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Heart Failure and Other Things – blog 5

Just had some playtime with the cat. She loves to hide under the bed and chase ribbons, swerving out as if she’s in an action movie. She pounces on the ribbon, holds it in her paws and chews it while I tug gently on the other end. As soon as I let go of my end she looks at me as if I’ve done something awful and stops. Her chewing the ribbon relies on me holding it, but like the cat my attention span is not that long and I get bored by standing there tugging ribbons. It’s not exactly the most exciting thing in the world, although it is for her, I suppose, which is why I think I exercise a good level of patience.

 

The extra diuretics I was told to take have only staved off the situation getting worse rather than done anything to improve it. The weather seems to have played a greater part in lowering the fluid levels as the temperatures go down. It’s worrying that the diuretic is not working after such a short time, since January. So what happens now? If I take more diuretic and it doesn’t work, what then? Can I take a different one? Is there anything else that can be done? If there is anyone reading this who can tell me, my email address is on the contact page.

 

Back to early 2017:

After the cat sitting stint I was at home for the weekend in early January. I couldn’t contact anybody over the weekend and made up my mind to take the cat back to the shelter. It was heart-breaking. She looked at me with such a puzzled expression and tried to get back out of the cage I had to put her in, into my arms. I cried buckets.

Earlier that day I saw another GP at the surgery, not my GP but another one from the practice. Same thing – check the ECG, which was fine, oxygen levels were fine, the fluid swelling – which was getting worse – was not out of normal range, heart sounded okay, no fluid in the lungs, and so on. Take the tablets and call back if it gets worse. I was still getting breathing difficulty at night.

That night, after taking the cat back, I couldn’t breathe properly. Awake at 4am having not slept at all, I called the ambulance. They came out and did the same checks a sin the morning, all okay, and despite the fluid swelling spreading to both feet down to my toes and despite the fact it was increasing even while they were in the house, they said they thought it was asthma brought on by cat allergy. I was sure it wasn’t. ‘You have a choice,’ one said. ‘Either you can come back with us to hospital to get a second opinion on your asthma or you can wait and see your GP again in the morning.’

I elected to go to hospital. On the trolley I couldn’t breathe if I lay down, but I was left in a corridor for four hours while others were brought in after me and seen before, on the basis that I was just there for a second opinion. A doctor came to take some blood and put a cannula in my arm. About half an hour after that he sent me for an X-ray. By then most of the corridors around A&E had emptied but still there were no free cubicles in the A&E ward. The doctor came back. ‘I’ve seen your X-ray. It shows fluid around your heart. You have severe heart failure.’

I said, ‘I thought I was coming in to get a second opinion and go home again.’ He replied, ‘You won’t be going home.’ I thought he meant forever, that this was it, so I asked to see my son Mike and his wife, Kenda. I hadn’t wanted to ring them until I was home again. Now it looked as though I wasn’t going home, ever again.

The time it took for them to arrive was torture. When they got there, the floodgates that I had kept at bay until then, opened with full force. We cried together.

The doctor came back and explained that he hadn’t meant I’d never leave hospital, but that I wouldn’t leave just then. He couldn’t tell me how much lifespan I had, every case was different, he said. While I was reeling from the shock of the diagnosis, he said, ‘Did you know that your kidneys are not functioning well, either?’ I replied that I didn’t. ‘There are four levels of kidney function. Up to level three it’s within normal range. You are at level four, and level five is dialysis.’ Great. It was a long time, months, before I found out that what I had was acute kidney injury, which meant that after they put me on diuretics my kidney function improved – every time I asked about my kidney function in hospital they just shrugged and said it wasn’t great but was within normal range.

A lot of what was said at that time was lost as I was in shock and couldn’t take it in.

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