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.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 …