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.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 ….