Living With Heart Failure blog 2



Present day:

Just arranged another blood test. They have become a regular feature of my life, every fortnight. I’ve always been squeamish about needles, but now I’ve got so used to the tests they don’t bother me any longer. The first time I had a blood test after coming out of hospital I had a helper with me because I was so shaky, having been confined to a ward for three weeks, but now I can go on my own, so that’s got to be an improvement. The blood is taken at a place that looks like an office block in the middle of town, near the Old Market Hall which has witnessed many changes in the Square since the Hall was built in 1595. The block housing the blood clinic is one of those sixties style concrete affairs and it’s enough to make ancient architects weep to see what was pulled down to make way for it. An old Jacobean mansion, I believe. All before my time here, of course. I didn’t turn up until nearly 2000 so I didn’t see the demolition.

Anyway, it’s off by cab to the clinic tomorrow, then try a trip to my bank opposite, and home by cab – using public transport is in the past, for now. One thing I like about going to the clinic is the view from the window on the third floor. I can see across many Tudor and Jacobean roofs, complete with some sagging along the midline (sounds like me lol) and old tiles.

Cat’s outside eating grass and escaping from the terrier next door, it’s a wonderful warm day and I’ve just watered some pots. Great.


Back to 2013:

By then the medics were beginning to take my concerns more seriously, especially as I was getting chest pains as well as palps when going up hills. I went to hospital with chest pains – all the ECGs showed nothing untoward except the heart misfiring, but they wanted to get me to stay in to do an angiogram. I was in the medical assessment ward for a week instead of the normal 48 hours until a bed was available. I was put on detailed heart monitoring for a couple of days in the Coronary Care Unit, then moved to the main ward to wait. Before I could get the angiogram done I got norovirus, probably picked up from my time downstairs, and I collapsed due to sudden dehydration and low blood pressure. The angiogram was put off and as soon as I could stand without collapsing I was sent home to wait for an appointment.

Two weeks later I was back in the hospital for the angiogram, a test in which the surgeon makes an incision in an artery and sends a camera probe along the artery and into the heart to take a detailed look at the coronary arteries, the blood supply to the heart muscle. They also inject a radioactive isotope contrast medium to show the arteries better. The endoscope wouldn’t go up my wrist because the artery was too small, so it had to go through the femoral artery in the groin. I was out of it mostly because they gave me a sedative.

‘This will make you feel as though you’ve had a couple of stiff shots of vodka,’ the surgeon said as he injected it through the cannula in my arm. I used to drink vodka when I was twenty, and I never had any experience like that! Being walloped by a bus might fit the bill more accurately. I could hear but couldn’t keep my eyes open. Despite local anaesthetic in the groin I felt the sharp stab of the incision. Then after what seemed like five minutes the surgeon leaned over me and said, ‘The good news is that there’s nothing wrong with your coronary arteries, they’re normal.’ The only thing was, as I found out that day, the incision wouldn’t close up. The femoral artery was bleeding into my leg. I slept that night with a medical sandbag on my groin. It seems the old remedies are still used, until they could put enough pressure on the area to close up the leak. The half day stay became another four days until I could walk, and nobody was sure why I felt so weak and on the verge of collapse so often.


Weakness, increasing breathlessness and fatigue persisted over the next three years and although I had a great GP taking care of me and several ECGs during that time, the chest pains were finally thought to be gastric, and I’m sure they have been since they respond to medicines like Gaviscon. Gastric pains can mimic cardiac pain, and vice versa. I told my GP, ‘If I called the ambulance out every time I had some chest pain, they’d be at my house every other day.’


It was a confusing picture, to say the least. Even in 2016 nothing was clear.


To be continued…

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