If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 6 July 2009

Bad few months

Life, eh? One damn thing after another. The last few months have been fairly difficult for me, in a number of ways. I'm going to list the events here, not for sympathy (I hate whingers) but just to set down once and for all how things have been, and why some of the things I say are how they are.

In February, Anna decided to seek medical help for some chest pains she had been getting for the previous few months. (It turns out it was years, rather than months, but she had been 'brave' about it.) After various misdiagnoses, she was finally sent for an exercise ECG, to 'rule out' any heart problems. The test was stopped half-way through, and an appointment was made for an angiogram at the big hospital 60 miles up the road. On the appointed day, I took time off work and we set off to Swansea. We had both dressed up a bit, as we thought there might be the chance to do a bit of shopping after the test. Hah. The hospital was first-class - everything on time and the staff unfailingly professional and kind. The result of the angiogram was not good, and Anna was told she needed a triple bypass - not only that, but it was urgent, and she was kept in for the next available theatre slot. Angiogram Monday, operation Friday. In between, she was confined to bed, with strict instructions not to move. Looks like the condition was way more serious than either of us could have guessed.

The worst part of the Monday, for me, was the time after the angiogram, when Anna reacted badly to the dye they inject into the arteries. She suffered some atrial fibrillation (heart rate fluttering) and the stuff they gave her to combat this dropped her blood pressure massively and she passed out. I saw her BP dropping on the monitor and called for a nurse. In seconds, there was a team milling round her and I was ordered out and the curtains drawn. I felt lke one of the hapless relatives in Casualty. What was in my script? Stand there and wait for the bad news? Burst in and scream "Why aren't you doing anything?" Threaten to sue the ass off the whole lot of them? Attempt to punch the doctor? In the end I did what any normal English bloke does (ouside of hospital dramas) and waited patiently. A pretty nurse came out and vanished down the corridor. When she returned, I asked her what was happening. "Oh, she'll be fine!" As the last thing I had seen on the monitor before I was bundled out was Anna's BP at (I think) 15/30, I was not totally convinced. After 30 minutes or so, I was allowed back in and Anna looked better and gave a weak smile.

This happened once more when was there and once again, apparently, after I had left to go home. It turns out that it was the medication that was causing the loss of BP, and once they switched to an oral prescription rather than intravenous it didn't happen again. But I really thought I was losing her, and it shook me to the core. You never think about this stuff normally, and coming face-to-face with Life'n'Death™ is a bit of a wake-up call. I felt the same when my first daughter was born a few weeks prematurely - suddenly, all the safe, cosy lifestyle stuff looks very fragile indeed. However, it did have two advantages for me: firstly, I get to use the word iatrogenic, which is a bit of a secret pleasure, like overdosing on chocolate digestives. And secondly, I got to go to Swansea and back on the bike several days in a row, which was good therapy after a day's work and an evening's visiting. Roads flattened. Bends destroyed. Sleepy cars spotted, hunted down, eliminated, left for dead. Hospital to home in 54 minutes, after dark, with three digits on the clock most of the way. I hope there are no policemen reading this. Riding a bike fast takes total concentration, and clears your mind of everything else. Sometimes this keeps you sane.

To be continued - there's lots of shit to happen yet.

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