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With this being Facebook and all; well of fake news and font of conjecture I thought I’d nip this in the bud in case some people got genuinely upset. Despite some rumours filtering out I’ve not had a heart attack and am most definitely not dead yet.
Last night I was in the Royal Edinburgh hospital with Simone just after 11pm. That morning I’d had breathing difficulties in the gym and on the way to the car. On the Sunday I had the same problems shortly after potting up a tree for my Mum and had to hang onto the Volvo for a few minutes to catch myself.
Simone and I had been having a quiet night in front of the TV (‘American Gods’) and she brought out her blood pressure monitor as she was concerned. My blood pressure was relatively normal but my pulse rate was 153. She redid the test a number of times and the pulse rate never fell below 143 while my blood pressure remained pretty stable.
A call to the NHS hotline later we were on our way to the accident and emergency room in a taxi having been told to be there in the next hour by the call centre. The A and E dept were waiting on me and after a fairly short while I was hooked up to and ECG machine and bloods being drawn from an arm that was soon to have the first of three bags of fluid attached to a valve pinned in my vein.
It was an unusually busy Tuesday night but not overwhelming. The staff were really helpful and eventually found us a curtain walled room which would be my bolt hole for the next couple of hours.Simone didn’t want to leave but had been told she couldn’t stay in the ward overnight and as her son Liam was at home and had school commitments only hours later she had no choice. She left at 2am just after I was wheeled back from X Ray. I admit to putting on a very brave face as we said our goodbyes.
I was eventually moved to a dark ward and the beeping machine I was plugged into said my pulse rate was still 144. It wouldn’t move below 140 until 2 the next afternoon. More blood was taken and I was told it was to check for blood clots. This sent a shiver of fear through me as it was a clot that took out my Dad just over a year ago. At the time I had no understanding of why they had to check for blood clots. My head was birling and not in a good way.
Again and again I’d be visited by doctors and registrars all saying the same thing. They had no idea what was causing this but from the ECG’s they knew I had a ‘fluttering’ heart and the valves were slightly out of synch.I didn’t know what that meant.
The good news was that all the tests for liver, kidney, blood infections, lungs etc etc came back negative and eventually even the clot scan was cleared.
It was a restless night. I was woken twice for tests and consultations and both times revealed us no further forward.
The weird thing was I felt fine and all this talk about fibrillating hearts I couldn’t quite relate to. I tried to sleep as much as I could under the thin sheets. I was still wearing my jumper in bed as I hadn’t thought of bring anything in, not expecting an overnight stay. My teeth were furry.
I was rudely woken by a gaggle of various nursing entities who were listening to the Malaysian woman interrogate a still drowsy patient who was repeating the same build up of events, symptoms and experiences as he had the last 5 or so times.The Registrar in charge came across as slightly surreal given my semi conscious state and I heard her tell me they would be considering giving me electric shocks to knock the heart back into normal rhythm and get me singing and dancing again. No sooner had they all flooded into my space than they all left. TBH I was none the wiser as to my current state and the remedy required
It wasn’t until the cardiologist arrived that everything became a lot clearer.. I apologise here as I cannot remember his name as he was the star of my otherwise weary and battle fatigued existence in the eternal waiting room.
I hadn’t had a heart attack, I was remarkably healthy and fit, I had a condition that was relatively common and can appear for no known reason. The electric shock therapy was a short term solution and could lead to a recurrence of a more dangerous type of the condition and there was another long term option involving a minor operation carried out through veins and arteries with great results on very decent odds – and he could probably pull it together in the next 2 months.
He told me the greatest danger with the condition, which I now know as atrial fibrillation (AF) was with blood clots as the fast moving valves don’t clear the heart chamber correctly and clots can be formed and washed out into the blood vessels. Now it started to make sense.
He made me feel a lot more at ease and I knew what I was facing. I was prescribed anti coagulators and stronger Beta blockers one of which I’d taken earlier and seen my heart rate slide to below 90 an hour after the dosage.
Although I wouldn’t have chosen to hear all this my attitude was that I now knew why I’d been having so many restless nights as my heart was flying while my body tried to sleep. I could rest a bit easier knowing that those shallow breathing occasions with chest thumping beats weren’t an oncoming cardiac arrest. A lot of subconscious Fear got swept away and I knew what I was dealing with. So a huge thanks to the man whose name I won’t forget when I see him next time.I hope it’s not too long.
The last ‘specialist’ I had to talk with was the pharmacist. He was a cool, non assuming, friendly bloke and he put the wind up me as he went into great detail of the dangers of the anti coagulant I was going to have to learn to rely on. I have to carry a card telling any potential 3rd parties who could be dealing with me in a potential accident that I did not have the ability to naturally stop bleeding and was borderline hemophiliac. The slightest cut will bleed freely and any knocks , especially head ones have to be taken very seriously as internal bleeding could become a fatal problem. This was the only part of the “new bargain” that caused me concern.The Beta blockers were pretty straightforward and would probably deliver me dreamless sleep for a while as my body can finally rest and I can wake refreshed in the morning.
I could finally get home.
All I had to do was pick up my meds and the paperwork and get a taxi to the Studio. Just as I was about to pull on my jacket I remembered that I still had the valve in my arm. The nurse duly attended, removed the needle, bandaged and taped the entry point and I pulled on my jacket.
A few minutes later I was standing at the reception desk and felt the warm wet trickle down my forearm under my jacket. Only 5 minutes after being told about the dangers of the anti coagulant there I was standing dripping blood onto the ward floor from my jacket sleeve. The nurses cleaned me up, I apologised for the mess and pressing the small bandage tightly onto the wound thanked the staff for looking after me through the night.
I could still feel my wet jumper sleeve as we drove through the sun strewn East Lothian countryside back to our home. This was going to be yet another new challenge.I’ll remember the rules next time.
The mobile pinged as messages came through of sympathy. I’d been recognised by quite a few people as I was trundled through departments on a wheelchair. Quite a few of the porters knew me as did some of the nursing staff.One guy ‘Steve’ (?) who I met while waiting on a scan was an Uber fan with tickets to Glasgow, the remasters and an FB knowledge. He was a really nice guy and we talked briefly about predicaments as we sat on our respective wheelchairs. (He had an horrendous lung infection and carried an oxygen bottle like a trophy). I’m always ‘Derek’ in any hospital but it’s ‘Fish’ that’s always obviously recognised.
Funny moment was when I asked the technician from one of the heart scanners for the sound recordings on a stick as I thought they could work somewhere on ‘Weltschmerz’. She looked at me strangely and then said’ I knew you weren’t a Derek, you looked like someone else I know.”
The sound of cascading pennies and laughter as the 2 porters with my wheelchair chimed in
“He’s Fish”! We were just talking about him in the staff room!”
And the texts kept coming in the taxi.
I would perhaps have not written this post but for a memory I had when I stepped off a boat after a swamp tour in Florida in 2002 to face a barrage of calls from the UK as the rumour had taken hold that I’d died in a car crash. Some close friends were seriously upset and it was strange calling people up to declare I was still very much alive.
As I said I decided to nip this in the bud before it grew legs.
I’m ok. The shoulder is well on it’s way to healing and I will miss the gym sessions over the next couple of months. I’ll be totally ready for stage work in December. The back is also so much improved and my general fitness is better than it’s been for a while. The big picture looks great!
I didn’t have a heart attack and am not at Death’s door yet.
I have a treatable atrial fibrullation that means my heart is working in weird time signatures just now. What more would you expect from a Progressive rock singer! 🙂
Before I go I just want to thank all the nursing staff and technicians at the Royal in Edinburgh who looked after me. You guys deserve a lot more appreciation and support for making an incredibly difficult job look so easy and still carry on smiling.
And to my lady who got a Bear into a taxi after convincing him that something had to be done after recognising that there was a serious problem. There could have been and because of you there isn’t. Thanks for being here darling and for looking after me. Love you so ganz arg xx