Following on from my last brush with the medical services, it’s now gone one stage further.
Having been here for a day they decided that I needed an angiogram to see what is happening around the ticker. After a false start (someone else had higher priority) I was bumped out until today, when I had the procedure and after about half an hour they finished and the doctor told me I needed triple or even quad bypass surgery. Pretty scary, but it can’t be done in my current hospital; I’ve got to be transferred to a specialist heart hospital in London. My case will be discussed but I’m here for the duration until I can get a slot with the surgeons probably in a day or so.
To say it come as a shock would be an understatement, I was expecting a couple of stents to be put in and Robert’s your mother’s brother. Still, looking on the bright side the episode I had on Monday was definitely a warning shot across the bows, and I’m lucky: 2 out of 3 don’t walk out their front door like I did – ever again. The cause? Age, smoking even though I gave up 40 years ago, drink, diet and weight. All factors except age can be avoided. I’m getting the best care in this hospital, Covid doesn’t seem to affect it now, don’t know what it was like at the height of it. Anyway I’ll be out of action for quite a while and there ain’t nothing I can do about it. Further reports to follow.
So, further tests to be done: chest x-ray: all clear, echo cardiogram, a sort of posh ultrasound, like they use on expectant mothers! This, as explained by my radiographer, is the plumbing in the heart and the ECG looks at the electrics. Quite fascinating seeing the heart valves actually working; opening and closing. I have, and have had for a long time an enlarged atrium, on the right side and that showed up to good effect on the screen. Just think at 70 those valves have opened and closed 2,275,440,000 times! No wonder they can go wrong. Luckily mine aren’t causing a problem, but the enlarged atrium causes the heart to beat more because its got to push a larger volume of blood around the body. Now I saw the blocked arteries I’ve got and they were explained thus: ‘This is your M1, that’s nice and fat and allows the blood to flow easily. The one across the top is your M6 and it looks pinched in places. That’s one of the worse offenders. There are also others smaller roads, the A606 or whatever that are blocked at one end and the is another problem. There’s a conference tomorrow 1st July when they will discuss my case and see the best place to send me.’
I spoke to Noel, 86, this afternoon who had a triple bypass and is being discharged today, but he picked up a UTI infection of the urinary tract so is being treated for that. The regime in the ward is quite rigid as it has to be, except for mask wearing; Covid doesn’t seem to have affected life here. I’ve no idea what it was like at the height of the pandemic but it must have been chaotic. Meal times are strictly at 8.00am, 1.00pm and 6.00pm, luckily you get choice sheets for the next two days and the food is very good. It’s easy to pick healthy options so I go for that generally although it’s far too late to reverse the damage to the old ticker now. Not that I was a massive bad food eater, I know I’ve got to cut down on certain things and it’s something like this that brings your choice of diet into sharp focus. Jim my friend from the men’s shed visited on Wednesday evening and left a box of shortbread, yum. Earlier my wife and daughter visited in shifts because you’re only allowed one visitor at a time. Lovely to see them, cheered me up no end. Technology makes it much easier to talk or message them these day: don’t know how we managed before. Got chatting to a hospital volunteer called Clive! Ex Artillery man. Waited for my sword of Damacles decision on where my op is taking place: St Georges Tooting or Southampton.
So, Thursday came and the consultant Dr Aachan came to see me individually and gave me the news: No bypass you’re having stents instead! Quite a turnaround. To be honest I wasn’t looking forward to having my chest cracked open and my innards being mucked about with, so the stent alternative was excellent news. Soon after I was rushed down to the ‘Cath Lab’, as they call the operating theatre where at 12.00 and waited, and waited, and waited… well you get the picture. Then they told me an emergency was coming in from Royal Surry and I was being bumped. They offered me a sandwich which I gratefully accepted and then waited some more. 3 1/2 hours later the consultant came in and told me I was going in. I had a pee before I went in, but I was going to have a problem with that later. The Cath Lab is quite a place, sort of cross between and operating theatre and an x-ray suite with the largest TV screen I’ve ever seen. The lady doctor gave me an anaesthetic in the wrist and proceeded to try to get the ‘sheath’ into the which all the catheters go through. Because it was nearly the same place as the cardiogram the previous day she had a lot of trouble. So they made another hole and tried again, still no success. They decided to switch to the left wrist on which the huge screen was on the same side and after an injection had success. The sheath was inserted and the consultant started. He calls out pressures and the other doctor responds with the same which blows the balloon up at the end of the catheter and the stent at the same place expands (it’s a wire mesh tube) and pushes on the inside of the vein as a sort of scaffold for the vein to keep it open. He did two or three times successfully but had trouble with the fourth one, and worried that I may have to come back for that one. But he got it in eventually, so I’m now the proud owner of four stents! During the process however, the doctor doing the stents now had to lean across my body to get at the left wrist, and I had been dying for a pee for half an hour. I was so glad when he had finished and had to use a cardboard container right there in the Cath Lab. I was taken back to the ward to recover and I was done.
The next day on doctors rounds, the consultant cardiologist said I could leave hospital that afternoon. I had all the meds to get and be discharged with all the paperwork all of which took an age, but eventually having been picked up by my wife I arrived home in the early evening. It had been quite an experience and had lasted 5 days, but I was more or less fixed expect a return visit to see the specialist in 6-8 weeks and a whole chemist worth of meds to take. These included: anti coagulants, heart rate reducer, beta blockers x 2, blood thinner (aspirin), platelet reducer, statins, and stomach acid reducer. Quite a list but luckily they are all one a day expect one which is twice a day, and some have to be taken with food. Told I couldn’t drive or lift weights for 7 days (enforced by my wife!) and to take it easy, a difficult thing for me to do (see my other blog about the Men’s Shed). I have felt a bit tired for the first three days but get stronger all the time. The only after effects beside tiredness is bruises on the wrists. I’m so glad I was ably to get away with stents rather than bypass, because that would have taken me out for three months. I’m already feeling the benefits of enlarged heart veins, less breathlessness and more energy, which had got to be used sparingly for a while.
A big thanks to all the staff at Frimley Park Hospital and a special thanks and love to all my family especially Fran, my wife, and my daughters Charlotte and Teresa. I hope this blog can be picked up and read by many people to give assurance that all is well with the NHS, they might be vilified by certain sections of the media but ultimately when it counts they are there for you and cannot be faulted