Don’t Go Breaking my Heart…

Bypass graft.

So come to find out, the hard part of my surgery was the bypass bit. Hard to perform and harder to recover from. When we arrived at Basildon Hospital and the local experts explained what would happen and how long it would take, I can remember very little. A general air of Bonhomie and an industrious feel about the whole thing was what I remember best.

With my daughter’s help, I can reconstruct the series of events. It would take at least the two of us anyway. Meg was in a bit of shock and I was so stoned from the pain medication that I made Keith Richards‘ look tee-total.

The first decision was easy. From my view point it was, “Blah, blah, blocked artery, blah blah, Stents, blah, blah, easy surgery.” It was all very relaxed and ‘Pip Pip cheerio old man’ we’ll be done in time for a cuppa tea and some biscuits.

Meg was able to get a bit more out of the conversation than I could in my drug induced euphoria. Her job (at least she felt it was her job) was to listen to everything they said and try to digest what was happening. She heard, “We’ve had a look. He’s got a blocked artery and we can put in a couple of stents. Very routine and it will take no time at all.”

Of course after this straight-forward and relaxing briefing, it went nothing like that at all. While putting the stents in they found another couple of problems. Sewing me up quickly they withdrew me from the ‘routine’ surgery room and I was ‘prepped’ again.

They asked me if I had a better leg for veins. Which leg had the least amount of varicose veins. But, like the earlier conversation, all I heard was, “Blah, blah, Veins. Blah blah, Bypass, Blah blah Tear.” Again Meg had to listen and pass the information on when I was less ‘doped up.’

It seems that I had a ‘dodgy’ vein and they would have to replace it with one from my right leg. There was also a ‘tear’ in The Aaortic  Valve that could turn nasty. This was all emergency bypass surgery and the bit that ‘kicked my butt.’ The valve would be watched throughout the surgery as this might have to be replaced with a ‘fake one.

The vast majority of this information is very much after the fact. Repeated conversations with my daughter has allowed a better piecing together of the events.

The bypass surgery bit I knew very little about. The stents I understood as my dad has had them a couple of times. I’d had an uncle who’d had a Triple-bypass surgery done when he was a couple of years older than me. He used to carry nitroglycerin tablets with him. He would be out cutting the hay and stop and put one of these tablets under his tongue.

I am going in this afternoon to get stitches removed by my local surgery’s nurse and start my first real steps to recovery.

It is all very different this surgery. I was sitting here thinking  back to my major back surgery in 1999. It was long and for the most part uneventful. It did not fall into the realm of ‘life threatening’ at all.

Of course neither did my ‘blockage’ operation until they discovered that I had deeper problems than they initially thought.

If you or a loved one (family, partner, spouse, et al) are due for bypass surgery, which is the one that requires the most work and ‘down time’ for the patient. Google it. If you are lucky you’ll know way before hand that you need bypass surgery and what that all entails.

I was wonderfully lucky. I had a team of top-notch professionals who knew what they were doing and were careful to let us know as much as possible about what was going on in the limited time they had.

So the bypass surgery was an emergency surgery, but, the recovery time was not. Despite having to check my torn Aortic Valve regularly I never felt that did not care about my recovering or that they were ‘put out’ by having to do a ‘running’ check on me.

A lot of people moan about the National Health Service (NHS), me included. But this is twice in my life that the NHS has stepped out smartly and taken brilliant care of me.

In the USA as far as I know they are still fighting for an American version of our NHS. Well let me tell you something mate, I’ve  had health care under both existing systems and I can’t say one negative word about the NHS.

If I do, they might want their stents back.

This little stent went to market…

Handling Your Heart Attack? Well…You Don’t.

As you have all no doubt noticed, I haven’t been on old WordPress for a while. I have been AWOL for a specific reason though and not through some nefarious whim that took me toshores foreign and far. I have been on a journey of discovery though. Very personal, extremely painful and life changing. You are probably fed up now with my ‘gassing-on’ so, I’ll get to the point.

On 30 August 2012 I had a major heart attack. A real beaut, it was one that required not one but two stents, little balloons on sticks that go into your artery  and some bypassing went on as well.

I had gotten up early to answer some email and to be available for the Siemens Company. Theywere booked in the marvellously wide time of 08:00 – 18:00 aka all day. Working on the principle that if I did not drag myself out of bed early enough (yes, I have had workmen show up first thing in the morning) I’d miss them and I would: a. Probably be charged, or  b. Have to re-book.

*It might interest you to know that they did not show up that morning or even that day (as far as I know). I still have to track them down.*

So around 0900 I had my first “episode.” This consisted of both of my hands getting really hot. I mean, flaming hot, so hot that everything should be combusting or melting at my touch. They then felt like they were going to blow up from the inside out. I’ve never had a sensation like that  before and as soon as it had ended I went outside for a cigarette. I ran several ideas through my head and none of them  seemed likely.

“It cannot be heart related.” I told myself this with complete confidence. Two years before, I’d gotten the radioactive injections, rode the bicycle, and had pictures take inside and out. They also checked my lungs.  ** Note to self, still no super powers. I must find out who to complain to.**

At 10:00 I had my second episode. This took a little longer to ease and as soon as I could, I crawled up the stairs to ask my daughter to ring for the ambulance.  While she was talking to 999 (the UK version of 911) I had my third and most intense sensation of the already long morning. “What’s wrong with you?” She asked this out of the side of her mouth while holding the phone up to her ear.

“I think…I am…having…a heart attack.” As she gave them our address I slumped and ‘ass-crawled’ back down the stairs. It took quite a while for the ambulance men to arrive. They got there just as I went into my fourth episode, each episode had increased in intensity, severity and duration.

The two ambulance men did not fill us with confidence. They were nice and friendly enough, but between the two of them they could not find a vein if it jumped right up in front of them. Finally, after enough failed attempts had left a blood trail that would have given Freddy Kruger an orgasm, they located one and it was off into the ambulance.

On the way to the Ipswich A&E the symptoms kept repeating and growing so that by the time we reached A&E they took me into the emergency treatment area and  started pumping me full of pain killers and ‘prepping me for surgery at Basildon. This ‘prep’  consisted of them calling Basildon Cardiological Hospital while trying to remove every hair on my body.

I was given some gas by the ambulance guys and I immediately fell in love with it (for two full days after-ward I kept asking for this magical stuff.  But as great as that gas was?  The really  magical  event was just about to happen.

These two ordinary ambulance guys suddenly turned into race driver Lewis Hamilton and made the entire almost two hour journey in 41 minutes.

We all arrived at Basildon A & E in a flurry of activity, people and pain. I had a team of five surgeons and doctors who were going to working on me. They finally hit the medication point necessary for me to be able to talk to anyone. They revealed that my aorta was completely blocked. It would require clearing and it would have two ‘stents’ put in to keep it open.

A stent, for the uninitiated, is basically a balloon on a stick. This stick is pushed into the ‘blocked’ artery and then the balloon is blown up to allow room for a brace to hold your artery open. It was while they were doing this part of the operation that they discovered another problem or two and a bypass was also performed.

I was supposed to be blissfully sleeping while all this was happening, but, I was not. I remember opening my eyes and seeing a round magnifying glass type thing. I was focusing on this while I could feel things happening in my neck. I then heard, “What is this, I mean, seriously what is this?

I then heard mumbling going on between a couple of the people bent over my chest. I couldn’t make that out. But one had a questioning tone and the other slightly pissed off one. I then said, “Is there anything I can help with?” Everything got quiet and just a quickly I was off with the fairies again.

Later when I was in the Intensive care unit, the doctors told my daughter about me waking up in the middle of open heart surgery. They were amazed since they had to, at one point, stop my heart completely. It could have been nasty, although I’m not sure for who. But they were stunned that I’d attempted conversation  so calmly.

I was healing rapidly. I  had gotten so many glowing words about my complexion and my rate of recovery that I was starting to feel like a celebrity. I was getting up and walking around and ‘hawking’ lots of yucky stuff from my lungs. This last bit was a bit painful but necessary as I had to increase my lung capacity.

I found out a lot of things during my five my visit to that tremendous place.

Firstly, I discovered the magical gas the would make any pain go away just by inhaling it.

Secondly, I discovered that no one working in the entire hospital had heard anyone from the ‘real’ American south talk in person before. I had folks come from all over the hospital just to hear me talk.

Thirdly, with all the praise going around about my ‘incredibly fast’ healing rate, I was starting to feel a bit like Wolverine.

Fourth, I was definitely in love with almost all the nursing staff and not a few of the doctors. They were all beautiful, caring, and helpful.

Fifth and last, with all the drugs I had imbibed during my brief stay, I was convinced that all the staff, nursing and Doctoral, were in love with me.

I was released from the hospital after five days and they would be perfectly happy for me to stay longer if I wanted.

So, you want to know how to handle your heart attack? You don’t. You just grab onto whatever is handy and hold on. The heart attack is in charge and it will constantly remind you of that fact.

I can say that this has been the single most painful thing to ever happen to me. (in my head I hear Nick Frost from Hot Fuzzasking, “And what was the second?”)

Cover of "Hot Fuzz (Ultimate Edition) [Bl...
Cover of Hot Fuzz (Ultimate Edition) [Blu-ray]