one of the general cardiac ward. I took this is a great sign of progress. My catheter was removed – wonderful. I was also released from my continuous ECG monitoring. The regular obs were stable and my temperature had returned to normal (although my breathing was still laboured).
On Wed 23rd Aug my shunts were removed from my hands. Impressive bruises. My stomach was also turning a lovely shade of purple with my blood-thinning injections. All that separated me from being discharged was an ultrasound on my heart. Sadly the day came and went with no scan.
Thur 24th Aug – Release Day!!!! I had my ultrasound scan early in the afternoon. The nurse doing it was a huge fan of Drs Chris and Xand van Tulleken – citing their Channel 4 series Medicine Men Go Wild as being what first caught her attention. We chatted about the crazy twins and their latest BAFTA-winning series of Operation Ouch! The examination flew by, and I was soon back on the ward again.
My consultant came round later that afternoon with the good news that I was being discharged. Thankfully the scan showed that all my heart valves were working fine, and that the main concern was my left ventricle was pumping weaker. This I was told would improve with medication, time, and by doing my rehab exercises and regaining my strength and mobility.
Part Two of my ‘Attack!’ story will be along in a day or two… ‘The Recovery Begins’. See you soon!!