Chapter 11 : The Collapse

“…..I felt a bolt of lightening in my chest, as if my heart had twisted itself into a knot with two halves turning in opposite directions…..”

Over the course of the next month I had many appointments and lots of preparation to do for the operation and whatever may come afterwards. Ultimately, I had to make a choice and needed to accept what the outcome may be.  My head was a whirlwind of information but I had a simultaneous sense of feeling separated from reality.

I felt increasingly distant from everyone and everything, as if I was on the sideline looking in.  I felt as though I was observing them all, a hidden presence watching the world go by at a distance. It was as though I was apart from the conversations.  I was physically there but not at the same time. I had a need to retreat within myself to come to begin to be at peace with the choices I made. I felt like a melancholy shadow, my world seemed to only exist within a metre around me. Unless something was immediately relevant and I needed to do something then and there, it didn’t exist to me.

By now my health was rapidly deteriorating, which I think had something to do with the release of emotions, letting go as best I could, but of course the physical decline was inevitable anyway.

The reality of it all dawned after lunch on what turned out to be my last day at work.  I started to feel very hazy; struggling to keep my eyes open as the world span before me and I felt increasingly weak.

To some degree this feeling had become the norm in the afternoon, they had started as small signs early on and had gradually increased in intensity and frequency. By the early afternoon my energy levels were depleted and I needed to rest. Some of this was due to the catalogue of medication I was now taking; the beta blockers in particular had drowsy and unpleasant side effects.  This time it was different though.

I got up and tried to walk it off, which occasionally worked. Gentling strolling up and down the corridor doing my best to ignore the swaying walls and the river-like curved shape of the floor. I put my hand out to prop me up when I needed it for extra balance.  I went into a vacant room and leant on the wall; I felt exhausted and thin, as if I was fading away. My energy had been switched off, unplugged, there was nothing left. I could feel everything draining away from my body, retreating backwards from my limbs towards my chest like water returning to its source; I was shutting down.

I had pins and needles in my left arm and I was losing balance. Part of me wanted to collapse and give up and another, stronger part prompted me to get my phone out of my pocket. With a sense of denial, I called 111, the NHS help line, explaining how I felt and my condition.  Immediately the operator told me to put the phone down and call 999.

All of a sudden I felt a bolt of lightening in my chest, as if my heart had twisted itself into a knot with two halves turning in opposite directions. Then two very hard powerful thumps hit me and my heart pounded with a huge shock, as if it was going to burst out of my body.  The second jolt was so strong that my legs gave way and I collapsed against the wall.  I managed to get my boss’s attention through a window in the door and he called 999 whilst holding me up.  With tears streaming down my face because of the shock, all I could think was ‘please, I don’t want to die at work’.

An emergency response biker arrived quickly, shortly followed by the ambulance. I was breathing heavily and quickly by this point and had now hyperventilated.  I was instructed to breathe slowly as they ran a quick test, calmed me down and then put me into the ambulance that hurtled towards A&E.  My girlfriend had arrived just in time to get into the ambulance with me and I turned to her with heavy weary eyes, dropping my head onto her shoulder and muttering: “that was terrifying.”

By the time we got to hospital I had calmed down and my heart had returned to normal.  I was put into a room and we waited for the tests to begin.  An Italian doctor greeted us both. He had small round glasses, a roughly shaved face and hair that needed a good brush; in a funny way he reminded me of a young Albert Einstein. I proceeded to inform him what just happened and the condition of my heart.

He got out his stethoscope and listened.  His eyes lit up like an inventor having a eureka moment and he got quite excited. The sound of my heart was abnormal, which to a doctor was most intriguing and quite rare. 

We went into the details of what was wrong and had a pleasant conversation about it all. It became apparent that my heart had started to fail but had, thankfully, kicked itself back into action so they had to do a few tests to check for tears and blood leakages from the heart.

A few minutes passed and the doctor asked if he could bring in one of his students to listen to my heart and see if she could form a diagnosis. I smiled and said; “sure”.  A young, female doctor with blonde hair and a white coat came in. Getting out her stethoscope she placed it on my chest. It was interesting to see the expression on her face change as she listened; a puzzled look came over her and I could see she was scrambling around in her brain for the correct medical term. Could she identify it?  Did she know what she was listening to?

Not being able to find the words the doctor asked me to tell her.  Nodding at me with recognition she offered a forced smile, wished me well and retreated out the room.  I chatted further with the doctor and asked if this meant the operation would be brought forward. He said it wouldn’t but if it happened again or had ‘gone the other way’ they would rush me straight into theatre and operate.

On reflection it made sense; there was only one thing that could happen and anyone who was in line for the operation would be in just as serious a condition so there was no reason I should be moved up the queue.  No one would be having this procedure unless it was absolutely necessary, I would have to wait my turn.

I didn’t remain in A&E long and made my way home feeling very shaken up.

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