Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sunday Too Far Away...

I had a heart attack on Sunday morning.
I always thought that a heart attack would be more dramatic, more of that clutch at your chest moaning and groaning then falling to the floor action. Mine was a little more subtle, a tightness, a strange numb feeling in my elbow and nausea. I put it down to the latest bug going around town, a not so discreet vomiting bug that had everyone on the Peninsula running for the bucket.
I was driving at the time, about 20 kilometres from home when the first signs appeared, an uncomfortable tightening in the chest and a strange numb feeling in my elbow. I drove past the ambulance station and even briefly wondered whether I should turn in and get checked out. By the time I got home I was starting to sweat and was extremely nauseous. Once I got inside the house this seemed to pass, but the tightness was still there. In my wisdom, I decided to have a lie down. There was no excruciating pain to talk of, just this uncomfortable pressure in my chest. After tossing around for a while, I got back up and decided to self medicate with Google.
Google is a wealth of information. You can Google symptoms of any kind of disease you can think of, and they will point you to a website somewhere. My initial query found all sorts of symptoms from severe chest pain to a sore jaw. After all this research I was no closer to deciding if I was having a heart attack or not, but it had planted the seed that something was seriously wrong. My partner dismissed the heart attack theory as he didn't think I was in enough pain and I must admit, I did tend to agree with him. But there was still a niggling doubt in my mind. While he finished bathing our dogs, made the decision that we needed to call someone and get checked out.
I still remember feeling kind of stupid ringing up about what I thought were symptoms of some bug. And I'm only 52 - not ready to sell the farm yet. The ambulance paramedics arrived in no time, asked me the essential questions then hooked me up for the big test - The ECG. I was sure I was going to fail, they were going to look at me reproachfully, shake their heads and say there was very little wrong, you were right, probably just a bug. But that's not what happened. Their faces changed, everything stepped up a notch - the ECG showed I had suffered a heart attack and I was in serious danger of dying.
The ride into Newcastle was a memorable one. Lights and siren, honking horn, seriously fast driving, as well as constantly monitoring me and pumping me full of life saving drugs. It wasn't easy for them either. The back of the van is small and cramped, and thanks to the terrible condition of Port Stephens' roads, administering medication at high speeds is an art in itself. Thanks to the quick action and skilful driving of these two great guys, by the time we reached hospital, the blockage had cleared and I was out of danger. I was scheduled for angioplasty the next day and now have 2 stents in my heart.
I am still surprised that I came so close to death but it didn't feel all that serious. If I had let it go longer, the outcome could have been very different indeed. I'm scheduled for release tomorrow, home for a fortnight to rest before I take up where I left off. A small hiccup in my life, and I won't forget that it could have been the hiccup to end all hiccups.

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