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Heart failure and other things – blog 4

Choices, choices – should my characters wear a disguise of military clothing or police kit? Which point of view should I use? These and other problems preoccupy my day and I’m fortunate to have the time to devote to writing. When it goes well I love it. When it stalls, as it does often, it can take ages to set a scene in my mind before I can put it down on paper. I use paper and pen first. A long time ago someone told me that physically holding a pen creates an emotional connection to the right side of the brain, the creative side, and it works for me. Typing straight onto a computer doesn’t create such a good connection and I find that much harder.

I’ve renamed my blog to reflect talking about other things, too.

Back to 2016:

Bear with me because the initial months were traumatic, but as time goes on this blog should get lighter in tone. I didn’t realise what was happening at the time. I carried on as normal, thinking I was far too unhealthy and needed a lot more exercise.

The breathing trouble continued. Over the following months I also noticed other things that were trivial in isolation but I think now they were also symptoms of early heart failure. Hair loss, thinning hair, thinning nails and pits in the thumbnails. More fluid retention in the ankles and lower legs. But apart from that there wasn’t much else and because I’d just got a cat from a shelter and was sneezing a lot, it was thought that I had asthma brought on by cat allergy, and that explained the extra fluid too. I had another ECG and tests with a peak flow meter. It measures how much a person can exhale when pushed. It’s a simple way of testing for asthma attacks.

 

The asthma diagnosis continued for months and I went to different doctors trying to find an answer for the breathing difficulties. I had prescriptions for antihistamines and was given an asthma inhaler. My condition was brought home to me in November when I saw some friends I hadn’t seen for a long time. I had agreed to show them round my current home town and when walking up an incline they managed it easily whereas I was left gasping for breath like a fish out of water.

 

In December I called out the paramedics because of chest pains and breathing difficulty. They checked everything over and said they couldn’t find anything significant and recommended I should see my GP next day. The following day my own GP wasn’t available so I saw someone else, equally nice and patient and friendly. She gave me my own peak flow meter to measure how the asthma was progressing and said (I remember this clearly), ‘Your heart seems to be perfectly okay. ECG results are good, your chest is clear, no significant fluid retention, oxygen levels are normal. You had a battery of heart tests in 2013, just three years ago, so I would be very surprised if you developed heart failure within three years. I don’t think you have heart trouble but there’s one last test to rule out everything – we can do a blood test to check for heart failure, but I don’t think you have it. It’s an exclusion test more than anything else.’

 

As fate would have it, I didn’t manage to get it done before cat-sitting for three weeks at my son’s place as he and his wife were on a plane to South Africa by the time I had the blood form. I didn’t regard it as important given that the test would exclude heart failure rather than rule it in. The Christmas holidays and bank holidays stopped me from getting it done before they returned. I was getting worse and thinking, ‘Bloody hell, this asthma is the pits!’ You have to laugh, in hindsight.

 

It just shows how wrong a diagnosis can be, without anybody being at fault.

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