Monday 28 January 2019. I’ve taken the title of this blog from “Brenda from Bristol’s” reaction to learning that there was to be another general election. Well, in my case, it was another heart attack and I most certainly wasn’t expecting another one.
My first heart attack came on 18 January 2018 and although I hadn’t realised it had been developing over the previous 3 weeks. I was becoming increasingly fatigued and short of breath when out walking. This all came to a head when I tried to climb Loughrigg Fell near Grasmere. It soon became obvious to me that I wasn’t going to make it and I returned to my hotel to call 111. They immediately recognised that I was having a heart attack and sent an ambulance for me from nearby Ambleside. I was taken to Lancaster hospital and then to Blackpool hospital 4 days later to have 2 stents fitted to clear blocked arteries in my heart. I was released the next day to start my recuperation. Thanks to my brother in Harrogate, my car was recovered from Grasmere and, along with me, we then made the journey home to Benwick.
I thought that it would take me quite a while before I would be back to walking any distance but looking back through my records I see that I managed a couple of 8 mile walks before the end of February 2018 and even went back to conquer Loughrigg Fell on 20 March 2018. I’d forgotten just how speedy the recovery had been and it gives me encouragement for the future.
Oddly, this latest trip to Keswick was planned to celebrate the first anniversary of my heart attack with Loughrigg Fell pencilled in for exactly one year on. Having already completed this in March it held no terrors for me although it was perhaps the steepest climb of the holiday. I did 4 other walks, all of which involved climbs of well over 1,000ft. The most memorable of these was the climb through the snow to Alcock Tarn on 23 January. It was the most perfect walk and will stay in my memory forever.
My last walk of this holiday was on Thursday 24 January 2019. The weather deteriorated over the next few days and I spent the time lazing in my caravan. I had planned to return home on Sunday 27 January 2019 but high winds were forecast so I decided to stay and extra day and to drive home on the Monday.
Hitching up the caravan and getting on the road was uneventful but after about an hours driving I began to feel unwell with chest pains. I knew what was happening this time around and pulled into a lay-by on the A66 to self-administer my GTN spray which relaxes and widens blood vessels in the heart. I’d carried this spray with me for over a year and never had to use it. I certainly wasn’t ready for the side effect of dizziness and fainting. I didn’t pass-out but came close to it and I sat there in my car for more than 30 minutes until I felt a little better. The chest pain had subsided, just a little, and I decided to press on.
20 minutes later the chest pain and breathlessness became even more severe and I had no option other than to pull over into a lay-by and dial 999 for an ambulance. I decided that lying down in the caravan would be best but it was freezing in there and, in retrospect, I would have been better staying in the car. It took 45 minutes for the ambulance to make the 30 mile journey from Hawes. Why one couldn’t have been dispatched from nearby Darlington remains a mystery to me. I was rigged up to ECG and defribulator equipment in the back of the ambulance and rushed under blues and two’s to James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough.
On arrival I was taken straight into the cath lab for angioplasty to removed a blood clot which was blocking one of the stents fitted last year. I was then taken to the coronary care unit, still feeling very sore but out of immediate danger. My thoughts then turned to my abandoned car and caravan in a lay-by on the A66 somewhere just west of Scotch Corner. I’ve always had breakdown/recovery insurance through the Caravan Club with Green Flag. I gave them a call and by 7pm that evening both the car and caravan had been recovered and taken for safe storage in a compound near Ripon.
The next 2 pictures show the small incision point in my wrist for the angioplasty and the subsequent bruising. It looks like my arm has been amputated.
The next 4 days were taken up with further tests x-rays and ultra-sound scans and finally Friday 1 February came around when I was due to be discharged. Just to add a fly into the ointment the doctor came to see me prior to my release. He was doing a chest examination with his stethoscope when I started coughing. I told him that I’d had the cough for over a year. This caused him some alarm so I was sent off for another chest x-ray. The doctor came back to tell me that he wasn’t really happy with the results which showed some opacification in the upper lobe of my lung. He said that it was probably nothing but that he would be happier if I had a CT scan. This would have meant staying in hospital for even longer but he was happy to let me go and for my local GP to follow-up on the CT scan. I’ve been referred to Peterborough hospital and await a date for the scan.
I spent Friday night with my brother in Harrogate and he then brought me home on the Saturday morning. The car and caravan were delivered home on Wednesday 6 February 2019. I’m prohibited from driving for 30 days and must thank Josephine who took me to see my GP on Wednesday this week and then for a blood test on Friday followed by a shopping trip to Tesco. I have enough provisions for a week or so and can get other essentials from the village shop. I haven’t really felt like doing much since getting home but will have to start with short rehabilitation walks around the village next week.
I had already booked a 2 week trip to Windermere on 1st April 2019 but this is just 8 weeks away. I cancelled this holiday in order to save my deposit but can re-book nearer to the time should I feel fit enough to make the trip. At least I have a goal to aim for.
Just one last thing. I don’t think that the second heart attack was triggered by over-exertion but is probably attributable to stopping one of the blood thinning drugs that I stopped taking 12 months after the first heart attack. I’m now taking Ticagrelor again for the next 12 months along with Aspirin and will then switch to Clopidrogrel in 12 months time. I just hope that there won’t be a 3rd heart attack as I doubt that my heart would stand the strain. I hope to be back with the Fenland Ramblers at some time during the Spring.