A blog can be therapeutic and cathartic for the blogger as well as entertaining, stimulating and informative (hopefully) for the reader. I have enjoyed putting my thoughts down on occasion and it is nice to do so again. Just one of those things that have lapsed a bit over time. As my kids have grown older they become less dependant upon you for immediate needs but their requirements change and time devoted to parenting is still at a premium. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way and enjoy being “Dads Taxi” running them from place to place. Anyway, I sound like I’m making excuses for letting my blog lapse, I guess I am, and if I refer back to the content of some of the blogs I wrote in 2010 I am guilty of letting other good intentions lapse also.
My healthy eating and weight loss regime died a natural death in 2011 and I was back to some old bad habits. We still cook our own food, we are amazing cooks even if I say so myself, we rarely eat junk or anything “processed” – I just eat too much of it, too many “treats” especially at work and far too much bread. And beer. Who would have thought it? Beer fattening? It’s mainly water and hops, which is a natural antibiotic after all. I have also lapsed on any real form of exercise. It wasn’t too long ago that I’d run a half marathon. Even as recently as 2005 I was cycling 6 miles a day. These days I sit in a car, drive to an office where I sit at a desk for the day and drive home again. Then after all the kids stuff I drink beer. I kind of knew I wasn’t doing myself much good but didn’t put it at the top of my personal agenda. I had lapsed into that lifestyle. Throw some really good blow outs of late into the mix and I really wasn’t the epitome of health. My weight has crept up rather than ballooned, my clothes started getting a little tight.
Then it happened.
After a couple of days of twinges in my chest I got a pain. This pain didn’t go as the previous minor pains did, it stuck. I had a quick check on NHS Direct and it didn’t look good from that perspective. So I made my excuses at work and drove to A&E in Addenbrookes, Cambridge. I declined any offer of a lift or thoughts of a taxi, I don’t know why, perhaps I just wanted to be on my own, to sort myself out, who knows? I didn’t feel particularly ill aside from the pain so thought I could tough it out.
Anyway, got there ok and parked up. I joined the triage queue as a patient soon to be patient behind those with gashed legs and the like. Nothing gets you through the system in A&E faster than a chest pain and as soon as they could find an ECG machine I was wired up to it. It is really hard to put into words what I was thinking or feeling at the time, I was worried about my family and causing them grief certainly. The ECG results were good. Regular heart beat. No immediate evidence of a heart attack. But was there one in the offing? The nurse didn’t tell me my blood pressure readings but I could tell by the low whistle she gave that it wasn’t good. I was walked through to the next stage of the process and was assigned my own cubicle in the main treatment area. Quick as a flash I was stripped down to a hospital gown, one of the most impractical garments ever designed. I’m stood there with chest pains wondering how the hell to tie the damn thing up without my arse hanging out. I was seen by a doctor who bore a remarkable resemblance to Michael McIntyre. I don’t know if this made things easier or not.
He couldn’t have been more professional. I was immediately reassured. Another BP check. “Wow” said the Doc. An ultrasound and chest X-ray later as well as urine and blood tests confirmed that I hadn’t had any heart attack or aorta inflammation. No infection was present in my lungs. So what exactly was wrong with me? I guessed I had a high BP but was that causing the pain? I felt like Charlie Roper, Sid James’ character from Carry On Doctor. I had seen a couple more specialists at this stage and it was confirmed that I hadn’t any coronary issues but if the BP wasn’t checked soon then I may have. Only then was it revealed to me that it was 228/118. I’m no clinician but even I know that is in the high region. So up to the ward I went.
The nurse took my BP again straight away. “Oh my God, I’ve never seen such a large one as yours!” You couldn’t make it up. I felt rather flattered in a way. She had a credit card sized table indicating what the blood pressure results mean and mine were well of her chart. It was at this point that I looked around the ward I was in. I was in a bay of six beds and the first thing that struck me was that I was the youngest person there by about 30 years. And it hit me. My condition is that of a much older man. I’ve lapsed into this.
My fellow patients were a grumpy lot. There was one poor old boy who kept asking for a self discharge form and said he’d had enough. Trouble is he has a fit every time he stands up. We aren’t talking the sort of fit that comedy genius Jack Douglas used to throw, this was very disconcerting to watch. It went in a cycle – moan and get abusive to the staff, ask to be discharged, stand up, have a fit and then sleep it off. Another was a ringer for Dicky Attenborough and he couldn’t move either. He was grumpy too but all he wanted to do was to go home. I guess everyone did really. I was wired up to the BP machine which wrenched your arm on an hourly basis. Not shifting so time to pop a pill. And gradually it fell below 200.
I did a lot of thinking that night, all very reflective I guess, but most of all in my thoughts was my dear chum Dave who had died of a heart condition getting on for four years ago now. Was the sort of thing that I was experiencing the sort of shit that he went through? The blood pressure thing was starting to make sense now too. It explained the way my head had been feeling on occasion especially at work, the pressure which I had attributed to being bunged up was really my blood circulating around my brain like a pressure cooker coming to steam. The night staff couldn’t be better but fat chance of any sleep with the arm torture machine going hourly, Noddy doing his stuff in the bed opposite and all the thoughts swirling around my head.
Daybreak. Quite literally in fact as my son was appearing on the TV show of the same name in a rent-a-pupil type shot in school whilst a local student was receiving a prize for writing a book in a competition. Sadly I didn’t see the feature that he was on – I was busy putting up with the morning routine in hospital. A second reference to Carry On Doctor here – where Francis Biggar spent his first morning in a ward. It was all so similar. Nothing has changed since 1967! I managed to configure the patientline thing by 7.30 but by then had missed my boy’s claim to fame. (I have subsequently seen it and it was a bit of fun for him!)
The other major thing regarding today is that it happened to be the first Doctors strike in 40 years. Just my ruddy luck! However, I was still critical enough to be seen by a doc, it was only routine stuff they were putting off. The moment was classic, you have all seen it in the films, a senior consultant bursts in surrounded by juniors all making notes. If only he had turned around to one of the trainees and asked “What’s the bleeding time?” and my day would have been made! The upshot of this was positive. I was informed that my chest pain was almost certainly viral but the blood pressure needed urgent attention.
The care was questionable today however. I had been seen by a number of different individuals but they didn’t appear to share their notes. At one stage I was woken up from my post lunch snooze to ask me what time my blood tests were taken. Surely that should be recorded in my notes? They had cocked it up anyway as apparently two files had to go on ice immediately. So had to have another test. I then asked the nurse on duty if I was ready for more paracetamol. Apparently my entire file had gone down to the pharmacy. When I first cut my teeth in the hotel industry the technology existed to send a message from a till to a kitchen telling a chef what a customer wants to eat, you’d think that 20 years later a similar system could be implemented in a hospital!
Finally when my medicine came it was discharge time. The lack of information was staggering. But I didn’t care, I wanted home. To my own bed, my family. I bet that took 10 points off my BP at least. I’m currently having a week of complete detox, no caffeine, no fat, no booze. Automatically £25 came off the weekly shopping bill! As I write this, two days after discharge, my BP has fallen to 162/102. Still far too high but going in the right direction. I am monitoring it myself at home.
Basically, the key to lowering it is to up my exercise. It’s not so much the diet, but that helps of course, but the exercise. So I have to build a gentle-at-first programme that will start to develop my most important muscle (no sniggering at the back), my heart. And I’d like to encourage fellow couch potatoes to reform too. I’ve had a warning. Not quite a second chance, but a lifestyle warning. I’m only 42, it’s no age to be in an old man’s ward in a hospital. I’m heeding my warning, I hope I have taken a warning shot for others. You may not get one.