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.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 …