We all knew that this Christmas would be different. I just didn’t expect it to be quite THIS different.
It’s Christmas Day and rather surprisingly, I find myself enjoying the hospitality of the Clinical Decisions Unit of the acclaimed Leicester heart hospital.
To their credit, the NHS served up a decent turkey dinner. I particularly enjoyed the gravy, although the roast potatoes were a bit soggy. I tried, without success, not to listen to the old lady across the room answering detailed questions about her bowel movements – as I stuck my fork into the rather small solitary sausage.
I didn’t pull my cracker with myself, and I didn’t wear the hat. The pathos would have been just too much to bear. But I was very grateful for the Christmas presents from Help The Aged, wrapped in a handy resealable bag. There was a hotel-like range of toiletries, a small packet of biscuits (like you get in a hotel) and two of those hotel-style chocolate squares. I wondered where they had got all these from. Also a large print puzzle book and, best of all – a pen. Now the answers to yesterday’s guardian crossword can be filled in rather than imagined.
Tucked inside the bag was a helpful leaflet “if you are wondering how you will cope when you get home, we are here to help”. I’ve kept that just in case.
The aforementioned Guardian landed on our doormat yesterday – Christmas Eve. I glanced at it over a relaxed breakfast in the kitchen. I had a couple of things left to do to prepare for a Christmas – presents to wrap and sprouts to quarter. My daughter and I lined up a movie to watch later. Everything was calm and bright. Oh, and I had a quick GP appointment which I’d arranged earlier in the week.
Lesson no 1 – be very careful about booking a GP appointment on Christmas Eve.
Three weeks ago, at the end of a 10-mile socially-distanced Sunday morning run, I’d felt a burning in my chest. As I drove the few miles home, it became increasingly uncomfortable, to the extent that I started looking for somewhere to stop and lie down on the back seat.
I found a pub car park. It was empty, except for one car with the driver stood next to it. So I drove on – looking stupid would be worse than enduring the pain.
Back home, I lay on my bed, and munched antacid tablets until the pain reduced. With a bit of Googling, I concluded that the running had caused acid reflux into my oesophagus due to the up and down movement of running, and the expansion of my lungs causing pressure on my stomach.
Two days later, running again with my running mate, the pain resurfaced. When we ran it hurt, when I walked it was fine. Eventually I found that if I consumed four teaspoons of gaviscon before running, I was fine. I completed four 10km+ with no pain, including a muddy cross-country and a hilly non-stop 7-mile virtual race.
I was delighted that I had found a remedy. I was running with renewed energy and enjoyment. All was well.
Lesson Two – beware of self-diagnosis on google and self-satisfied self-medication.
I had booked the GP appointment simply to find out what we could do to fix the root cause. I felt a little dull pain in my stomach on the way up to the surgery yesterday. But that was because I was walking fast and I hadn’t taken my magic potion. Wasn’t it?
To cut a long story short – my GP despatched me to A&E who despatched me to the heart hospital. By 3am Christmas morning, I was signing a consent for an angiogram and angioplasty with stents, as required. The doctors were unanimous, based on raised the blood tests proved – I had had one or more mini- heart attacks.
So what should have been a Covid-reduced small family Christmas Day had become for me, a solitary meal in hospital, in my pyjamas, wired up to a monitor.
Being Christmas and the weekend, nothing will happen until Monday. On the bright side, it’s a new experience – admittedly one not on my bucket list – but I have plenty of time to write about it. And a Guardian crossword, a large print puzzle book and a pen.
More of the story, and my observations of my first experience of hospital life, in my next post.