Technology is a Wonderful Thing…

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Walking along a crowded street wearing a device with wires attached made me strangely aware of how dodgy it might appear to others, however it was all perfectly innocent as I’d just been to the hospital to get a 48 hour heart monitor fitted. My beats per minute rose a little when the penny dropped that I should probably quickly check to make sure I had no cables dangling from under my jumper, but thankfully everything was securely strapped to the waistband of my jeans. Wishing to avoid any unnecessary panic I chose to return straight home rather than risk setting off any shop alarms.

Fortunately this monitoring was taking place during a weekend, which avoided enduring a ‘show and tell’ session in the office. I must admit that while most of the time I managed to forget I was wearing it, trips to the bathroom were a little more complicated than usual due to having to untangle myself, but overall the whole thing went without any major hitches.

I now have to wait for my cardiologist to examine all of the data, and hopefully the results will provide him with everything he needs in order to make a decision about the next course of action regarding my ongoing valve issues. A few years ago this would’ve required a two-day stay in a hospital ward, but thankfully nowadays all of this can be done while you go about your daily business. Technology really is a wonderful thing…

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Stress Echo…

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The last time I was up at 6am it involved a flight to somewhere fabulous, however this was no holiday; quite the opposite. A good friend was taking me miles out of my comfort zone, in every sense of the word, to a specialist heart centre in order to undergo tests, including one cheerfully named a ‘stress echo’. Any test including the word stress was never going to be much fun, and so the tone was set for the day.

I can’t remember the last time I was on a bike and I’ve certainly never ridden one topless, but there’s a first time for everything. In my mis-spent youth, having a man I’d only just met apply cold gel to a probe and run it across my bare boobs would’ve been considered a ‘blindin’ night out‘, however, when you’re past your prime, not to mention stone cold sober, it’s surprising quite how bashful you become. Onlookers included a nurse, my cardiologist and a registrar (should’ve sold tickets!)

Well, the good news is that my heart muscle is fine, the not-so-good bit is confirmation that I will, at some point, face valve replacement surgery. Ho humm… There’s also a slight issue regarding tachycardia as my resting heart was beating 100 times per minute, but it may have been partly due to anxiety. At least I’ve now had a thorough cardiac review and have been able to speak to my cardiologist in person about my concerns, and I’m now reassured that I’m not about to suddenly conk out unexpectedly. I do still have to undergo a 48 hour heart monitor test, so there’s more fun to be had from the NHS at the end of the month, so I shall look forward to that. Wonder how many beats per minute it’ll do after a couple of espressos…?

Wired For Sound…

Front view male figure torso with holter monitor and ekg/heart rhythm inset

At my scheduled cardiology appointment I had the usual ECG with a side-order of echocardiogram before spending half an hour discussing my recent health issues with the heart valve nurse. I was reassured to discover that the leaky valves are no worse, however due to some new chest ‘niggles,’ along with swollen ankles and the cough that I’ve had since January, I’m now going to be asked to return in a couple of weeks time to have a heart monitor fitted. I shall apparently be wearing my funky tech for two days so they can see what’s actually going on with my ticker, so that’ll be fun.

In less exciting news I’m also going to be facing an invasive angiogram to find out whether my arteries are furring up like an old kettle; which could explain my symptoms. I have to admit I’m less than keen but I have little choice if I want my cardiologist to make a full and accurate diagnosis. Although it’s positive that the NHS is doing all it can to check every inch of my insides, it’s not a procedure I relish.

Oh well, at least for today I’ve come away with a little bag full of new tablets to try out in the meantime, so hopefully by the time I have to have my arteries filled with something colourful that’ll show up on an xray I might’ve stopped hacking my lungs up. Fingers crossed!

A&E Wasn’t On My To Do List Today…

Accident and Emergency sign

I’ve known about my heart issues for a couple of years, and am used to the frequent palpitations, so when my ticker started feeling ‘unusual‘ at lunchtime I was a little concerned. I’m a firm believer in the adage ‘you know your own body’, and mine was decidedly not right, so when I also started feeling hot and cold and then giddy and faint I figured I needed to get myself seen asap.

Within 10 minutes I was getting into a taxi and 10 minutes after that I was in A&E, struggling to remember my address, shaking like a leaf and clearly looking like hell. All credit to the doctors and nurses at the hospital because I was fast-tracked through, having all manner of tests done until I finally conked out. Luckily, a nearby paramedic helped the nurse get me onto a trolley so I could be swiftly moved to a more appropriate examination area. Once hooked up to the machines I was eventually lucid enough to ring a friend, who spent the next 7 hours by my side.

After constant monitoring, endless blood pressure tests, an xray, and two extremely painful blood tests I was finally given the good news that I hadn’t had a heart attack and was given antibiotics for an infection before being allowed home. I’m very, very grateful to all of the doctors and nurses who, despite being busy, made sure that I was well looked after throughout. I’m also very thankful that I have such wonderful friends…

Some Good News…

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It’d been a whole year since I’d last seen my consultant cardiologist, and when I went for my follow-up appointment today for the results of my annual heart scan I fully expected a simple three minute consultation to say that nothing has changed and to return for my next scan as planned the following year. Luckily, a friend took me there and I have to admit it was good to have a bit of moral support. It’s not nice to sit in the cardiology department on your own for any length of time, surrounded by people who clearly have major medical woes.

After hanging around for what seemed an eternity I was eventually ushered into a small consulting room, where my consultant told me that the two iffy valves in my ticker (aortic and mitral) hadn’t got any worse, which is what I’d expected all along but was nice to actually get confirmation. The other positive news was he was now putting me on a new two-year programme, so no more annual scans and appointments – yay! They’re also setting up a one-stop heart clinic, so in the future I can get my scan done in one department and then pop along to see a cardiac nurse for the results the same day, which would be excellent. While I’m obviously thrilled to get such positive news, I’m not entirely sure why I couldn’t have simply been sent a letter with that information; no wonder the jolly old NHS is skint!

I’m Ready For My Close-Up…

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My phone rang this evening and it was the hospital cardio-respiratory dept (thought I was finished with all the heart stuff until next April). Basically, they have regular reviews and new quality control measures, that have recently been put in place, which means that they must now produce log books of important clinical results and findings.

Apparently, my heart scan was “so beautiful” and “such a fantastic example” (of two faulty valves to the left chamber) they would very much like me to go back up there for another scan next month, and use my images (anonymously) for their departmental logbook! They’ll pay for my transport and will also provide me with whatever I need on the day. Who knew I had such a photogenic insides?! It’ll be entertaining if they want topless shots showing the scanning process – ooo errrr!!

Two Hard Ones and Two Floppy Ones..!

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Get your mind out of the gutter! “Two hard ones and two floppy ones” are the words a doctor said to me this morning when I went to discuss the results of my heart scan, and she was talking about my arteries. I now have to be referred to a cardiologist for further tests, although I was warned that the local NHS waiting list is very VERY long. In the meantime I’ve been put back on statins – oh joy, the delights of leg muscle cramps to look forward to…

However, this week is all about perspectives, and while I moan about a few aches and pains I’m horribly aware that some very good friends of mine are, at this very moment, with their newborn in a London ICU waiting to hear when he will endure a complicated heart operation. I am now counting my blessings and crossing all of my fingers (and toes) for a positive outcome for this lovely family. Life really can be so unfair at times…