Even When The Clouds Cover The Sun It Is Still Shining

At the times when we feel #hope is fading fast, it’s good to remember that there is hope, it’s just that we can’t always see it.

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Add A Bit Of Colour?

“Where’s the photo?” You may ask.

There isn’t one & for a good reason.

It’s very easy to make statements like this but without a reference point or completion (e.g., photograph to illustrate what I’m saying).

In leaving-out the photo much of the impact of what I am saying is lost.

Just made me wonder how often I say things in life that are not supported or enhanced by what I do.

Until next time …

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Confidence: From Within or Without?

Confidence doesn’t always start from within: sometimes it needs a kickstart from outside.

That’s why I disagree with the “think positive & everything will be well” brigade. We can think as much as we like but some things only begin to take balance & resolve when we are given a new perspective on an old problem, by another person.

At that point, “I could never do that!” has a chance of becoming “I never thought I could do that!”

Until next time …

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UK Government Does It Again!

I just read with interest how, once again, our UK government have proceeded to make decisions that affect the wider British public … without consulting the wider British public.

In their wisdom, they have appointed the head of a ‘successful’ inner city school to help decide on sex education for 5 year-olds and upwards. 

Great!  But why was there no public discussion or canvassing of opinion before such a wide-ranging decision was made?


It seems that with alarming regularity, our politicians are making sweeping and increasingly significant decisions about the UK, from the safety of their ivory tower and without getting their hands dirty by asking some serious questions of the people that put them in power.

Perhaps it’s because they are afraid: afraid to face issues that others really care about and actually carry feelings that go against the politically correct norm (whatever that is).  Abortion bills rushed through ‘because of lack of time’.  What a great reflection on our society that we don’t have time to discuss the very thing that makes society live … life.  Please tell me what’s more important … MP’s salaries?  Christmas dinner?  The new car?  Choice of buffet lunch? 

Or is it that they genuinely don’t care?  Have they lost sight of reality?  Are they unreachable?   Do they weild too much power without true accountability?  Are they amoral?

Or do we keep quiet on issues that need to be raised and debated?

Yes! I am cynical.

We’re told, “Be polite”, “Don’t cause trouble”, “Enter into honest discussion.”  

But I ask, “When is this really reciprocated?”   My answer is, ‘Near to Election Time’ when they really fear the consequences of public apathy and the possibility of not getting back into power; when they need our support.  That’s when issues suddenly open up for ‘public debate and discussion’!  But until then, we have to put up with minority groups who shout loudest or carry a disproportionate amount of power dictating what the average person in the UK suffers, shaping a ‘future for all’ which does not include all and is far from rosy.

Come on Westminster!  Please stop insulting and fearing the electorate that put you in power and speak to us. 

And if it’s just good old British arrogance you suffer from … get a life and face reality. 

There’s more to this country than your parliamentary careers and public image.  Spin may flow smoothly from the doctors’ lips, but at some stage you will be taken down by the whirlpool it creates. 

Why can’t we have some transparency and accountability?  Or is there just too much to hide?

There is nothing to fear in open debate unless the fear is what will be seen by debating openly.

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‘Once in a Lifetime Offer!’

I read the other day that over 89% of the business books that people purchase and download go completely unread.

Of the remaining 11%, only 1% of those who read the book will actually implement any of the ideas they find in the book – even if they are well aware that doing so will cause immediate and drastic improvements in their lives.

And of that remaining 1% who attempt to use the ideas, an even smaller percentage will use the ideas correctly.

So, the average person has less than a 1% chance of benefiting from any book they download or buy.

I was staggered.  But then, after thinking about myself, I wasn’t quite so surprised.

The power of marketing is to prompt the ‘impulse buy’.  People pay professional copywriters hundreds, even, thousands of dollars to write compelling script that leads us to the big sell; making a decision to buy. And before we know it, our credit card is debited!  They know the power of words, images and a compelling argument. 

And clearly, for the majority of people this tactic works. 

We buy some low-cost product that we promptly forget about, whilst the seller repeats the process to hundreds or thousands of visitors … and makes a very healthy profit … mainly on people’s impulse buying.  We think, “I can’t do without this”  when clearly we can, or there would be a much greater percentage of people who would digest and apply every last morsel of information from those unread business book downloads!

In a world of ever-increasing speed and convenience, increasing pressure to possess and have, increasing messages of “You’re not successful in life unless …” it is little wonder that so many are drawn in by these ‘Once in a Lifetime’ offers.  We’re afraid of losing out or missing a bargain, when in reality, we’re spending money and gaining nothing … and in the process we join the queues of people on the credit and debt trap.

“Buy now; pay later”.  We’ve all heard it.  But if we haven’t got the money now, will we have the money when the bill comes through in 12 or 18 months?  It’s easy to think “Yes, of course we will!”  Unfortunately, if we fall for the salesman’s slogan once, there’s a good chance we’ll fall for it again.  So, in 12 months we don’t have one item to pay for; we have two, three, five, ten …  and at that point we’re stuck.

I don’t honestly have many real answers to this, and I’m certainly no financial expert, but I would like to share with you some principles that I try to apply and have worked for me.  So please, make of them what you will:

  1. Whenever possible I pay in full at the time of purchase.  If I use a credit card I always try to transfer money from a bank or building society account to the card and pay it off.  Yeah! I know the economists will tell you this is ‘bad practice’ because you lose the interest on your money, but honestly, unless we’re talking about thousands of pounds, a couple of weeks interest on a hundred or even a thousand pounds is worth nothing compared to our peace of mind.
  2. If I feel that I’m being drawn into a sale I’m unsure about I either make sure I have some time to think (the salesman worth his salt will grant this time; the shark will bite with “Oh! The offer finishes today”).  For online offers, if I’m reading the script and feel like I’m being drawn in, I take ten minutes, twenty minutes, an hour, or whatever is needed to walk away, have a coffee or tea and really think about what is on offer:  Will I use the product or information?  Do I need it?  Do I need it now?  I try to be very much aware of the ‘call to action’ line that so many marketers add to their copy: “Buy now!”, “Why wait?”, “Do it now?”, “Can you afford to wait?”  The answer in nine out of ten cases is nearly always “Yes I can thank you!”
  3. If I am going to ‘Buy Now; Pay Later’ I make sure I have the money in the bank and transfer it to an account where I won’t access it until payment day.  That way, I benefit from the interest and from the peace of mind of knowing that the money is there, ready to do its job when needed.
  4. If I’m shopping for larger or more expensive items I try to take someone with me who is not emotionally involved in the sale and can see things more objectively.  If they’ve got experience in the field of what I’m buying, all the better.  But their role is one of being objective; seeing things as they really are, without getting involved emotionally.  You’d be surprised how much easier it is to say “No” when you have someone with you who can help focus on what is going on without themselves being involved.  Marketers and salesmen know that the strongest pull on people comes not from facts but when our emotions are engaged. They craft their copy and words to appeal to our emotions whilst bypassing our reason and logic.  Reason/logic combined with emotions are a powerful force for common sense and keeping out of unnecessary transactions!

I know this may seem obvious but if it worked every time, many salesmen and online marketers would be out of a job.  They know our vulnerabilities and target them.

Enjoy shopping; buy books, read them and apply their knowledge; enjoy the bargains; benefit from ‘once in a lifetime offers’ but do so from a position of security and control. 

And if all else fails and you’re not sure, practice saying “No”.  The world will rarely come to an end if you do miss a bargain.

Until next time …

My Zimbio
KudoSurf Me!

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Day-By-Day Diary Of A Heart Attack Survivor: Part 8 The Aftermath

[Post Surgery ECG]

Post Surgery 5-Lead ECG Monitor

This post is part of a series  following experiencing an unexpected heart attack at a relatively early age of 58.  The last part about surgery is here & the first part is here.

Saturday 20th August 2017 — 04:30:   Awoken by pain in my chest & groin.  Lie on my side to get comfortable.  Feel comfortable but pain still there.  Hoping sleep will come.  It doesn’t, but a nurse does.  Once again I have dislodged an ECG lead & my heart beat registers as zero.  “Well, you’re awake & talking so your heart is still beating.”  We laugh, my lead is re-fitted & I lie back after a couple of paracetamol for my pain.

06:30:  Time for blood pressure.  My body aches. My chest hurts.  My groin feels as if I have been hit by a stray cannon ball.  I am weary & exhausted but cannot sleep.  I think it may be a long day.

09:30:  I shower & reconnect my leads.  Surely there cannot be any hair left on my chest with all of the electrode pad removals & re-sticks.  I am clearly growing it as quickly as I am losing it because there is still a full quota.  Why don’t they just shave me? Perhaps they enjoy my pain.

11:30:  My pharmacist friend visits again & we discuss dog-walking (I don’t need to walk my reptiles & snakes but she’s does her dogs). I explain what little I know about the procedure I had yesterday, other than the difficulties I caused.  I am a bit anxious that the Consultant said I was good to go home.  I certainly don’t feel like it.  Discussion with the ward Sister allays any fear: they will send me home only when they are happy that I have no pain & am able to cope.  We will probably be looking at Monday.  I relax.

 13:30:  I get chance to discuss follow-up with the lovely ward Sister.  I will be brought back, probably as an outpatient for my next procedure when things have settled a bit.  I would put her in her mid-twenties. She drops a bombshell: “I was always told that although I had experienced a heart attack, I should not allow it to define me.”  Another nurse working in cardiology who has been through the experience & now worked in the very area that was a weakness & threat to her life.

I am reminded again that our personal story, although unique, is also powerful when it is shared: our experiences really can help others.

[5-Lead ECG Wires: My Own Personal Spaghetti]

5-Lead ECG Wires: My Own Personal Spaghetti

14:30: The pain in my groin is now impacting everything I do & think about.  My chest still hurts.  I need something to distract me & quickly.  Distraction appears in my friend’s family visiting him & a couple of the older children chatting to me.  I share some of my accumulated biscuits & sweets.  We try not to laugh too much but my friend across the ward has other plans.  His jokes are poor, but very funny.  If I dare to say anything mildly funny to him he simply drops a corny one-liner & I am in severe pain from laughing.  This is a trait that will continue over the next two days.

16:00: Another lovely ex-work-colleague visits me.  She has been to hell & back through cancer treatment at a young age.  We catch-up on stories including work colleagues who have now moved on or retired, I am presented with more gifts, including sweets. We reflect on the power of life-changing events to re-shuffle our priorities: some things go up the list; many things go down the list; a good number fall off the list all together.  Facing one’s own mortality is a great reckoner for what truly matters & what doesn’t.

17:00:  My family arrives.  It is the first time my friend Jess has seen my children since they were very young.  Conversation breaks out which gives me space to be quiet & reflect on how grateful I am to be alive.  Yesterday has definitely taken its toll on me & I am beginning to struggle to maintain my focus & talk sense (well, as much as can be expected from me).  More cards from friends.  It really is lovely to know that people care enough about me to take simple action & demonstrate it.

19:00:  The magical tea trolley arrives.  I enjoy my cup of tea & bourbon biscuits.  I really could do with a doze.

21:00:  I am awoken by the medication round & given my tablet & injection.  The anti-coagulant & anti-platelet drugs seem to be having their desired effect: my stomach injection sites are sporting some fine bruises in a range of shades from yellow to maroon to black.  I absentmindedly remove a tiny, itchy scab on my arm from where the cannula had been removed.  Ten minutes later I see a small Mount Vesuvius where I have continued to bleed.  A wipe with a tissue & 5- to 10-minutes of pressure sees everything sorted.

21:50:  Today has been good.  The pain & general feeling of fatigue after yesterday’s procedures has been more than balanced by having people visit & being able to chat & listen.  Yes, I am truly worn out but I am also alive.

The staff at the hospital have been fantastic throughout, never failing to exceed on expectations of care, concern & basic humanity.  I tell a nurse that I can only award them 15 out of 10 for care.  She smiles, says “Thank you” & continues with her duties.  My eyes are heavy. Perhaps I will be able to sleep soon …

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Day-By-Day Diary Of A Heart Attack Survivor: Part 7 Fun At The Theatre

[In The Theatre: How Can I Make It Difficult For My Cardiology Medical Team?]

In The Theatre: How Can I Make It Difficult For My Cardiology Medical Team?

Friday 19th August 2017 — 06:20:  Today is the day.  I am scheduled for an angiogram (injection of dye into the heart & visualisation of structures to find structural defects or anomalies) followed by angioplasty (surgical repair or unblocking of a blood vessel, especially a coronary artery, with possible placing a stent/stents) if necessary.

I will enjoy my breakfast because after that I am on Nil By Mouth until after my surgery.  The ward is quiet except for the humming of the blood pressure monitor on my arm & the distant sound of ECG monitors. I am both excited that something is being done & a little anxious that during the procedure they will see nothing wrong & I will have wasted a bed for 6 days.

Why do I keep doubting that anything has really happened?  My brain tells me yes; my emotions really don’t know.

09:10:  I have finished my breakfast & have a quick shower whilst the nurses change my bed for theatre.  My drugs still make me dizzy & light-headed so after completing my wash I don my sexy hospital gown, return the bed, have new electrode pads applied to my chest & plug my ECG leads back in.  A happy nurse arrives with an electric hair trimmer: I am to be shaved at my right wrist & right groin.  5 Minutes later I am smooth & finally ready.

[Kitted Out In My Sexy Hospital Gown Ready For Theatre]

Kitted Out In My Sexy Hospital Gown Ready For Theatre

11:00:  I endure the torment of the tea trolley & my friend across the ward asking me if I would like a drink (knowing full well that I cannot have one).  I fight heavy eyes & wake up after a short doze.

13:45:  Two figures appear at my bed. “Stuart, we are ready for you.”  A couple of checks of my details & surgical wrist band & we are off along the corridors to the Catheter Lab.  Just as I am being slotted into place the radiologist apologises:  “I’m really sorry, but we have a man with no heart beat so we need to sort him out first.”  I am wheeled into the recovery area to wait.

15:00:  Take 2.  Back into the theatre, onto the bed.  Hand placed in a holder. I grasp the bar & local anaesthetic is injected into my wrist whist the Consultant & Medical Team set up the equipment & camera & flush my cannula with saline.  We are ready.

Stuart, you do understand why you are here?” asks one of the doctors.

Yes, for an angiogram & any repair work that may be necessary,” I reply.

Good. Then we’ll get started.

A slight pressure as the sheath is inserted into my radial artery.  If feel nothing much. The first line is inserted & the theatre begins to fade. “Heart rate & blood pressure falling rapidly!.”  I am given oxygen & then an administration of atropine to increase heart rate, but my blood pressure continues to fall.  Everything is very distant.  Far away voices ask for a second line inserting into my left arm.  Saline is fed under pressure to raise my blood pressure.  500ml.  1000ml.  1500ml.  My blood pressure begins to stabilise. Heparin is injected to thin my blood. I eventually stabilise though both heart rate & blood pressure are still quite low.  I feel a most unpleasant pain in my bottom & ask whether they are inserting anything, like a bedpost in there.  Negative.  I am not convinced & ask again.  With some amusement they tell me again that there are no lower procedures happening.  My fuddled brain recalls past pharmacology lectures (35 years past) & I conclude that it must be the atropine working on my rectal smooth muscle to produce spasm.  Not something I want repeated.

Dye is injected through the catheter & various photographs taken.  My radial artery begins to constrict around the catheter & equipment in my right arm. “We are removing the catheter in your arm Stuart; this may be a bit painful.”  Master of understatement.  I let out an involuntary groan & receive an apology from the Consultant, something that will be a theme over the next 3 hours.

Photographs taken, the team consult the screen. “I haven’t seen that before.”  The voices are audible but I am now reacting to the physical impact on my body.  I feel agitated & trapped. When will this be over?  “Stuart, you are allergic to morphine; what does it do to you?”  I explain that the last time I received morphine under general anaesthetic during achilles tendon surgery I went into respiratory depression & required naloxone (an opiate antagonist) to reverse the effects. “Okay! We won’t give you that.  I am afraid that we cannot give you any pain relief.”  I am not too concerned as the pain is only transient during procedures.  I feel quite drained.

16:15:  A decision has been made.  I need stents inserting to dilate 3 narrowed coronary arteries. Various discussions ensue on what sizes & styles are available.  They try to insert the stent into my radial artery. It does not want to go in. I involuntarily groan again with the pain in my forearm just below the elbow. My artery is too constricted.  They decide to remove everything & try a new entry point: the femoral artery in my right groin.  After further local anaesthetic in the appropriate spot, the Consultant starts to insert the new line.  I almost jump off the table: no anaesthesia. More is inserted.  Pause.  Another attempt.  The same result.  A final extra dose is given. We wait. We try again. Same result.  Apology after apology.  A second Cardiologist is called & I am allowed to rest.  My body is not responding well to the various medical procedures.

The second Consultant arrives, introduces himself, feels around & says, “You may feel a bit of pressure.”  If it’s anything like the last few attempts I will feel a lot more! “Okay, let me know when you are putting it in” I respond.  “It’s already in.”  I didn’t feel anything,

We can now continue.

The catheter is inserted through my groin & guided into my heart.  I feel very little. “You may feel some pain as we inflate the balloon.”  A dull ache starts & grows to feel a bit like a mini version of may heart attack.  The stent is inserted & expanded. “I’m afraid you may feel some more pain as this is expanded.”  The pain in my chest increases until it begins to feel like my heart attack, just a bit less intense.

And then it is all over.

We have two more areas that we need to work on but they will be quite difficult so we need to chat with colleagues on whether we insert more stents or go for open heart surgery. Your body has had enough for now so we will call you back in for the next procedure

My heart sinks.

The various catheters are removed & the sheath attached to my groin with a stitch & then covered with ab adhesive dressing.  This will need removing later when the effects of the heparin have worn off.  Bleeding on removal can be spectacular if not controlled & clotting is essential to prevent me painting walls & ceiling. I am lifted to another bed & wheeled to the recovery area.

The staff have all been fantastic & continue to be so.  We crack a few jokes & then the ceiling tiles whizz past once more as I am wheeled back to the Cardiac High Dependency Unit.  “Welcome back Stuart.  We were wondering where you had got to & have been calling the Cath Lab for updates.

The time is 18:20.  The normally one-&-a-quarter-hour procedure has taken 3 hours.  I am worn out, hungry, thirsty & glad to be alive.  After a week of worrying, I finally begin to accept that I have had a serious event & realise that I am not in the clear yet as I will need to return for further surgery/procedure(s).

19:15:  Matt, Becky & Viv (my family) arrive to visit.  I am not good company. I want to sleep & am exhausted from my time in theatre.  We talk about the day (I try not to give all of the gory details or my son will be on the floor) .  It is good to be back in some semblance of normality & familiarity.  My family is lovely & keep conversation to a minimum to allow me to rest.

21:00: The pain from my still resident arterial sheath in my groin increases as the local anaesthetic wears off. A nurse takes a blood sample from my highly perforated right arm.  My heparin levels are suitably low for sheath removal but there are only a few trained teams for removal in the hospital & none are based on my ward.  It is likely to be midnight before they arrive.  I have my drink.  Probably worth a doze but even the weight of just my gown on my groin is causing me a lot of pain.  Paracetamol may help & I have few alternatives, so I take 2.

23:55: Two very lovely & jolly nurses appear to remove my sheath.  By this time the anaesthetic has worn off & just looking at my groin hurts!  This will not be  a trip to Disneyland!  They explain the need for a breath in; then out; then deep breath in; then a  long forced breath out, during which they will remove the sheath & apply firm pressure to the wound for at least 20 minutes!

They remove the dressing which is liberally attached to hairs that it should not be.  With a sound akin to the ripping of velcro I am many hairs less, my mind is diverted from the pain in my groin & the dressing is removed! A final snip & the suture holding the sheath in place is also gone.

Now all we have to do is the final deed & I am free.

I breathe in & then out.  A long breath in & on my long breath out they rapidly remove the sheath.  I pant like my wife when she was in labour.  My head touched the pillow.  My heels touch the bed.  The rest of my body touches nothing, being bent like a banana.  Slowly I relax.  25 minutes later I am a bit dazed but free.  The poor nurse who has been applying pressure for this time is in pain, probably as much as I am.  We share our condolences.

Saturday 20th August 2017 — 00:30:  I try to get comfortable.  My chest hurts, a lot.  My groin hurts, a lot.  My ECG leads ensnare me & I untangle what I can, push my head into the pillow & thank God that I am alive.

When I awake I will have to face the aftermath of today.  But for now, I enjoy the warm doziness that envelopes me & drift off into a fitful slumber …


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Day-By-Day Diary Of A Heart Attack Survivor: Part 6 Breaking News & More Routine

[There is Always Time For a Selfie With My Children, Matt & Becky]

There is Always Time For a Selfie With My Children, Matt & Becky

This post continues from Day-By-Day Diary Of A Heart Attack Survivor Part 5

Thursday 17th August 2017 — 06:25: Blood pressure time.  Another short chat with the nurse about life changes.. Her words of wisdom? “Don’t let it rule your life.  You are in charge.  Respect it but do not bow down to its demands.

The rest of this morning passes by amidst changing of patients on the ward, refreshments, a brief foray to the shower & the odd doze.

12:30:  A nurse appears with my dinner & asks when I am due in theatre.  I have no idea.  He promises to do some reconnaissance for me to see what he can find out.  5 Minutes later he appears with an injection & a big smile on his face. I assume it is because he is going to harpoon me again, but he says, “You are first on the list for tomorrow afternoon.” We are getting closer.

13:30: A good friend & ex-work colleague arrives bearing gifts of fruit, a book & some Post-It Notes. We chat about life outside; life inside; friends & dogs.  I know nothing about dogs.  I learn much about habits, disobedience, solitude & poo.

15:30:  A musician friend arrives bearing gifts of books.  A bit of a theme developing here.  we talk about business, trade, drums, percussion, music & dancing.  I know nothing about dancing.  I learn much about the differences between Rapper, Morris, Long Sword & Clog.

18:00: After a good evening meal my family arrive.  We talk about the day, childcare, shelf-stacking, high performance cars, happenings on our street (no recent drugs raids) & family occurrences.

20:30: Our evening drinks arrive & I am gleefully informed that after breakfast tomorrow I will be NBM (Nil By Mouth) in anticipation of the afternoon’s surgery.  Time for my tablets & another injection.  Today has been a hectic & busy day, yet it has also been full of routine & chatter.

Have I accepted my heart attack any more than yesterday?  Perhaps.  Something has sunk in but so much still floats outside my emotional grasp.  I am tired but not anxious about tomorrow,  Will they find anything structurally wrong with my heart?  The chances are yes, but still I fear them finding nothing & then feeling guilty that I have taken up a much-needed bed for the past 6 days.  The brain is a funny thing.  My thoughts are quite bizarre & disturbed.  I need some sleep to switch off.

After the activity & excitement of the day, sleep takes me into its arms  soon after my head hits the pillow …

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Day-By-Day Diary Of A Heart Attack Survivor: Part 5 Wisdom, Routine & Another Scan

[My Cocoon: Ward 33A Cardiac High Dependency Unit]

My Cocoon: Ward 33A Cardiac High Dependency Unit

This continues from Day-By-Day Diary Of A Heart Attack Survivor: Part 4

Wednesday 16th August 2017 — 06;15:  “Stuart! Time for blood pressure!”  My day has started. The ward is quiet except for the gentle sounds of deep breathing from my fellow inmates. As the nurse takes my blood pressure we discuss my surprise at what has happened, the future & life changes. “I was 31 & pregnant with my daughter when I had my heart attack,” she casually drops into the conversation. She doesn’t look that old now! This is recent then, certainly in the past few years.  I thought I was young at 58. “I learnt to respect the situation, but not to let it rule over my life. It is only a condition,  It does NOT define who you are!

Our conversation has to end as she needs to attend to other patients.  This isn’t the last time I will learn that a large proportion of cardiac nurses have been through their own experiences. That is why they are committed to working in cardiology; a chance to share their own victories & survival with others?

10:30:  The paper trolley appears carrying today’s news from beyond the 4 walls of my cocoon,  I realise how sheltered & safe I am.  A patient in one of the UK’s top cardiology departments, 9 miles from my home, cared for by one of the top teams of professionals in the country. Monitored. Checked. Treated, Emergency facilities ready at the blink of an eye.  Institutionalised security is insidiously creeping into my brain.  Great for now but I must keep an eye on it or discharge may be a challenge.  For now I am happy to rest in the knowledge that I am safe.

13:00:  My sister-in-law, husband & two boys arrive to say, “Hi!”  We use the limited time they have to catch up. Ten minutes later a technician appears. “Mr Wood?”  She has found the right person. “I just need to take you down for an echo cardiogram.”  That one came out of the blue. “It should only take around 20 minutes in total.

My visitors depart for some refreshments in the cafe whilst I enjoy my taxi ride along the corridors, down in the lift & into the Scanning Department. The change of scenery is welcome.  After only a 5 or 10-minute wait I am taken into a scanning room.  I am surprisingly unstable on my feet but make it to the bed. ECG electrodes are removed, once again taking a good proportion of my chest hair with them.  Gel is applied & the ultrasound scan, similar to that used on expecting mothers, is performed.  No sooner have we started than it seems to be finished & in a short time I am back in my ward, just as my visitors return from the restaurant.

[Removal of ECG Electrodes si Always An Exciting Experience: Ae They Coated With Superglue?]

Removal of ECG Electrodes is Always An Exciting Experience: Ae They Coated With Superglue?

17:00:  It seems ages since my visitors left.  My evening meal arrives.  Jokes & chatter are exchanged as we compare notes for the day across our small 4-bed ward.  The empty bay across from me is filled by a very poorly gentleman who needs immediate treatment in theatre.  He seems to spend a few hours with us & then is gone.

18:45: My family arrive. We exchange news.  My daughter, surely the selfie queen decides it would be good to get a few. We wriggle about & try to find a good position where the won’t get tangled in my ECG leads.  We are successful. Visiting time comes to an end & we say our goodbyes until tomorrow.  My daughter is formulating a plan for Daddy Day Care when I leave hospital.

When will I leave hospital?  Will I leave hospital?  Sometimes being alone with our thoughts is scary.

22:15:  Time for lights out & a short reflection on the day.  Words of wisdom; the usual routine & an unexpected scan.  Friends & family seen.  Conversations had. Now sleep calls.

23:15:Stuart! Can I just check your leads?”  Damn! I have set the alarms off again.  “Yep! You definitely still seem alive to me!”  We laugh. I am happy to be here.  In a scary situation it is great to have expert human carers around.  I lie on my back, thankful. My head finds the ‘pillow soft spot’ & today fades ….

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Day-By-Day Diary Of A Heart Attack Survivor: Part 4 Cardiac High Dependency Ward

[My new home: Glenfield Hospital Ward 33A Cardiac High Dependency Unit: Bay B; Bed 4]

My new home: Glenfield Hospital Ward 33A Cardiac High Dependency Unit: Bay B; Bed 4

This story continues from Part 3.

Tuesday 16th August 06:15:  I awake to the usual blood pressure tests & look around me.  The room looks small & strange, with unfamiliar faces.  Then I remember my journey through the hospital corridors, in my bed, negotiating food trolleys, patients, visitors & staff, steered & cheered by two lovely nurses from the DCU.  I remember reading the sign on entry:  Ward 33A Cardiac High Dependency Unit & once again the seriousness of my condition begins to seep into my brain, but still no emotional response.

Today is Tuesday: a new day.  The staff are as amazing as ever; going about their daily work, dropping by to check & do the usual ‘observations.’

11:15: I manage a conversation with Heidi, a ward nurse.  We cover everything from tattoos (I have a very colourful sleeve & back piece which was noticed on my way back from the shower), to fears, to coping with trauma, to family, friends & beyond.  One patient in our 4-bed ward is disgusted that we were so personal with our chat as ‘he was a very private man.’  He should not have been listening as we were talking one-to-one.

I feel safe, cared for & secure in my new home.  The ECG above my bed continues to draw its silent traces across the screen.  I am allowed to ‘unplug’ to visit the bathroom & shower which is luxury.  10-feet to the toilet & 10-feet back to my bed exhausts me.  From a very fit 58-year-old I am reduced to an invalid.  How long will this last?  I do not know but I hope that planned surgery will make it better.

Minutes & hours pass.  Activity never ceases.  Patients leave.  New patients arrive.  Conversations strike-up between inmates & we exchange greetings, stories & aspirations (well, most of us do).  Our ‘nectar trolley’ (drinks & biscuits) visits every couple of hours.  Routine is somehow unroutine as patients change in condition & require new interventions or treatments.  I am stable so blood pressure assessments are reduced to once every 4 hours.  I get chance to doze.

Doctors come & go.  I am reminded again by a Consultant Cardiologist that I have had a heart attack.  A bit more sinks in.  Plenty deflects off into the air.  Getting used to the facts is not easy.  My wrist bands remind me that I have already been in 2 hospitals & received numerous treatments & interventions to get me this far.  Results of blood tests continue to confirm the facts.

Then why does my brain not?  I have no answer, except that intellectually I know; emotionally I still do not.

18:30:  My family visits again in the evening & I am reminded of how tough this is on those not in the ward with me.  they only see a snapshot during their visit.  They only pick-up fragments of information from my texts, e-mails & Facebook posts.  They want to be involved but cannot.

Yet they are!!

Their visits, smiles, words are all an integral part of my recovery.  They have helped me get this far.  they will help me move forward.  For now we chat about home, work, friends.  They bring some Get Well cards which again are uplifting.  They like my new home.  I like them being there.

21:30:  The ward is quiet again.  I unplug for one last bathroom visit then settle down to sleep.  A nurse appears saying, “No, he’s still talking so he’s not dead!”  One of my ECG leads has become dislodged again & my heart rate is zero.  The sound of the alarm at the nurses station will eat into my subconscious such that I will awaken very time I hear, whether it is due to me or not.  Familiar things can be reassuring; they can also be disturbing!

22:15:  The lights dim & once more I reflect on the day.  I am still here for which I am truly grateful.  I have survived another day & am one day nearer my surgery & recovery.  I am grateful for friends & family.  I am eternally grateful for the doctors & nurses.  I feel secure.  I feel loved.  I sometimes feel ill but mainly feel no symptoms.  With my infusion pump now disconnected I no longer have a headache.  I have seen more pill for which I need a degree in syllables to pronounce. I have had more blood samples taken & drugs injected that I feel like a colander, sure I will leak if I drink water.

[I Have Had More Needles Stuck In me Over The Past 4 Days Than In My Previous 58 Years. I Am Sure I Will Leak If I Drink Anything!]

I Have Had More Needles Stuck In me Over The Past 4 Days Than In My Previous 58 Years. I Am Sure I Will Leak If I Drink Anything!

Above all I am thankful to have made it through the day.

What will tomorrow bring?  I have no idea.  For now I am just happy to close my eyes & sleep, until the next round of observations in 4 hours.  I doze to the sound of muted voices & beeping monitors.

But why am I here?  I think I may have had a heart attack.  Time will tell …

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Day-By-Day Diary Of A Heart Attack Survivor: Part 3 A Routine Day In An Alien Place

[My Headache Needs Ice To Calm The Pain:]

My Headache Needs Ice To Calm The Pain:

Today’s post continues from Part 2 posted yesterday.

Monday 15th August 06:15: Sleep eventually came & has now gone.  Blood pressure assessed once more.  It is amazing how quickly one can automatically adopt an arm out, finger up pose when still nearly asleep. What is in store today? More tests? More questions? New friends on the ward? Time will tell.

10:15: First visit from a Consultant who confirms that I have had an NSTEMI heart attack. With this type of attack the heart trace is unaffected but the blood markers for heart muscle damage are high.  Upper limit of troponin in males is usually around 32.  Anything higher suggests heart damage.  My first reading was 356.  My second reading was 1450.  So yes, heart attack.

The next step is an angiogram, a surgical procedure performed under local anaesthetic where dye in introduced into my heart & photographs taken using a special camera.  Once they see the damage they will be able to decide on treatment.  In the case of a narrowed or blocked artery, a balloon will be introduced into my heart & expanded to widen the artery. A small gauze structure called a stent will then be introduced into the same area & expanded using the balloon catheter to keep the affected artery open.  This will be done through the radial artery, entering at my right wrist.  Sounds fun!!

Then the good news: there is a 1:200 (in my mind, quite a high chance) of significant adverse reactions including heart attack, stroke or death.  I am greatly encouraged & sign the consent form.  He is lovely & assures me that it is all routine & straightforward.  We will see.

The rest of the day passes resting & chatting.  I pinch myself yet again.  This dream is starting to seem a bit too real.  Those words ‘heart attack’ were mentioned again.  I want to accept it; I try to accept it.  Mentally I accept it; emotionally there is no engagement.

My neighbour, 74-year-old Pete taunts me by walking to the bathroom & back.  I long for the day when that too will be my privilege.  For now I just stand & let gravity weave its magic as I use a bottle … then 2 bottles.  I am obviously a bit more efficient in the waterworks department than I thought.

Other ward inmates struggle with their breathing, their pain, their fear.  Some are agitated at delays in being allowed home. All are in the same position: they are dependent upon the expertise of the hospital staff to secure their safe future.

22:00:  Night time comes quickly & once again the sound of ECG alarms stabs the air as we try to sleep.  My head hurts, side effects from the glyceryltrinitrate (GTN) infusion still keeping my arteries dilated to help my heart work without being under stress. A lovely nurse brings me an ice pack to treat the pain.  I get brain freeze at first but then the soothing action takes over.

I am a mass of ECG leads, plugged-in to my monitor like some cyborg recharging for tomorrow’s activities.  By morning they will resemble spaghetti & have me ensnared in their web. Tonight they may even summon faces to my bed as I lie on them & once again trigger the alarms at the nurse’s station.

[I Am Permanently Attached To My ECG Monitor Like Some Cyborg Recharging For Tomorrow's Activities]

I Am Permanently Attached To My ECG Monitor Like Some Cyborg Recharging For Tomorrow’s Activities

I am left pondering on the past couple of days: from fit, healthy 58-year-old to someone who gets breathless thinking about walking.  Perhaps it is the lack of sleep. Perhaps these are changes that I will have to permanently accept.  Perhaps I will not awaken tomorrow.  Perhaps… Perhaps… Perhaps.

But perhaps I am wrong & a new day will come, a day when I am able to increase my strength & start walking forward from this bed-bound dream after my heart attack.

There! I have said it on my own.  Heart attack.

I begin to doze off just as the nurse appears to take my blood pressure & check my ECG leads.  I stick out my arm & put up my finger.

Maybe tonight I will sleep after all …

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Day-By-Day Diary Of A Heart Attack Survivor: Part 2 A Dream Or Nightmare?

[By Early Morning I was On My Own In Emergency & Resuscitation]

By Early Morning I was On My Own In Emergency & Resuscitation

This article follows-on from yesterday’s Diary of a Heart Attack Survivor Part 1

Sunday 14th August 2017 — 07:30:  Sleep has evaded me & the headache from my GTN (glyceryltrinatrate) infusion is just beginning to make itself known. The Emergency & Resuscitation department is now quiet & I am the only resident.  A jovial ambulance crew greet me & announce that they are my chariot for the ride to Glenfield Hospital.  Eventually I am loaded into the back of an ambulance but there is a delay whilst the driver finds batteries to drive my infusion.

08:15:   We depart. I chat to my support in the back about snakes, fears, spiders, the day, what lies ahead: anything & everything whilst Leicester surreally passes by through the darkened windows.  No sooner have we departed Leicester Royal Infirmary than we seem to arrive at what will be new home, Glenfield Hospital.

08:30:  I am wheeled through the doors carrying my trusty infusion. Right to the Coronary Care Unit (CCU); left to the Clinical Decision Unit (CDU): we go left & I am admitted.  Eventually I am wheeled into a temporary bay in which will lie for the next few hours whilst blood samples & blood pressure measurements are taken, questions are asked, people come & go, come & go.  I am wired-up to an ECG (Electrocardiogram).  Little do I realise that this will be my 24-hour companion for the next 9 days in hospital. Life becomes a continuum of care, efficiency & friendly faces. The events of the last 8-hours begin to sink in mentally, yet emotionally I am still in a dream.  The dream continues for several more hours of tests, further questions & more friendly faces.

[I Was To Become Good Friends With My Indwelling Cannulae]

I Was To Become Good Friends With My Indwelling Cannulae

15:45: A cheery pair of nurses arrive, informing me that I am being moved onto the ward.  We go. We stop. I have arrived.  I am in awe of the quiet, efficiency of the overloaded nursing staff. Emergencies come & go, are dealt with & ward life continues as normal.

16:00: More blood pressure tests.  Being on a one-hour assessment cycle allows little time for rest.  It is now more than 24-hours since I slept properly, more than 12-hours since this nightmare began.  The constant sound of ECG alarms sounding keeps me awake.  Rest is difficult when being kept alive is a priority. Concerned faces appear at the foot of my bed when I realise that an ECG lead has become displaced & my heart rate is registering as zero.  This will be a regular event during my stay: a source of concern but also an ice-breaker for conversations with patients & staff.

20:00: Medication, injections & more blood samples.  I feel like a colander: if I take my tablets they will surely find their way out of all the holes in my arms. I am confined to bed except for standing to allow gravity to assist with bladder function.  My neighbours are lovely: each in their own world of fear; each on their own journey.  I am the youngest in the ward of around 16 very poorly patients & yet the idea of being ‘seriously ill’ still does not enter my head.  I will wake tomorrow, at home & all of this will be just a nightmare.

23:00: I am awoken from my dozing.  Have I slept? Possibly.  Are my surroundings familiar? Yes.  Another blood pressure reading.  So I am not home. I have awoken & the nightmare continues.  Somewhere in my head I hear, “Accept it! You are ill in hospital.” But for some reason my psyche is not yet ready to accept these facts, so I continue to hope that reality is different from where I am now.

Alarms; snoring; moaning; staff talking: it will be another long night.  I turn over to get more comfortable & manage it.  A nurse appears by my bed.  ECG problems again so I decide to lie on my back.

Slowly, a feeling of deep gratitude seeps into my consciousness.  I am alive!!  I may wish for a nightmare from which I will awake but somewhere I am beginning to accept my situation.  I look at the doctors & nurses going about their tasks & I am overcome that I am in a privileged position to see all of this.  What about my friend Nigel, found on his kitchen floor?  What about my friend Mark, snuffed-out whilst talking to his wife?  They do not share the privilege of life that I do.  It may be scary; I may not live long but then again I may; what will happen tomorrow?  Questions. Questions. Questions.  Without any definite answers, but I am alive to ask them & see some of the answers.  For that I am grateful.  No! Not grateful. Overcome.  I feel my cheek become wet as a solitary tear winds its way down my skin.

Another long night ahead but slowly, very slowly things are beginning to make sense.

Am I ready to accept that I have had a heart attack?  Maybe, but it will probably all turn out to be indigestion.

The answers lie ahead: but for the moment I just want to rest.

Tomorrow can wait, for now …

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