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 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 …